Green Party

Bethany Hayes, co-coordinator of the Indiana Green Party and member of the National Women’s Caucus of the GPUS, has secured a place on the ballot for state representative in district 99 in Indiana.  Beth received word from the voter registration office that she had collected more than enough valid signatures to place her name on the ballot (a daunting task for a candidate wishing to run for any office in Indiana on any other ticket than the Democratic, Republican or Libertarian party).  Beth is the first Green Party candidate to obtain ballot access for a state level office. 

Truly an Independence Day gift we can all celebrate.  Whether or not you would vote for a Green Party candidate, the fact that Indiana throws up nearly insurmountable barriers to give voters more than 3 choices should give pause to anyone in a democratic republic.

 Go Beth!



Kathleen and I attended the IURC field hearing on net-metering last Monday evening at the County-City building. Here is my summary.

1. The IURC has failed to change their rules enacted in 2005. The 2005 rules (regulations) were obviously (to me) written by the power industry to limit and control net-metering in Indiana.

2. According to the comments given to the IURC commissioners, it is a no-brainer to change the regulations to provide an economic incentive for individuals, schools, businesses and municipalities to begin net-metering. Many states have improved their economies by allowing for sensible net-metering. The comments were from engineers, electricians, home owners, city officials, state elected officials and people who own and operate businesses providing alternate energy (PV, anaerobic digesters, wind turbine, biomass); these are not wing nuts but practical people. There was even a representative of mall owners/managers asking for net-metering.

3. The state House has passed bipartisan bills since 2005 establishing more reasonable net-metering policies, and they die in the Senate. There is another bi-partisan bill this General Assembly co-sponsored by Ryan Dvorak, state Representative, and supported by John Broden, state Senator. Both spoke at the hearing.

The state Senate is “illiterate about net-metering” according to Rep. Ryan Dvorak. Although Dvorak didn’t say so, I assume key Senate members are deaf to everyone but power industry lobbyists. If the ignorant Senators heard the testimony last night, they would change the legislation immediately based on the evidence. The IURC commissioners after these three field hearings must be very well informed — whether they will change the rules or not is another story.

4. Net-metering is not selling electricity to power companies but earning credit at retail pricing for power generated and used. Surplus energy beyond your own use is not purchased by the power company. There is a power selling framework, but it is not called net-metering. The power selling framework may be FITs (Feed-In Tariffs).

5. The current rules make it financially and politically difficult if not impossible for the City of South Bend to build a hydro-electric plant to generate power for the city’s water treatment plant. Reasonable net-metering regulations would make the hydro-plant a no-brainer. Now, individuals and organizations which generate their own electricity usually don’t net-meter because it is economically impractical to join the grid in Indiana.

Here is how the power industry in Indiana contains net-metering using the IURC rules.

~ No more than a 17kw generator is allowed. According to the IndyStar/Indianapolis Star, the regulatory power generation limit is 10kw/month. A commenter at the South Bend hearing said modern homes use 1000-5000 kw/month.
~ No market area, which for I&M would be southwestern Michigan and northwestern/central Indiana, as a whole can net-meter more than 0.1% of the historical total summer peak power used in that area.
~ No aggregation of meters for the purpose of net-metering.
~ Monthly connection fees, initial installation charges and required equipment costs diminish and lengthen the ROI (return on investment). For instance, power companies frequently require two special meters to measure incoming and outgoing electricity rather than a single meter which is reversible. The single meter is $189 with no special requirements to install. The two-meter installation costs from $1500 to $2500 dollars according to the power company you are dealing with. Both types of meters are manufactured by Seimens.
~ Businesses are excluded from net-metering. Only homes and schools are allowed to net-meter. Power companies can allow businesses to net-meter, but inclusion is solely at the discretion of the power company; otherwise they are excluded.

South Bend’s proposed hydro-electric generator would:

~ generate 250kw and the IURC limit is 10kw;
~ generate 1/3 of the limit for our entire I&M market area;
~ aggregate 9 meters, and the IURC allows just 1 meter;
~ be excluded from net-metering under current rules.

Arguments supporting restrictive rules in Indiana were thoroughly discredited or disproved by testimony at the hearing. I can’t tell you how exciting it was to hear what people and businesses are doing in other states for themselves and their communities and what Indiana citizens and businesses are doing in spite of current regulations, yet I was depressed to think the state Senate and IURC will probably do nothing to encourage net-metering in Indiana.

