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EDITORIAL: Pence's stubborn energy stance ill-serves state

February 27, 2016

Gov. Mike Pence says Indiana has “never picked a pencil up” to work on a state energy plan to comply with new federal clean air rules.

And Pence told The Indianapolis Star that his administration has no plans to ever do so, especially now that the U.S. Supreme Court has put the rules on hold as it reviews several legal challenges, including one in which Indiana is a plaintiff.

That is irresponsible.

If the Pence administration does not create a plan to try to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and the high court upholds the Environmental Protection Agency rules, the state could become a slave to federal regulations that were not created with Indiana in mind.

Business leaders and utility officials know this. Mark Maassel, president of the Indiana Energy Association, which represents the state’s investor-owned utilities, told IBJ late last year that the state needs a plan in place in case the federal Clean Power Plan is upheld.

Make no mistake. Maassel and many other business leaders support Pence’s decision to sue President Obama’s administration to stop the implementation of the rules, which are meant to reduce carbon dioxide emissions 32 percent by 2030. That could be especially difficult for Indiana, where 80 percent of the state’s net energy generation comes from coal—compared with about 35 percent nationally.

That’s why Indiana should tackle the problem on its own, rather than letting federal regulators tell it what to do. Crafting a state plan to reduce emissions gives the Pence administration the chance to bring together stakeholders, including utilities and the coal industry as well as environmental groups and health care leaders. It lets the state be creative in its approach and ensures that some one-size-fits-all federal mandate isn’t dropped on Hoosier businesses and utilities.

A state plan also acknowledges that diversifying our energy sources and cleaning up our air is a worthy goal—and it clearly is. Regardless of whether the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the federal rules, the state would benefit from having discussed and debated its options.

That doesn’t have to mean completely abandoning coal. In truth, that can’t and won’t happen in Indiana anytime soon. But a plan for Indiana’s energy future can include how to help the 3,600 people who work in Indiana’s coal mining industry. The move away from coal nationally is real, and pretending that it’s not happening won’t make it go away.

Pence owes it to Hoosiers to put his regulators to work on a clean energy plan now—whether the Supreme Court throws out the EPA rules or not. Doing anything else is irresponsible.•

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To comment on this editorial, write to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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