Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers

November 12, 2019

The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. Nov. 8, 2019

Preparing for a post-coal world

Monday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency took the latest step in the undoing of pollution controls many industries find inconvenient, proposing weakening the rules on disposal of vast amounts of coal ash generated by power plants.

The announcement had particular significance for Indiana, which is one of the heaviest users of coal to generate electric power. Electric plants dispose of the ash generated when coal is burned by burying it in a landfill or washing it into holding ponds. Many of those ponds are improperly lined to prevent leakage and allow water contaminated with dangerous chemicals to leach into the groundwater or, in the case of severe storms, be washed directly into waterways.

Until the Obama administration proposed inspection and monitoring rules to control coal-ash disposal, the issue had been left to the states. Though there are no coal-fired plants or ash-disposalsites in our area, Indiana has more coal-ash-disposal ponds than any other state, and regulation of them, before the national rules were issued in 2015, was minimal.

This summer, a New York Times analysis identified 85 environmental rules the Trump administration has either reversed or is in the process of reversing. Easing requirements for dealing with coal ash is just one of many ways the administration is seeking to shore up the coal industry.

The EPA proposal would set back deadlines for companies to close improperly lined ash ponds, said Jodi Perras, deputy regional director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. It also would loosen standards for some of the dangerous metals the ash effluent might contain, such as selenium and arsenic.

She predicts the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations will quickly be filing lawsuits to stop the proposed rule changes.

But whatever the outcome of that fight, Perras says, the administration’s efforts to keep coal competitive will fail. Regulatory breaks from Washington can’t alter the fact that coal is dirtier and more expensive to use than natural gas and alternative energy sources.

NIPSCO may close its last coal-fired electric-generation facility by 2028, and AEP is moving toward reducing or ending its reliance on coal. “These are decisions that utilities are still making,” Perras said, “and I don’t see them reversing direction. Coal is still on the way out, and it’s only accelerating.”

A new tracking tool developed by the Rockefeller Institute of Government can help lawmakers and others who try to think about the future of energy put things into perspective. The tool tracks electricity production state by state over the past 29 years, showing how much power has been generated by coal, natural gas, nuclear reactors and renewables.

In 2008, 94.2% of Indiana’s electricity net generation - which the institute defines as total electricity minus electricity used in production - came from coal. In 2018, just a decade later, that number was 68.3%. In 2008 in Michigan, coal-produced power accounted for 60.7% of electricity net generation; in 2018, that percentage was 36.5. The Rockefeller site also tracks carbon-dioxide emissions through 2017. In that year, Indiana was seventh-highest in the country.

Rather than vainly hope the effort to undo decades of efforts to protect the environment will “save” the coal industry, policymakers in Indiana should be preparing for the transition, trying to make the state as hospitable as possible for alternative energy producers and offering training and support to the state’s remaining coal miners whose jobs, through no fault of their own, are not likely to be around forever.


(Terre Haute) Tribune-Star. Nov. 7, 2019

Hulman family legacy will be forever linked to Terre Haute

Monday morning’s dramatic announcement that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway had been sold to veteran racing icon Roger Penske was stunning. But it should not have been surprising.

The Hulman family, with deep roots in Terre Haute, had begun divesting itself of its numerous business and property holdings in recent years. It was a sign of the times. Mari Hulman George, the daughter of Anton “Tony” Hulman Jr. and Mary Fendrich Hulman, died last year. Mari’s children, while involved in the family business in various ways, had struggled to find a solid footing with which to advance the family’s interests.

Hulman & Co., owner of the speedway in Indianapolis and Clabber Girl in Terre Haute, was the foundation of those business interests. It was an enterprise with a rich history going back to the German immigrant family that first came to this city in the 1800s.

While Hulman & Co. had been involved with a variety of businesses in its history, it catapulted into international prominence 74 years ago when Tony Hulman Jr. purchased the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The facility had deteriorated, but Hulman revitalized it and turned it into one of the most recognizable and reputable sporting venues in the world.

The resurgence of the Indianapolis 500 in the late 20th century was one of the biggest success stories in sports. Tony Hulman Jr. was the person responsible for that. His vision and energy in building the speedway into a worldwide destination will long be known as among Hulman & Co.’s most remarkable achievements.

In Terre Haute, however, Hulman & Co.’s impact is profound and lasting, even though many of its holdings have either gone away or are now owned by other entities. Its primary local business, Clabber Girl, was sold to B&G Foods earlier this year. Before that, it had divested itself of interests in local media organizations, including the Tribune-Star and WTHI-TV and radio. The company owned and operated the iconic hotel, the Terre Haute House, at the corner of Seventh and Wabash before closing and later selling the building.

Penske’s purchase of IMS and Hulman & Co. doesn’t include all of the Hulman family holdings. The family will retain ownership of local real estate, including the building at the corner of Ninth and Wabash, as well as mineral rights. But it will do so under a new name yet to be determined.

The Hulman family’s impact on the community through its businesses was great, as was its philanthropic activity. The family was generous in its giving, and that may well be its most profound and lasting legacy.

Despite its withdrawal from many of the interests that propelled the family to prominence, the Hulman family will remain synonymous with Terre Haute and its colorful history.


The (Anderson) Herald Bulletin. Nov. 8, 2019

Social media can help prevent suicide

When it comes to early-warning signs of suicide, social media may be an undervalued resource.

Mike and Shelly Roberts, whose 17-year-old son Nolan took his own life in September, shared their story at Highland Middle School on Oct. 29. Nolan’s friends would later tell them that he had left disturbing posts on social media in the days preceding his death.

We commend the Robertses for sharing their story, which couldn’t have been easy to do.

Their story contains a powerful lesson that in order to read the warning signs, we must be looking in the right place.

Social media, for all its ups and downs, is a part of our lives and is a major part of how young people communicate.

It might be time to break through all the polarizing arguments that clog up our news feeds, to look past all the bickering and complaining and use social networking for what it was really meant to facilitate — human connection.

We ought to look past the negativity and recognize that there is an actual person behind every post.

Though it may be tempting to scroll past unhappy messages, it may be worthwhile to stop and check in on a friend who is showing signs of depression.

You may be the one to respond to a friend’s last cry for help.

Social media is frequently criticized for severing our connections to the real world and to the people who are right next to us. However, if we know the language, we might find that people using social media are communicating loud and clear and that we would be wise to listen.