Letters and Opinion

Vaughn column was misleading

November 26, 2011

Julia Vaughn, a self-described advocate for “open and honest” government was neither open nor honest in her Nov. 14 Forefront column, “Shine More Light on Duke/IURC Secrets.”

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission is conducting extensive hearings related to the company’s high-tech coal gasification power plant in Knox County. The proceedings are an opportunity for a full hearing of the positions of various parties, including Vaughn’s former employer, the Citizens Action Coalition.

Vaughn asserts that the hearing “continues to be conducted in the shadows,” but that’s wrong. Utility commission hearings are always public and the commission has taken the unprecedented step of putting these hearings online. On occasion, confidential business information is discussed and portions of the hearing are held offline with all the case’s parties, but that’s the exception rather than the rule.

No one involved in this case, including Duke Energy, believes the plant’s hearings should be held in secret. Vaughn is either misinformed or shading the truth to suit her position. Vaughn also says that thousands of pages of documents submitted to the IURC are being hidden. That’s wrong, too. We have shared an enormous amount of information to be responsive and transparent. Some of the information is filed confidentially, largely because vendors require that or it is proprietary.

But here’s the key point: The contents of documents that deal with the plant are available in their entirety to the IURC, its staff and the Utility Consumer Counselor, which represents Indiana citizens. Other groups, including industrial energy consumers and Citizens Action Coalition, have access, as well. This plant is not without its challenges and that is being addressed in public hearings. However, Vaughn and plant opponents should not have free rein to make sweeping and baseless charges. 

While the regulatory process continues, it’s important to remember that it’s been over 20 years since Indiana has built a coal-fired power plant. Constructing a plant that meets today’s environmental requirements and produces reliable power is expensive. We have taken significant steps, however, to protect customers by capping the costs they will pay. Those costs will be further reduced by significant federal, state and local tax incentives.

Unlike those who want to stop using coal, we believe good public policy keeps all fuel options open. Our Indiana electric rates have been well below those nationally because much of our power comes from coal, and this facility represents a cleaner way to use that fuel. The plant is on schedule to begin serving customers next year, and it will help power our economy with low-cost energy for decades.

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Doug Esamann
president, Duke Energy Indiana

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