Need for Duke coal-gas plant on regulators' agenda

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Duke Energy Corp. says it needs a new coal-gasification power plant it's building in southwest Indiana to meet growing demand as it retires older plants, but consumer advocates don't believe it.

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission will take up the issue Wednesday, in the shadow of an ethics scandal over decisions involving the plant that led to the firing of the commission chairman. As IBJ reported Oct. 15, Duke CEO James E. Rogers is expected to appear before the panel.

According to regulatory filings, more than 1,500 workers are building the plant at Edwardsport, which is about 70-percent complete. The price tag that's been factored into the utility's rates has grown to nearly $3 billion — or about twice the project's original 2007 estimate.

Charlotte, N.C.-based Duke argues it's money well spent.

Duke said its Indiana coal-fired power plants are 47 years old on average, and it hasn't built a major new plant here in three decades. Duke projects it will need up to 438 megawatts by 2013 as it retires those older plants.

"The need is clearly there, based on the age of our overall fleet and from the electric energy needs of our customers," said Doug Esamann, interim president of Duke's Indiana operations.

But the State Utility Forecasting Group at Purdue University said in January that the recession and more efficient appliances were expected to lower overall demand.

Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana said the nation has an adequate supply of electrical power, due in part to increases in energy efficiency and supplies of alternative energy.

"Our ultimate goal is to stop this thing and get ratepayers a full refund," said Kerwin Olson, the group's project manager.

Critics also claim that the plant's technology, which converts coal into a synthetic gas, is unproven and not as clean as Duke portrays.

The utility commission is focusing attention on the plant while both Duke and regulators are under intense scrutiny.

The state inspector general's office filed a complaint last month alleging former regulatory commission general counsel Scott Storms broke state ethics law by having a financial interest in the outcome of cases involving Duke while he pursued a job with the company. Storms in July approved Duke's request to have its customers pay for cost overruns on the $2.9 billion plant.

The ethics panel in September cleared Storms to join Duke despite a state law requiring a one-year cooling off period before state employees work for companies they've regulated.

Gov. Mitch Daniels fired regulatory commission Chairman David Lott Hardy for not removing Storms, and Duke suspended Storms and its Indiana president, Mike Reed, pending the completion of its review by outside counsel.

The utility commission said last month it would audit Duke cases Storms was involved in this year and all cases since 2006 on the Edwardsport coal-gasification plant.


Post a comment to this story

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

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Kent's done a good job of putting together some good guests, intelligence and irreverence without the inane chatter of the other two shows. JMV is unlistenable, mostly because he doesn't do his homework and depends on non-sports stuff to keep HIM interested. Query and Shultz is a bit better, but lack of prep in their show certainly is evident. Sterling obviously workes harder than the other shows. We shall see if there is any way for a third signal with very little successful recent history to make it. I always say you have to give a show two years to grow into what it will become...

  2. Lafayette Square, Washington Square should be turned into office parks with office buildings, conversion, no access to the public at all. They should not be shopping malls and should be under tight security and used for professional offices instead of havens for crime. Their only useage is to do this or tear them down and replace them with high rise office parks with secured parking lots so that the crime in the areas is not allowed in. These are prime properties, but must be reused for other uses, professional office conversions with no loitering and no shopping makes sense, otherwise they have become hangouts long ago for gangs, groups of people who have no intent of spending money, and are only there for trouble and possibly crime, shoplifting, etc. I worked summers at SuperX Drugs in Lafayette Square in the 1970s and even then the shrinkage from shoplifting was 10-15 percent. No sense having shopping malls in these areas, they earn no revenue, attract crime, and are a blight on the city. All malls that are not of use should be repurposed or torn down by the city, condemned. One possibility would be to repourpose them as inside college campuses or as community centers, but then again, if the community is high crime, why bother.

  3. Straight No Chaser

  4. Seems the biggest use of TIF is for pet projects that improve Quality Of Life, allegedly, but they ignore other QOL issues that are of a more important and urgent nature. Keep it transparent and try not to get in ready, fire, Aim! mode. You do realize that business the Mayor said might be interested is probably going to want TIF too?

  5. Gary, I'm in complete agreement. The private entity should be required to pay IPL, and, if City parking meters are involved, the parking meter company. I was just pointing out how the poorly-structured parking meter deal affected the car share deal.