March 22, 2023

Governor signs bill upending Indiana Supreme Court case over Duke Energy's coal ash waste

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The original aim of Senate Bill 9 was to protect electric reliability by encouraging utilities to reconsider closing their coal plants earlier than planned. - Lauren Chapman/IPB News

The original aim of Senate Bill 9 was to protect electric reliability by encouraging utilities to reconsider closing their coal plants earlier than planned.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a bill into law Wednesday that aims to undo the effect of an Indiana Supreme Court decision over Duke Energy’s coal ash waste on similar cases. The language that allows utilities to recover “unexpected” additional costs from their customers was put into Senate Bill 9 just eight days ago.

The cost to comply with federal rules on coal ash cleanup ended up being more expensive than Duke Energy thought. So even though it had already budgeted for those costs, the utility asked the state if it could raise rates in 2019.

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission approved the increase, but the state Supreme Court ruled it “retroactive ratemaking” — which is illegal.

But Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso) said the court should have deferred to the agency. He authored a major amendment to the bill, similar to one he proposed in the House.

 

 

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The new law lets utilities recover those extra costs that come with complying with federal rules without having to get pre-approval first — as long as the IURC approves them after the fact.

Consumer advocates worry this will mean higher electric bills for Indiana residents and businesses. Soliday said there are five cases pending before the agency that could be impacted by the law. But exactly how the IURC will respond isn’t clear right now.

The new law also wouldn’t let utilities that retire coal plants earlier than planned hike customers’ rates to pay off the cost of those plants in a shorter time frame. The original intent of Senate Bill 9 was to ensure utilities don’t threaten electric reliability by transitioning away from coal “too quickly.”

 

 

Rebecca is our energy and environment reporter. Contact her at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.

Copyright 2023 IPB News. To see more, visit IPB News.

 

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