Here is a informative article from the IndyStar/Indianapolis Star, a fairly conservative news organization.

btw, the audience erupted into applause after my comments to the commissioners. I was stunned but pleased. I believe I said twice during my comments that I represented the SJVGreens so we garnered good PR out of the hearing. There were activists from the central region of Indiana including CAC at the hearing.

Tom Brown
St. Joe Valley Greens

Tonight in South Bend, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission held the third of three state-wide public hearings on net metering.  Currently, Indiana lags far behind the rest of the country in how investor-owned utility companies such as Northern Indiana Public Service Company and Indiana Michigan Power handle renewable energy produced by customers.  For example, in some states customers receive a check from their utility companies for any excess energy they may send to the grid from their home or business’ solar or wind generator.  However, in good old coal-burning Indiana, net metering for renewable energy is limited to a capacity of 10 kilowatts with energy-generating customers receiving a credit at a fraction of what utilities charge customers drawing from the grid.  As we learned from the testimonies tonight, current regulations also allow utilities to charge nebulous “connection” fees to customers with wind or solar generators; as a result, these Hoosiers who are trying to do the right thing by the environment are actually PAYING to send their excess renewable energy to the power companies’ grids, where they in turn sell it at huge mark-up.  Local and international businesses are having a hard time selling their renewable energy products in Indiana due to the poor rate and indeed sometimes negative rate of return. 

(This should come as no surprise from a state that relies on coal for 90% of its power.  The coal industry has such a stranglehold on Indiana it somehow got the state to allow the construction of a monstrous, coal-fired power plant at the front door of Clifty Falls State Park.   The majestic view of the Ohio River beheld by Eleanor Roosevelt while standing on the balcony at the park’s inn now looks over the machinations of the coal-burning industry.  The three ungodly high smoke-stacks loom over the entire park and can be seen for miles in any direction. 

Coal obviously rules Indiana).

Urging the commission to support changes to the state’s net metering regulations, local and state representatives, homeowners, green technology business owners, laborers and representatives from the League of Women Voters, the Green Party, the Sierra Club and IUSB’s Center for a Sustainable Future pointed out how progressive net metering is good for the environment and the economy. 

Net metering would make South Bend’s installation of the hydro-electric generator on the dam at Century Center an economically feasible venture with an estimated return on investment in half the time without net metering.

Every speaker at tonight’s hearing supported revising net metering regulations in order to encourage businesses, local governments and home owners to invest in renewable energy.   This cross-section of our community thinks it’s an idea whose time has come.  Let’s hope the IURC agrees.

Urging President Obama to Take the Lead on Global Climate Change

WASHINGTON, DC — Green Party leaders today said that Obama has the chance, when he becomes President, to take the lead on curbing global warming.

In May, 2008, the Green Party’s Eco-Action Committee announced a set of recommendations for environmental actions for the first 100 days as a guide for Green presidential candidates.

Greens are now promoting the “First 100 Days: Energy and Environmental Policy” as a plan for the Obama Administration.

“This is the Green Party’s holiday gift to the new administration — a set of policies and actions that would place the US in the lead among nations fighting the advance of catastrophic climate change,” said Wes Rolley, co-chair of the EcoAction Committee. “After the inconclusive results of the Poznan talks, President Obama has the opportunity to put the US at the forefront by the time nations meet again in Copenhagen next year.”

“Evidence presented by climate experts in Poznan that alternative energy may not be sufficient to solve the crisis. The emphasis must shift more towards conservation, lowered consumption, and drastic reduction in car traffic. The steps taken against global warming and to repair the current economic meltdown must include all three,” said Mr. Rolley.

On December 10, the Green Party published six recommendations for economic recovery that included environmentally based public works, expanded public transportation, and other conservation-based measures .

