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Court gives Duke Energy go-ahead for rate increase

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Duke Energy won approval from an Indiana court Wednesday to raise electricity rates to pay for its $3.5 billion Edwardsport coal-gasification power plant.

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled unanimously against environmental and consumer groups that sought to overturn a 2012 settlement between Duke and state regulators that authorized a 16-percent increase in the monthly bills of 790,000 Indiana customers.

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission decision had capped at $2.6 billion the amount of construction costs Duke Energy could pass onto its customers, with the company absorbing nearly $900 million in cost overruns.

Angeline Protogere, a spokeswoman for Charlotte, N.C.-based Duke Energy Corp., said much of that rate increase was already reflected in customers' rates, and said in a prepared statement that the settlement "shares the cost of the project between our customers and shareholders."

The 618-megawatt plant that went online last summer near the southwestern Indiana town of Edwardsport had an original 2007 cost estimate of $1.9 billion, but that eventually ballooned to about $3.5 billion.

The appeals court acknowledged the cost overruns, but it said that state regulators had taken that into account. It also said that Duke had made plans for possible future requirements that it control carbon emissions at the plant, another aspect of the project that the groups had challenged.

The activist groups, including the Sierra Club and the Citizens Action Coalition, had also raised questions about an ethics flap that arose after Duke officials and regulators were found to be discussing the project's rising costs before an initial 2010 agreement that was later withdrawn.

But the judges said that "despite substantiation of improprieties prior to submission of a first settlement," the second settlement was valid because the officials accused of misconduct were no longer involved.

Citizens Action Coalition Executive Director Kerwin Olson said the ruling confirmed the challengers' belief that Edwardsport was a collaboration between Duke and the state government.

"This ruling kind of confirms our opinion that the fix is in regarding Edwardsport," Olson told The Associated Press.

"We really feel like this is one of those cases for whatever reason the state of Indiana chooses to ignore the evidence and the facts to protect this power plant for some reason," he said.

Olson said his group will seek a rehearing or appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court.

"I can assure you we have every intention of taking this as far as we can," he said.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Mike Pence had no immediate comment.

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  • Ca Ching
    And the money continues to flow into political pockets. SHAMEFUL
  • Is everyone in state gov a coward?
    "A spokeswoman for Gov. Mike Pence had no immediate comment." Show some leadership.
  • Another Marble Hill
    How many times do we have to bail out Duke for failed projects that people don't want? Why do they get everything they want? Makes one wonder if there is more to this story.
  • How much
    I bet a lot of money went into judge's pocket for this ruling. Corrupt business and judicial.

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  1. These liberals are out of control. They want to drive our economy into the ground and double and triple our electric bills. Sierra Club, stay out of Indy!

  2. These activist liberal judges have gotten out of control. Thankfully we have a sensible supreme court that overturns their absurd rulings!

  3. Maybe they shouldn't be throwing money at the IRL or whatever they call it now. Probably should save that money for actual operations.

  4. For you central Indiana folks that don't know what a good pizza is, Aurelio's will take care of that. There are some good pizza places in central Indiana but nothing like this!!!

  5. I am troubled with this whole string of comments as I am not sure anyone pointed out that many of the "high paying" positions have been eliminated identified by asterisks as of fiscal year 2012. That indicates to me that the hospitals are making responsible yet difficult decisions and eliminating heavy paying positions. To make this more problematic, we have created a society of "entitlement" where individuals believe they should receive free services at no cost to them. I have yet to get a house repair done at no cost nor have I taken my car that is out of warranty for repair for free repair expecting the government to pay for it even though it is the second largest investment one makes in their life besides purchasing a home. Yet, we continue to hear verbal and aggressive abuse from the consumer who expects free services and have to reward them as a result of HCAHPS surveys which we have no influence over as it is 3rd party required by CMS. Peel the onion and get to the root of the problem...you will find that society has created the problem and our current political landscape and not the people who were fortunate to lead healthcare in the right direction before becoming distorted. As a side note, I had a friend sit in an ED in Canada for nearly two days prior to being evaluated and then finally...3 months later got a CT of the head. You pay for what you get...

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