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Indiana lawmakers back new steps on coal plant closures

A proposal that environmental groups have decried as propping up the coal industry narrowly won approval Tuesday from Indiana lawmakers.

Posted: Mar 11, 2020 11:59 AM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A proposal that environmental groups have decried as propping up the coal industry narrowly won approval Tuesday from Indiana lawmakers.

Republican sponsors of the bill said its provisions making it more difficult for electric utility companies to close more coal-fired power plants are needed to allow time for a state energy task force to complete a report for legislators that's due in late 2020. The proposal cleared the Senate in a 28-21 vote, while House members endorsed it by a 55-38 margin.

Republican Rep. Ed Soliday of Valparaiso, the bill's sponsor, said the restrictions only last until May 2021 and that no announced coal plant closures are scheduled to take place until after that date.

“We want to set policy in the task force and in the Legislature,” Soliday said. “That gives us the task force time plus one legislative session, so it applies to no one except those closing a plant before May 2021.”

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 Commission. Consumer and environmental groups have argued it could stifle growth in renewable energy such as wind and solar power.

Rep. Matt Pierce, a Democrat from Bloomington, said lawmakers were possibly getting in the way of utility companies making business decisions on how they generate electricity.

“I think the signal we send is that Indiana is not a forward-thinking place that’s embracing the energy of the future, but somebody, a Legislature, that is trying to cling to the past,” Pierce said.

Senate Utilities Committee Chairman Jim Merritt, an Indianapolis Republican, opposed the bill, saying it could increase electricity costs with the additional utility commission review for proposed plant closing.

“This is lawyers, folks,” Merritt told fellow senators. “The lawyers love this for the utilities.”

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 733591

Reported Deaths: 13466
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1003871748
Lake54020975
Allen40829679
St. Joseph35898552
Hamilton35735408
Elkhart28745442
Tippecanoe22432219
Vanderburgh22342397
Porter18871310
Johnson18028381
Hendricks17283315
Clark13015191
Madison12725339
Vigo12482248
LaPorte12011214
Monroe11928170
Delaware10726187
Howard9959218
Kosciusko9451117
Hancock8325142
Bartholomew8085156
Warrick7792155
Floyd7677178
Grant7080174
Wayne7064199
Boone6722101
Morgan6596139
Dubois6162117
Marshall6083112
Cass5839105
Dearborn582178
Henry5767104
Noble563684
Jackson502773
Shelby493696
Lawrence4571120
Harrison436372
Gibson436292
DeKalb429685
Clinton428153
Montgomery425389
Whitley397439
Huntington393380
Steuben390057
Miami382668
Knox372690
Jasper370148
Putnam362360
Wabash354980
Adams341955
Ripley340270
Jefferson331581
White315654
Daviess298299
Wells291981
Decatur285692
Fayette281662
Greene280085
Posey271933
LaGrange268370
Scott267254
Clay260647
Washington241832
Randolph241481
Spencer232631
Jennings230649
Starke217854
Fountain213246
Sullivan212142
Owen202156
Jay196730
Fulton195640
Carroll189620
Orange184154
Perry184037
Rush173725
Vermillion169743
Franklin168435
Tipton163045
Parke146616
Blackford135132
Pike135134
Pulaski117145
Newton108334
Brown102641
Crawford101315
Benton99014
Martin89515
Warren82415
Switzerland7938
Union71110
Ohio57111
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