The state's new energy policy task force had its first meeting on Monday. The group is charged with helping Indiana develop a statewide energy plan. Some of the topics discussed were how the transition away from coal would affect Hoosiers and how local ordinances are affecting the siting wind farms in Indiana.
Transitioning Away From Coal
Several groups say Indiana needs to move away from coal and toward renewable energy, but how the state should do that is up for debate.
Denise Abdul-Rahman is with the Indiana chapter of the NAACP. She says more renewable energy projects are popping up in the state, but away from the communities who need them most — those in poverty and people of color.
“Leaving these communities again neglected and without the benefits of renewable energy, including the local jobs,” Abdul-Rahman says.
Abdul-Rahman says coal plants tend to disproportionately affect the health of minorities and people in poverty.
Indiana Coal Council President Bruce Stevens says the utility NIPSCO’s plans to close its Schahfer coal plant could lead to high unemployment rates in Jasper County and a loss of tax revenue for its schools.
“These are significant impacts on workers and communities and something we believe to be very important for the task force to consider,” Stevens says.
Stevens says the state should let coal plants run while utilities transition to renewable energy.
Wind Farm Ordinances Stunting Wind Industry In Indiana
An Indiana utility group says local wind ordinances are stunting the industry’s growth in the state. Several counties in the state have either banned wind farms or prevented wind companies from placing turbines in certain areas.
“The lack of consistent rules and processes from county to county make citing of renewable resources unpredictable, costly, and sometimes prohibitive,” says Mark Maassel, president of the Indiana Energy Association.
Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso) co-chairs the task force. He says some utilities have gotten their wind projects approved by the state only to have them blocked by county ordinances later on.
“Investors are not going to invest — they're not going to come here — if a local government can just blow it up,” Soliday says.
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.