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Indiana House backs slowing coal power plant closures

The Indiana House narrowly endorsed on Monday a proposal aimed at making it more difficult for Indiana electric companies to close more coal-fired power plants.

Posted: Feb 4, 2020 1:35 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana House narrowly endorsed on Monday a proposal aimed at making it more difficult for Indiana electric companies to close more coal-fired power plants.

House members voted 52-41 in favor of the bill that would impose additional state reviews on utility companies for the coming year before they could move ahead with shutting down those plants. Just two Democrats joined Republicans in supporting the bill, which faces objections from consumer and environmental groups who argue it props up the coal industry and could stifle growth in renewable energy such as wind and solar power.

Republican Rep. Ed Soliday of Valparaiso, the bill's sponsor, said he wants to slow down any more plant closing decisions before a state energy task force completes a report for legislators that's due in late 2020. He said he worries about major actions happening before the Legislature can consider the report and whether to adopt a statewide energy policy next year.

“Whether that is coal or rabbits on a treadmill, we need the lights to come on when we flip the switch,” Soliday said. “We are in transition and all we’re asking is to be able to manage it.”

The proposal comes as at least four large Indiana electric utilities intend on closing several coal-burning plants in the coming years. Those include plans from Indianapolis Power & Light Co. to retire by 2023 two of the four coal-burning units at its Petersburg Generating Station in southwestern Indiana, while Merrillville-based Northern Indiana Public Service Co. aims to shut down four of its five remaining coal-fired units within five years.

Opponents argued that the proposal threatens higher electricity bills for consumers and adding bureaucratic steps for companies with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commisison.

“Let’s just let the market work its will,” said Democratic Rep. Matt Pierce of Bloomington. “Let’s not shift the balance of the scale to an inefficient competitor who’s having difficulties winning in the marketplace.”

Several coal mines in southwestern Indiana have closed in recent years, and some legislators from that area pointed to the importance of that industry to the state.

Republican Rep. Bruce Borders of Jasonville said coal is a primary reason the state has affordable electricity now as 70 percent of Indiana’s electricity now comes from coal-burning plants.

“I think we’re foolish to treat coal as something who’s day has come and gone,” Borders said.

The proposal now goes to the Senate for consideration.

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1007681

Reported Deaths: 16470
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1355212121
Lake664101166
Allen57993801
Hamilton46350465
St. Joseph44397615
Elkhart35949510
Vanderburgh32251480
Tippecanoe27933260
Johnson25107445
Hendricks23897359
Porter22929365
Madison18748409
Clark18557252
Vigo17479303
Monroe15263200
LaPorte15173250
Delaware15073263
Howard14748290
Kosciusko12348148
Hancock11728176
Bartholomew11639180
Warrick11292189
Floyd11108215
Wayne10986253
Grant10082220
Morgan9472176
Boone8926115
Dubois8271131
Henry8229152
Dearborn822393
Noble8031106
Marshall7939135
Cass7546121
Lawrence7457171
Shelby7189119
Jackson698289
Gibson6597115
Harrison649192
Knox6421106
Huntington6395100
DeKalb632399
Montgomery6264111
Miami593398
Putnam581278
Clinton576171
Whitley565755
Steuben562576
Wabash5332104
Jasper532079
Jefferson511297
Ripley500586
Adams482576
Daviess4677114
Scott438974
Greene425196
Wells424888
Clay423360
White418764
Decatur4169102
Fayette406587
Jennings387361
Posey376644
Washington359151
LaGrange359078
Randolph3452100
Spencer340243
Fountain335760
Sullivan329452
Starke317171
Owen314771
Fulton312667
Orange293664
Jay284645
Franklin265643
Perry265452
Rush262432
Carroll261934
Vermillion258654
Parke231426
Pike229243
Tipton228159
Blackford193142
Pulaski183757
Crawford159823
Newton158348
Benton150617
Brown146747
Martin138719
Switzerland135011
Warren121116
Union107016
Ohio84613
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