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Troubled Indiana gasification plant begins operation

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A new coal-gasification power plant in southern Indiana that's been hounded by cost overruns and ethical scandals has started commercial operation, Duke Energy said Monday.

Duke Energy said that its $3.5 billion, high-tech 618-megawatt plant near Vincennes will produce 10 times as much power as a former plant but emit about 70 percent less pollution, The Indianapolis Star reported.

While Duke boasts the plant is one of the largest, cleanest coal-fired power generating facilities in the world, the project has drawn strong criticism as its price tag ballooned from its original 2007 cost estimate of $1.9 billion.

It has also been the focus of an ethical flap after company officials and regulators were found to be discussing the cost overruns in secret meetings, prompting several firings and resignations. Then-Gov. Mitch Daniels fired the state utility commission's chairman amid the fallout.

"Coal has powered Indiana for more than a century," said Duke Energy Indiana President Doug Esamann. "But today's air quality standards require us to use that fuel in a cleaner, more efficient way. Edwardsport turns coal into a cleaner-burning fuel and enables us to continue using an abundant local resource."

The plant is expected to build up to its long-term level of production over the next 15 months. It is expected to employ about 140 full-time workers. About 3,500 workers took part in the plant's construction.

Duke's 790,000 Indiana electricity consumers are expected to see an increase in their monthly bills of 14 percent to 16 percent by early next year, 9 percent of which has already occurred.

Duke is Indiana's largest electric utility, operating in 69 of the state's 92 counties. Duke has 4 million electric customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, along with 500,000 natural gas customers in Ohio and Kentucky.

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  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.

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