Indiana ranks worst in the nation in toxic chemicals and pollution released per square mile, posing grave danger to the health of Hoosiers.

So you’d think the State Legislature would be determined to pass new laws to address such problems — along with a host of other environmental concerns.

You’d be wrong.

Exactly zero bills made it through the House Environmental Affairs Committee during the current session. In fact, the committee never even convened to consider legislation. It was the only House or Senate committee with assigned bills that never met.

The buck stopped with the committee chairman, Republican Doug Gutwein of Francesville, who in an email to the Indy Star cited neither a failure of communication nor a logistical snafu to explain the inactivity. Instead, he said the 13 bills sent to his committee were simply too complex.

Specifically, Gutwein wrote that pandemic protocols for committees dictated that “we’ve been more deliberate about hearing only legislation that is critically important to pass this year.”

The following bills that died in Gutwein’s environmental committee weren’t critically important?

• One requiring preschool and daycare facilities to test for lead and address high levels.

• Another prohibiting utilities from dumping contaminating coal ash in unlined ponds where it leeches into groundwater.

• Another limiting the amount of “forever chemical” toxins in drinking water.

To Gutwein, they weren’t.

His failure to convene the environmental committee is a gross dereliction of responsibility at a time when protection of the environment and promotion of clean energy is so important to Indiana’s future.

The House environmental committee will look at three bills crossing over from the Senate, but none would have a major positive impact on the environment. In fact, one of them, SB 389, would compromise Indiana’s wetlands to the interests of home builders.

By some measures, Indiana is among the worst states for pollution. It’s high time for the Republican majority to pull its head out of the toxic waste cloud and do something about it.

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