Controversial coal bill gets green light from Indiana Senate

The Indiana Senate approved a controversial energy bill on Tuesday afternoon that could slow Indiana utilities from shutting down coal-fired plants while a state task force works on a comprehensive energy policy.

The legislation, pushed by Republicans, passed 37-11, largely along party lines. By a vote of 52-41 last month, the House passed a much different version of the bill, which was opposed by business groups, big industrial customers, environmentalists and consumer activists. Many of those opponents continue to oppose the Senate version of the bill, but say it was more to their liking than the House version.

The bill now will next go to a conference committee, which will have the job of ironing out the differences and coming up with a version for both chambers to reconsider.

The legislation, House Bill 1414, comes as large utilities across Indiana have announced plans to shut down thousands of megawatts of coal-fired generating capacity in favor of cheaper fuel sources, such as natural gas, solar and wind.

Coal still accounts for more than 70% of the electricity generated in Indiana, but many Republicans say the state needs to pause during the industry transformation to cheaper energy and figure out whether the energy grid would be threatened by a continued move away from coal.

Sen. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper, said the amended bill, passed by a Senate panel last week, removed several sticking points, such as the requirement that utilities stockpile a 90-day supply of coal and pass those costs on to customers.

“There is nothing in this bill that has the potential to raise rates,” he said.

The Indiana Coal Council and coal miners across the state are pushing for the bill, saying it could help save jobs by slowing down the process for utilities that want to switch from coal to cleaner fuel sources to generate electricity.

Sen J.D. Ford, D-Indianapolis, asked senators to oppose the bill, pointing out that utilities’ moves to cleaner energy sources could save companies and ratepayers billions of dollars.

“Our utilities are using us to help them retire coal facilities and we should not stand in the way of them doing so,” he said.

The Senate version of the bill, which stripped out many of the controversial items, raised less opposition in a hearing last week.

The bill has a sunset date of December 31, 2020, but that—like other features that were stripped out of the House version of the bill, such as the 90-day coal supply and a requirement that utilities get their facility shutdown plans reviewed by state regulators in a lengthy process that could take months—could be put back in during the conference process.

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One thought on “Controversial coal bill gets green light from Indiana Senate

  1. And silence (publicly) from the Governor. I remember not too many years ago a certain former Republican governor would call legislators out for deviating too much from his legislative agenda. Especially when it included additional regulation that almost no one wanted.


    It’s called leadership.