Scandal fallout plagues Duke Energy’s Edwardsport project

Regulatory proceedings involving Duke Energy’s coal gasification plant, under construction in Edwardsport, have again been delayed in the wake of an influence scandal at the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.

The commission has pushed back another hearing, set for Oct. 26, to Dec. 2.

Last month, Gov. Mitch Daniels fired IURC Chairman David Hardy after it was revealed that Hardy was aware an administrative law judge handling the Edwardsport case, Scott Storms, was jockeying for a job with North Carolina-based Duke.

Storms was later hired by Duke, but he has since been put on administrative leave while the Daniels administration and Duke investigate.

Duke cases handled by Storms have been opened for review. Citizens Action Coalition asked the commission to stay the latest evidentiary hearing regarding the Edwardsport plant, as well.

Duke argued that the hearing should have proceeded because it amounted to a routine update on the construction of the $2.9 billion project and that further delays in the process will serve to increase the cost of the generating plant set to open in 2012.

Meanwhile, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, Joe Hogsett, confirmed he would refer the IURC matter for possible federal review, following a request by CAC and Common Cause of Indiana. The groups are dubious of the Daniels administration’s ability to investigate allegations of official misconduct. Daniels appointed Hardy, and CAC noted that Daniels has been a supporter of Duke’s coal gasification plant.

Moreover, Duke is a financial backer of the Indiana Economic Development Corp.’s foundation, which has helped pay for many of the governor’s international trade missions in recent years.

“As I know you appreciate and understand, there is a distinction between reviewing a request for an investigation and opening an investigation. No decision has been made whether to proceed with an investigation,” Hogsett said in a letter to Common Cause and CAC.

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