by Kevin Tidmarsh
A long and protracted battle between environmentalists and the owners of a coal plant in southern Indiana may finally be coming to a close. The settlement, which was reached among Duke Energy Indiana, the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, and various environmental groups in the state, will offer ratepayers refunds totaling $87.5 million for charges incurred during the startup and testing phases of the power plant of the coal plant located in Edwardsport, Indiana, as well as include $1 million for low-income assistance and community solar power grants.
This settlement does not mean that watchdog groups in Indiana are going to stop monitoring the plant’s activities, however, and the decision to reach a settlement rather than go through litigation on the matter was a strategic move for Indiana environmental groups. As Sierra Club Indiana chapter chair Steve Francis said: “We recognize that at some point you can get items through settlement that we wouldn’t have gotten ordinarily through litigation. So we signed on to it, and will continue to be aggressive in monitoring of the plant and intervening if it becomes necessary in the future” [http://midwestenergynews.com/2016/02/02/settlement-wont-be-the-last-word-on-controversial-indiana-coal-plant/].
This is the second settlement that environmentalists have reached with Duke Energy regarding the Edwardsport coal plant. The first settlement, which was reached in September 2015, had a lower cap on the amount that Duke Energy would refund to its ratepayers, who had been paying for the startup and testing phases of the plant that they are not legally obligated to pay for – $85 million rather than $87.5 million. It also did not include the January bill’s provisions for low-income assistance for Indiana ratepayers. The original settlement was a result of rising operating costs and a failure to meet performance expectations, reported Indiana Public Media [http://indianapublicmedia.org/news/duke-energy-edwardsport-settlement-expanded-92378/] Given that environmentalists and watchdogs vehemently opposed the construction of the coal plant from the very beginning, citing concerns with cost and the environment, it’s doubtful that this will be the end of the road for environmental activists in Indiana. Doubtless, many environmentalists won’t be satisfied until the plant is shut down and replaced with renewable sources of energy.
Costello, Becca. “Duke Energy Edwardsport Plant Settlement Expanded.” Indiana Public Media. January 15, 2016. http://indianapublicmedia.org/news/duke-energy-edwardsport-settlement-expanded-92378/
Evans, Tim. “Duke, consumer groups reach proposed deal on Edwardsport.” Indy Star. Sep. 18, 2015. http://www.indystar.com/story/money/2015/09/18/duke-consumer-groups-reach-proposed-deal-edwardsport/72396180/
Lydersen, Kari. “Settlement won’t be the last word on controversial coal plant.” Midwest Energy News. Feb. 2, 2016. http://midwestenergynews.com/2016/02/02/settlement-wont-be-the-last-word-on-controversial-indiana-coal-plant/