Thursday Oct. 11, two of the three Lieutenant Governor candidates met at the Indiana History Center to discuss the current condition of Indiana’s environment and the necessary measures the next Lieutenant Governor would need to take to improve the overall quality of the environment and the health of Hoosiers.
Hosted by the Hoosier Environmental Council the debate was co-sponsored by Indiana Citizens Alliance for Transit, Indiana Conservation Alliance, Indiana Public Health Association, and the League of Women Voters. Marianne Holland of WFYI moderated the event. Topics of discussion ranged from nutrient runoff to CAFOs to Renewable Electricity Standards to the I-69 expansion and even to the Rockport plant.
Senator Vi Simpson, the nominee for the Democratic party and running mate of Governor Candidate John Gregg, has been a leading advocate of environmental and health issues within the Indiana State Senate for the past 28 years. She has authored or co-authored a number of green bills including the Heritage Trust program and the Rails-to-Trails program. Her voting record may be found here.
Brad Klopfenstein, the nominee for the Libertarian party and running mate of Governor candidate Rupert Boneham, is a member of the Rails-to-Trails group and the Nature Conservancy. A graduate of Purdue University, Klopfenstein biked over 1,000 miles this past summer on the Rails-to-Trails tracks.
Representative Sue Ellspermann, the nominee for the Republican party and running mate of Governor candidate Mike Pence, declined an invitation to attend the debate. She agreed to meet with the Hoosier Environmental Council in a private session to answer questions but turned down the opportunity to interact with and answer questions from the public. Her voting record may be found here.
The debate in itself turned out to be less of debate and more of a congenial meeting of minds. Senator Simpson and Klopfenstein bantered back and forth with some occasional ribbing and tended to agree with one another rather than disagree. Of course there were some subjects in which the nominees were strongly opposed to one another but for the most part, took similar stances on the issues and discrepancies arose from political variances. And much like siblings tattling on another sibling, the nominees continuously brought up Representative Ellspermann’s absence.
Some of the more animated discussions during the debate included proposals for adequate funding for environmental departments and groups, the public transit issue in Indianapolis and the idea of nuclear energy as an alternative energy source.
With fund appropriations already a hot topic for any government issue, both nominees agreed that more adequate funding was needed for state environmental departments and groups. In particular the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) was mentioned as a department in need of more funds as it is continually understaffed and stretched thin. Both nominees believe that with increased funding and a well-maintained staff, IDEM will be able to better monitor and enforce environmental laws and regulations. In terms of other funding proposals, such as a dedicated revenue source for groups like the Heritage Trust, Klopfenstein was more reluctant to express support while Senator Simpson was quick to jump in with affirmations.
Even though it ranks as the 11th largest city in the nation, Indianapolis continually falls short of its public transit needs and is a frequent topic of debate for public officials. Klopfenstein maintains that public transportation systems stand the best chance of working in high-density areas and since the city is so dispersed, additional funding for public transit systems may not be the best use of public dollars. Senator Simpson on the other hand, pointed out that cities with a similarly dispersed population such as Denver are able to maintain effective public transit systems and that there is hope for Indianapolis if initiatives are expanded.
The topic that tended to draw the most animosity between the nominees was the idea of nuclear energy as a safe and viable source of alternative energy. Senator Simpson vehemently opposed the idea of bringing nuclear energy to Indiana and maintained that she would not approve any legislation to do so. Conversely, Klopfenstein argued that nuclear energy is a safe and clean source of energy and that he would not be opposed to bringing it to Indiana.