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Senate panel waters down coal-gas measure

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The fight over a proposed $2.6 billion coal-gasification plant was left to the Indiana courts on Thursday after a Senate committee decided not to get involved in how an account set up by the plant's developers would be used.

Supporters and opponents of the plant have waged parallel fights this year in Legislature and the courts. But lawmakers stepped out by abandoning a plan that would have sped up how soon ratepayers received refunds from a $150 million account established by the plant's developers to offset rate hikes.

The developers, Indiana Gasification LLC and its parent company, Leucadia, have said such a move would have killed the project.

The Senate Utilities Committee decided Thursday to strip the plan from legislation that involved the workings of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. Committee members said they wanted to allow the pending court fight to play out before getting more involved.

However, the committee added in new protections for ratepayers if the courts send the issue back to the IURC. Those protections would "give the ratepayer a voice more so than before," said Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, chairman of the committee.

The panel approved the pared-downed legislation and sent it to the full Senate.

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled last year that a contract the state signed guaranteeing to buy synthetic natural gas from the plant over the next 30 years was invalid. If that ruling stands, the legislation would dictate that the IURC review the contract with an eye toward projected natural gas costs and the future availability of shale gas.

The proposed Rockport plant has pitted southwestern Indiana lawmakers and the New York-based developer, Leucadia, against environmentalists, consumer advocates and large ratepayers this session, who have argued the deal unfairly places ratepayers on the hook for potential hikes.

"This is really a complicated issue and I certainly would not like to see the project die, but there are still very valid concerns," said Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis.

Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, said the plant would bring good-paying jobs to the constituents he represents.

"There's six-and-a-half million people in this state who aren't here today because they're working for a living or trying to find jobs trying to support their families. We all want jobs," he said.

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  1. Aaron is my fav!

  2. Let's see... $25M construction cost, they get $7.5M back from federal taxpayers, they're exempt from business property tax and use tax so that's about $2.5M PER YEAR they don't have to pay, permitting fees are cut in half for such projects, IPL will give them $4K under an incentive program, and under IPL's VFIT they'll be selling the power to IPL at 20 cents / kwh, nearly triple what a gas plant gets, about $6M / year for the 150-acre combined farms, and all of which is passed on to IPL customers. No jobs will be created either other than an handful of installers for a few weeks. Now here's the fun part...the panels (from CHINA) only cost about $5M on Alibaba, so where's the rest of the $25M going? Are they marking up the price to drive up the federal rebate? Indy Airport Solar Partners II LLC is owned by local firms Johnson-Melloh Solutions and Telemon Corp. They'll gross $6M / year in triple-rate power revenue, get another $12M next year from taxpayers for this new farm, on top of the $12M they got from taxpayers this year for the first farm, and have only laid out about $10-12M in materials plus installation labor for both farms combined, and $500K / year in annual land lease for both farms (est.). Over 15 years, that's over $70M net profit on a $12M investment, all from our wallets. What a boondoggle. It's time to wise up and give Thorium Energy your serious consideration. See http://energyfromthorium.com to learn more.

  3. Markus, I don't think a $2 Billion dollar surplus qualifies as saying we are out of money. Privatization does work. The government should only do what private industry can't or won't. What is proven is that any time the government tries to do something it costs more, comes in late and usually is lower quality.

  4. Some of the licenses that were added during Daniels' administration, such as requiring waiter/waitresses to be licensed to serve alcohol, are simply a way to generate revenue. At $35/server every 3 years, the state is generating millions of dollars on the backs of people who really need/want to work.

  5. I always giggle when I read comments from people complaining that a market is "too saturated" with one thing or another. What does that even mean? If someone is able to open and sustain a new business, whether you think there is room enough for them or not, more power to them. Personally, I love visiting as many of the new local breweries as possible. You do realize that most of these establishments include a dining component and therefore are pretty similar to restaurants, right? When was the last time I heard someone say "You know, I think we have too many locally owned restaurants"? Um, never...

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