*First 100 Days: Energy and Environmental Policy: summary of major recommendations*

 -No new coal fired-power plants; no new nuclear power plants; reduce by 90% the mercury emissions of coal-fired power plants by 2012; protect human health and the environment in the disposal of coal-fired power plant wastes

 -Ban mountaintop coal removal; ban the dumping of mountaintop removal wastes in stream beds and valleys

 -Reduce CO2 and SO2 emissions by 80% by 2020

 -Provide incentives for industry and citizens to reduce energy use through conservation and generate more renewable energy sources; enact a mandatory 25% renewable energy mix in the national grid by 2015; encourage all states to do the same (using oil and nuclear subsidy funds); encouraging local energy generation

 -Increase Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards to 60 mpg for cars and 45 mpg for light trucks by 2012

 -Set a national phosphorus standard for all US waters that will protect steams from nutrient growth; strengthen bacteria standards to protect human health

 -Require labeling of imported foods, foods with growth hormones, and foods produced by Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)

 -Stop export of any technology abroad for projects that involve fossil fuel or deforestation

 -Require that all federal agencies continue their policy of direct negotiation with Indian tribes on a government to government basis

 -Protect the rights of Environmental Justice communities to be free from new proposals for permits that would potentially increase their burden of toxic contamination, and prioritize these communities for cleanup.


In addition, this writer would have liked to see inclusion of an electric car as an objective for this “wish list”.  BGS Corporation developed the first electric car in this country in 1900, which set a distance record of 180 miles on a single charge.  GM had an electic car in 1996, the EV1, which they leased out in a limited number.  Despite their popularity with those who drove them and growing waiting lists for other interested car drivers to obtain one, GM inexplicably re-possessed all of their leased fleet of EV1’s and had them summarily destroyed.



For anyone looking for a link to state-by-state election results for McKinney, Barr and candidates other than the Democrat and Republican parties, click on this link:

Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District Candidates Reach Across Party Lines to Exclude Others From Democratic Participation

A few years back, the local League of Women Voters hosted a debate between 2nd Congressional candidates Jill Long Thompson and Chris Chocola at Bethel College. I asked the women working at the table why the Libertarian candidate wasn’t also going to be on stage that night. One woman said she wasn’t aware there was another candidate running for that office. Another urged me to join the League of Women Voters to make sure omissions like this did not occur in the future.

In 2006, the League hosted a debate between the candidates for Secretary of State. At the urging of the local Green Party, the Green Party’s write-in candidate for Secretary of State was invited to and included in that debate held at IU South Bend. I was so impressed by the commitment of the League to include all eligible candidates and to make the debates completely non-partisan, I joined the local chapter.

Since then, I’ve witnessed the great lengths the League of Women Voters exerts themselves to remain non-partisan and to ensure equal participation of all candidates in “Meet The Candidate” events. In addition to ensuring voter participation and other non-partisan activism, the local League has also taken up the important work of pressing the Election Board to fully count all legally cast votes, including write-in votes this Election Day.

Which is why I am deeply disappointed with the League’s decision to hold a “debate” with only two of the three candidates whose names will appear on this year’s ballot for Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District race. Libertarian candidate, Mark Vogel did not share the stage with the other two candidates. According to an article by the South Bend Tribune’s Ed Ronco, “debate rules are set by the two major party candidates. Two of those criteria are that the candidate is waging an active campaign and that his party has ‘generated significant voter interest’ by having their party’s secretary of state nominee receive 10 percent or more of the most recent vote.”

League President Lisa Plencner is quoted as saying the League wanted to see Vogel in the debate, but more than that, they wanted to have a debate. “There was no way at this late date that we were going to make that a deal breaker,” she said.

Let me get this straight. The League of Women Voters, an historically non-partisan group, works hard to organize a televised event to help educate voters about their choices for candidates. This event is essentially free advertising for the candidates, yet the “two major party candidates” have their own debate rules that exclude other candidates. The circular illogic of these so-called “major-candidate debate rules” is yet another way the two parties coalesce to become one when their power base is challenged. They successfully did this in Indiana as they’ve worked together over the past 60 years to make ballot access increasingly difficult for any other party other than themselves.

In this case, the League of Women Voters capitulated to the undemocratic demands of two candidates who were invited to enjoy a free forum to present their ideas. I was involved in other League projects, so I didn’t have the time in my schedule to add being on the congressional debate committee. Furthermore, I wouldn’t have believed, given the recent history of inclusion of all candidates in local League forums, the issue of including all candidates would have been in question. In hindsight, I wish I would have somehow cut something out of my schedule to help coordinate this Congressional debate. Then, I could have at least expressed my opposition to going ahead, as a non-partisan group, with a forum that allowed the invitees to set partisan parameters on a League-sponsored event.

League of Women Voters

Lake Michigan Interleague Organization

2008-2009 Annual Meeting

October 10-11 2008


I served as the delegate from the League of Women Voters from the South Bend Area to the Lake Michigan Interleague Organization’s annual meeting, held this year in Chesterton, Indiana.  I attended the Business Meeting held on Saturday the 11th. 

