Prominent Indiana environmentalist leaving leadership post

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Hoosier Environmental Council Executive Director Jesse Kharbanda, at podium, speaks at a news conference on Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, in Indianapolis where environmental and public health groups called on the Marion County Health Department to compel a local utility to test groundwater around several coal ash lagoons on the city’s south side. The group The Hoosier said Monday that coal ash from an Indianapolis Power & Light power plant could be could be carrying toxic chemicals such as mercury and arsenic into wells in nearby subdivisions. (AP Photo/Charles Wilson)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — One of Indiana’s most prominent environmental activists has decided to leave his leadership position.

The Hoosier Environmental Council announced earlier this month that Jesse Kharbanda will be stepping down as its executive director after 14 years in the job.

The organization credits Kharbanda for leading its work in areas such as reducing coal ash and factory farm pollution and protecting the state’s forests and wetlands.

Kharbanda said that’s been done on “very tough political terrain” with a Republican-dominated state government.

Hoosier Environmental Council board president Tom Barrett said Kharbanda’s leadership has been “from his heart.”

“In working with Jesse over the last 10 years, I’ve come to know him as an unrelenting advocate for the environment — knowledgeable, articulate and credible,” Barrett said.

Kharbanda said he planned to keep working to increase environmental awareness, especially regarding the extinction of animal species and the spread of factory farming.

Kharbanda told The Indianapolis Star he wanted to write books for children and adults, aiming to sensitize them to the beauty of the animal world and magnitude of suffering some species face.

“I hope that my works will really move people, and that they will create an emotional connection between the animals and the people who read them,” he said.

Splitting time between Indiana and Texas, where his family lives, Kharbanda said he would wait until his replacement is found before officially leaving the environmental council.

The organization’s board has created a search committee for a new executive director.

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