NewsPublic Affairs / February 27, 2020

Bill Delaying Coal Closures Gutted, Environmentalists Still Worried

Original story from   IPBS-RJC

Article origination IPBS-RJC
An amendment proposed by the Senate utilities committee chair, Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis), altered key parts of the bill.  - Brock Turner/WFIU-WTIU

An amendment proposed by the Senate utilities committee chair, Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis), altered key parts of the bill.

Brock Turner/WFIU-WTIU

A state Senate committee gutted language in a controversial coal bill on Thursday. The bill aimed to keep coal plants open until Indiana can develop a statewide energy plan. 

An amendment proposed by the Senate utilities committee chair, Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis), altered key parts of the bill. It changed language that would require the state to review the reasonableness of a plant closure, hold a public hearing, and issue an opinion before a utility could close it.

Instead, planned closures would need to be noted in utilities’ long-term, Integrated Resource Plans which are completed every three years — something many utilities already do.

“There’s public input. There are models done on coal, there are financial models done on alternative energy. There’s a lot of work that goes on in the IRP process,” Merritt says.

READ MORE: NAACP: Vote Down Bill That Would Delay Coal Plant Closures

Several state environmental groups say they’re still opposed to the bill. Wendy Bredhold is with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in Indiana. She says the amendment is better than what was originally proposed, but she fears language that would keep coal plants open longer could creep back in.

“We’re not certain of what shape it will eventually take,” Bredhold says.

The amendment also moves up the sunset date for the bill to Dec. 31, 2020, putting it more in line with the state’s deadline to come up with a proposed energy plan.

Merritt also cut out legislation that would have allowed utilities to stockpile up to 90 days worth of coal and pass that cost on to ratepayers.

Several coal miners expressed support for the bill at the Senate committee hearing. Under another amendment, the bill has been expanded to not only give former coal miners priority for workforce training grants, but also extend that to coal plant employees and transportation supply workers who primarily serve coal companies.

Multiple members of the Senate utilities committee mentioned the provision as the basis for their support.

Contact Rebecca at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.

Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.

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