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Controversial utility bill heads to governor

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A bill that opponents described as a “Christmas tree wish list” for electric utilities is on its way to Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels for signing.

Senate Bill 251 allows utilities to quickly pass to ratepayers the cost of so-called clean-energy projects, including nuclear power plants and solar and wind power, during the construction phase rather than after the facility is operating. The bill passed the Indiana House 62-34 and the Senate 31-19.

Such a move shifts risks of design, construction and operating away from utility shareholders and on to utility ratepayers “while monopoly utility companies walk away with all the profit,” said Kerwin Olson, program director of utility watchdog group Citizens Action Coalition.

The Indiana Energy Association, which represents electric utilities, has noted that utilities face additional federal pollution-control regulations and need the flexibility to quickly make expensive capital investments to comply with them.

Currently, only so-called clean-coal projects, such as Duke Energy Corp.’s coal-gasification plant in Edwardsport, can tap ratepayers during construction.

The Duke plant has experienced numerous cost-overruns and is now expected to cost at least $3 billion, up from an initial estimate of $1.6 billion. The plant will convert coal to a cleaner-burning gaseous state.

The voluminous bill also includes a crucial provision for Leucadia Nation Corp.’s proposed Indiana Gasification plant in Rockport, by giving private corporations eminent domain power to take land for pipeline right-of-way.

Officials of New York City-based Leucadia have said the $2.7 billion project to make natural gas from coal likely would not proceed without such authority. That project, supported by Gov. Mitch Daniels, also depends on finalizing a deal with the Indiana Finance Authority, which would spend an estimated $6.9 billion over 30 years to buy synthetic natural gas produced at the plant.

Leucadia and the authority estimate the project could save Indiana gas customers more than $100 million by providing a hedge against swings in natural gas prices.

Opponents say the plan is risky because ratepayers and not Leucadia will bear the cost if natural gas prices don’t rise as high as expected. Leucadia will set aside $150 million to offset potential losses for ratepayers.

The Senate bill also includes a so-called renewable energy standard of producing 10 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable energy sources by 2025.
But compliance is voluntary, rather than mandatory as is the case in most states with such a provision. The Hoosier Environmental Coalition this month said a voluntary standard will hurt the state’s chances to attract renewable power investment because lenders tend to invest in states with mandatory standards.

Bill co-author Sen. Beverly Gard, R-Greenfield, has countered that Indiana has already attracted renewable power investment even without an RES standard.  
For example, more than 1,000 megawatts of power are generated from wind farms, mostly in northern Indiana.


 

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  1. So much for Eric Holder's conversation about race. If white people have got something to say, they get sued over it. Bottom line: white people have un-freer speech than others as a consequence of the misnamed "Civil rights laws."

  2. I agree, having seen three shows, that I was less than wowed. Disappointing!!

  3. Start drilling, start fracking, and start using our own energy. Other states have enriched their citizens and nearly elminated unemployment by using these resources that are on private land. If you are against the 'low prices' of discount stores, the best way to allow shoppers more choice is to empower them with better earnings. NOT through manipulated gov mandated min wage hikes, but better jobs and higher competitive pay. This would be direct result of using our own energy resources, yet Obama knows that Americans who arent dependent of gov welfare are much less likely to vote Dem, so he looks for ways to ensure America's decline and keep its citizens dependent of gov.

  4. Say It Loud, I'm Black and Ashamed: It's too bad that with certain "black" entertainment events, it seems violence and thuggery follows and the collateral damage that it leaves behinds continues to be a strain on the city in terms of people getting hurt, killed or becoming victims of crimes and/or stretching city resources. I remember shopping in the Meadows area years ago until violence and crime ended make most of the business pack you and leave as did with Lafayette Square and Washington Square. Over the past 10 to 12 years, I remember going to the Indiana Black Expo Soul Picnic in Washington Park. Violence, gang fights and homicides ended that. My great grandmother still bears the scares on her leg from when she was trampled by a group of thugs running from gun fire from a rival gang. With hundreds of police offices downtown still multiple shootings, people getting shot downtown during Black Expo. A number of people getting shots or murdered at black clubs around the city like Club Six on the west side, The Industry downtown, Jamal Tinsley's shot out in front of the Conrad, multiple fights and shootings at the skating rinks, shootings at Circle Center Mall and shooting and robberies and car jackings at Lafayette Mall. Shootings and gang violence and the State Fair. I can go on and on and on. Now Broad Ripple. (Shaking head side to side) Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Ashamed.

  5. Ballard Administration. Too funny. This is the least fiscally responsive administration I have ever seen. One thing this article failed to mention, is that the Hoosier State line delivers rail cars to the Amtrak Beech Grove maintenance facility for refurbishment. That's an economic development issue. And the jobs there are high-paying. That alone is worth the City's investment.

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