Indiana Conservation Program Receives Clean Air Act Settlement Grant

On June 8, the Indiana State Department of Agriculture published a press release announcing the Indiana Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) received a $500,000 grant from a modified consent decree reached in July 2019 as a result of legal action between the United States and the intervening states of Rhode Island, Maryland, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts against American Electric Power (AEP) for “alleged violations of the Clean Air Act…at nine coal-fired power plants in the eastern United States.” The consent decree required AEP to “perform or finance $60 million in environmental mitigation projects” from which the $500,000 grant originated.

CREP is jointly funded by the Indiana State Department of Agriculture and the United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency. The program “seeks to reduce pollution and improve water quality by creating buffers and wetlands that will reduce high nonpoint source pollution from sediment, nutrient, pesticide and herbicide losses from agricultural runoff into the targeted watersheds near the Wabash and White Rivers.” Organizations may register with the program to receive funding to allow enrollees to “remove cropland from agricultural production and convert the land to native grasses, trees, and other vegetation, which remain in place for at least 14 years.”

CREP received the funding following an application to the American Electric Power Foundation, set up to assist in the dissemination and tracking of mitigation funds, which, among other things, provides grants to “a 501(c)(3) public charity, a state or political subdivision, a government-owned or operated college or university, or an exempt operating foundation…located within the AEP service territory…to protect the environment” and enrich the “overall vitality of the community.”

The AEP mitigation funds are “being overseen by an oversight committee that includes Citizens Action Coalition, Clean Air Council and Indiana Wildlife Federation, with the Sierra Club as a non-voting member and Environmental Law & Policy Center as a non-voting legal advisor and facilitator.” The consent decree provides the state of Indiana with a minimum of 3.5 million of the mitigation funds.