Following adoption of the rules of the day, the minutes of the 2007 meeting and the Treasurer’s report, a proposed change of the bylaws to reflect changing the name of the organization to the “Lake Michigan League of Women Voters” was presented.  There was some discussion regarding whether the group’s bylaws could be changed before the change was approved by the National office.   The name change was approved, pending approval by the LWVUS.

The 2008-2009 Program was discussed and approved with areas of emphasis to include:

1)      As a member of the Healing our Water (HOW) Coalition, work to restore Great Lakes water quality, prevent and control non-native aquatic invasive species, clean up concentrated toxic pollution

2)      Work to pass Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act

3)      Support efforts to reduce use of pesticides

4)      Advocate for water conservation

5)      Address permitted discharges into the Great Lakes with goal to reduce discharged pollutants

6)      Monitor implementation of the Great Lakes-St Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement signed by all Great Lakes Governors, US Congress and President Bush

7)      Monitor progress of the Review of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement

Following nominations from the floor and presentation of the nominating committee, new officers were elected:

Co-Presidents: Judith Johnston and Jeannette Neagu

Vice President: Cheryl Chapman

Secretary: Hanano Anderson

Treasurer: Suzanne Dixon

Reports presented:

1)       Suzanne Dixon reported on the “Healing Our Waters Conference” held September 10-11 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  The League was represented by members from Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.  The purpose of having the Great lake state leagues join the Coalition was to assist in the advocacy work on Federal Legislation regarding the Great Lakes.   The coalition has worked to protect the quantity of water in the Great Lakes and continues its efforts to protect the quality of water of this non-renewable resource.


A long-awaited bill on invasive species is on hold while the courts and Congress decide who should regulate ballast water from foreign vessels, the Coast Guard or the EPA.


The Coalition is seeking nominations for positions critical to the Great Lakes following this year’s election.  These include EPA administrators, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Geological Survey, Army Corps, Natural Resources Conservation Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and International Joint Commission positions.  Members are asked to contact Chris Grubb with your nominations by October 28, 2008.


2)      Jeanette Neagu reported on the Great Lakes Day in Washington, DC during which League members met with Congressional Representatives and Senators from each of the Great Lake states. 


3)      Guest Speaker Kim Ferraro, Attorney, Executive Director of Legal Environmental Aid Foundation (LEAF), presented “Toxic Pollution Impacting the Great Lakes: What You Need to Know”.  Some alarming statistics: national annual average of exposure to toxins is 12# per year, for Hoosiers, it is 40# per year.  According to Forbes magazine, Indiana is the 2nd most polluted state.  States with the highest environmental standards have the highest economic performance.  The problem, according to Ms Ferraro, is that the public’s voice is not being heard.  She suggested getting on the EPA’s list of notices (e.g. water permitting issues for regional EPA offices) and enlist public interest lawyers such as herself (she works pro bono and is paid through grants) to exercise state statutes with respect to planning commissions as they make decisions regarding unchecked growth.  She related unchecked growth to the Tragedy of the Commons in which the environment must be protected in free market economies for the common good.

During the discussion following Ms. Ferraro’s presentation, I followed-up her point about lack of a public voice and noted that states with the worst pollution and worst economic standards also have the most restrictive ballot access laws.  I reported on my efforts to gain ballot access for the Green Party to give Hoosier voters another voice at the ballot box as well as in elected offices.  Not only are ballot access laws severely restrictive for parties and candidates other than Democrat or Republican, but votes cast for Green Party and other independent candidates were not counted in several Indiana counties, including St Joseph and Marion counties.  This information sent shock waves through the gathering whose non-partisan founding and continued mission is to enfranchise voters.

4)      Jeanette Neagu presented her Power Point presentation “What the League of Women Voters Can Do to Protect the Great Lakes”. One of her final slides listed the many organizations who are part of the Heal Our Waters coalition, including the National Wildlife Federation.  Missing, as noted by this writer, was the Indiana Wildlife Federation.  Jeanette also cited the many organizations to whom she has shown her presentation.  She had not yet presented to my local league in the South Bend area.  I told her I would ask my local to contact her to put her on the agenda for a future meeting.   I would also like to follow up with individuals I know within the Indiana Wildlife Federation about joining the HOW coalition.




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