Indiana Tree Alliance
September 28, 2012 - Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels signs a biased utility reform rule into law
On July 11, 2012, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) approved a Final Rule to govern utility vegetation management practices. A slightly modified version of this Rule was approved by Governor Mitch Daniels on September 28, 2012, after the Attorney General had approved it despite changes to the notice provisions which the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled the use of such public legal notices buried in the small print of newspaper legal notices sections are unreliable and unconstitutional. The State’s constitution, U.S. Bill of Rights, decisions by the courts and input from community leaders were all ignored when the Governor gave his OK. A major question is just how well was the Governor advised of the serious problems with this new law.
The Alliance opposed critical aspects of this new Rule, and, sought a meeting with the Governor to urge him to reject or correct the proposed Rule. It is very disappointing to the Alliance that despite repeated requests, no meeting was scheduled. With an approval rating over 80 percent and a commendable record one must ask, was the Governor advised of the urgent pleas of community leaders to meet with him to discuss these critical issues? Was he told of the serious exposure the state faces because of the utilities illegal practices?
According to Charlie Goodman, “One can only conclude that the Governor and/or his Administration have chosen to ignore decades of illegal practices and policies carried out by utilities and now are willing to accept a defective rule which will protect the utilities so they can continue to trim trees as they see fit. This new law sends a message that the interests of big business trumps the constitutional rights of ordinary Indiana property owners.”
The property rights of millions of property owners are at risk which is unacceptable to the Indiana Tree Alliance. This new law will also set a bad precedent/example nationwide that will affect millions of property owners across the country and their elected officials. Respect for an individual’s property rights was and is a critical part of the U.S. Bill of Rights. Violations of this basic right should be a grave concern to every elected official across our nation.
The Indiana Tree Alliance (ITA) consisting of many concerned Indiana Community leaders has been working under the leadership of Charlie Goodman for many years to try and end abusive tree trimming policies by Indiana utilities and restore respect for Hoosier property rights.
The Alliance has been working closely with Indiana State Legislators, to try to enact legislation to protect private property owners from the unnecessary and illegal destruction of their trees and reduction of property values. The Alliance has sought to restore property rights and due process protection guaranteed under the U.S. and Indiana Constitutions and to plug the gaps that are preventing the IURC from protecting the public while trying to preserve the beauty and function which trees bring to our cities, neighborhoods, and properties. Two relevant U.S. Supreme Court decisions have will aid their challenges as the Tree Alliance heads to court.
In 2009, the Alliance actively participated across the state in public hearings of the (IURC) Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission who were seeking public input so they could draft new administrative laws to protect property owners from abusive utility practices. These hearings were part of a statewide investigation of tree trimming practices and policies. Despite the testimony from so many people statewide who participated in these hearings with oral testimony or written statements, critical reforms were ignored under repeated opposition and pressure from the utilities.