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Energy News Network: A Pointless Mandate or a Trojan Horse? Intrigue Surrounds Indiana Coal Bill

Posted by Kari Lydersen on Jan 29, 2020

Energy News Network reported on Indiana's HB 1414 which strives to delay coal power plant closures, including comments by AEE's Caryl Auslander. Read excerpts below and the entire Energy News Network piece here. 

An Indiana bill moving through the legislature would place unprecedented new burdens on utilities before they could close coal-fired power plants. But under amendments proposed in the past week, it’s unclear if the bill would have any impact at all on utility resource planning. That is not necessarily a relief to clean energy advocates, citizens groups, industrial customers and others who oppose it. Rather, it makes some worry that the bill is a “Trojan Horse,” in the words of Citizens Action Coalition executive director Kerwin Olson, that could become more insidious with revisions after it is passed, namely the removable of a July 2021 sunset provision currently in the bill.

HB 1414 would require utilities get approval for coal closures from the state regulatory commission, and order that plants can only close because of federal mandates unless it’s proven that closure is in the public interest. No coal plants are slated for closure before the July 2021 sunset date, except for one that has an exemption in the bill. Hence the proposal would have no apparent impact. But opponents worry the sunset provision is meant to assuage concerns over the bill, while still leaving the door open for future legislation or last-minute amendments to remove it...

The organization Advanced Energy Economy, which represents commercial and industrial companies supporting renewable energy, energy storage, energy efficiency and other “advanced” options, is among the opponents of the bill. “It sets a really dangerous precedent; it truly interferes with the free market,” said AEE state chair Caryl Auslander. “Decisions being made by utilities should determine what is best for them as a business and what is best for their customer base...”

Clean energy and environmental justice advocates are also opposing the bill, since keeping coal plants open would disproportionately impact the low-income, minority communities that tend to be located near them. The Indiana NAACP, which has participated in state energy task force proceedings and is an ardent backer of clean energy, was among those testifying against the bill...

Topics: United In The News