IBJNews

Indiana court hears Duke Energy ice storm case

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

An attorney for Duke Energy Corp. urged the Indiana Court of Appeals on Monday to reverse a state regulatory panel's decision blocking the company's attempt to pass onto its customers the cost of damages it incurred during a 2009 ice storm.

Duke Energy attorney Jon Laramore said during oral arguments that the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission's October 2011 order was an "arbitrary and capricious action."

That order came more than a year after the regulatory panel ruled in Duke Energy's favor in its initial request to pass onto its customers $11.6 million in power-outage repair costs following a January 2009 ice storm. Those costs would have been considered during the Charlotte, N.C.-based company's next rate case.

But the regulatory agency reversed itself after it reviewed the ice storm issue in the wake of an ethics case that followed Duke Energy's hiring of the panel's former chief counsel, Scott Storms.

Laramore told the three-judge court it was a "puzzling" about-face because the court made completely different rulings based on the same evidence.

"They came to polar opposite conclusions based on the same set of facts," he said.

However, Judge Nancy Vaidik pressed Laramore on that contention, noting that the commission's second order on the matter was based only on the ice storm case. In contrast, in its initial July 2010 decision, the panel had considered the impact of both a September 2008 windstorm and the ice storm that four months later left tens of thousands of southern Indiana residents without power for days.

Judge Paul Mathias noted other differences, including that the commission's staff was not the same one that that issued the first order.

David Steiner, an attorney for the commission, told the court that the utility panel had reviewed different information leading up to its second order, including new testimony in the case from a top Duke Energy executive.

"This was a completely new look at the evidence," Steiner said, adding that the decision was "fully supported by the law and the facts."

Storms, who had been both the commission's top attorney and its administrative law judge, was fired by Duke Energy in November 2010 after just two months on the job after it came to light that he discussed a position with Duke Energy while presiding over hearings concerning the company.

Gov. Mitch Daniels also ousted the utility commission's then-chairman, David Lott Hardy, saying he knew about Storms' ethical conflict but did nothing about it.

An internal audit by the commission found no evidence that Storms exerted "undue influence" on the panel's decisions. The storm damage case is the only one the panel reopened following the Storms ethics case.

At the time that ethics issue came to light, Duke Energy's ice storm costs case had been appealed by the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, which argued that Duke Energy's request was excessive.

Vaidik said the court would consider Monday's arguments and rule on the matter "as soon as possible."

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. I took Bruce's comments to highlight a glaring issue when it comes to a state's image, and therefore its overall branding. An example is Michigan vs. Indiana. Michigan has done an excellent job of following through on its branding strategy around "Pure Michigan", even down to the detail of the rest stops. Since a state's branding is often targeted to visitors, it makes sense that rest stops, being that point of first impression, should be significant. It is clear that Indiana doesn't care as much about the impression it gives visitors even though our branding as the Crossroads of America does place importance on travel. Bruce's point is quite logical and accurate.

  2. I appreciated the article. I guess I have become so accustomed to making my "pit stops" at places where I can ALSO get gasoline and something hot to eat, that I hardly even notice public rest stops anymore. That said, I do concur with the rationale that our rest stops (if we are to have them at all) can and should be both fiscally-responsible AND designed to make a positive impression about our state.

  3. I don't know about the rest of you but I only stop at these places for one reason, and it's not to picnic. I move trucks for dealers and have been to rest areas in most all 48 lower states. Some of ours need upgrading no doubt. Many states rest areas are much worse than ours. In the rest area on I-70 just past Richmond truckers have to hike about a quarter of a mile. When I stop I;m generally in a bit of a hurry. Convenience,not beauty, is a primary concern.

  4. Community Hospital is the only system to not have layoffs? That is not true. Because I was one of the people who was laid off from East. And all of the LPN's have been laid off. Just because their layoffs were not announced or done all together does not mean people did not lose their jobs. They cherry-picked people from departments one by one. But you add them all up and it's several hundred. And East has had a dramatic drop I in patient beds from 800 to around 125. I know because I worked there for 30 years.

  5. I have obtained my 6 gallon badge for my donation of A Positive blood. I'm sorry to hear that my donation was nothing but a profit center for the Indiana Blood Center.

ADVERTISEMENT