Environmental groups sue to overturn Duke settlement
Jan 26, 2013 (Menafn - Herald-Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --Edwardsport coal-gasification plant criticized over global warming emissions, cost overruns
Four environmental groups have filed notice to sue to overturn settlement of litigation concerning construction of Duke Energy's massive Edwardsport plant.
The settlement, approved in December by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, spells out who should pay for the plant, with consumers picking up about 2.6 billion of the estimated 3.5 million price tag. Duke supplies power to much of the state, including Bloomington, Bedford and other area cities and towns.
Duke has estimated customers' bills would rise from 14 to 16 percent overall, with 5 percent of that increase already in place last year. The approximately 10 percent increase that remains would be phased in over the next two years.
The plant has been plagued with delays and cost overruns, with the original estimate of 1.98 billion in 2007 jumping to its current 3.5 billion. In December's settlement between Duke and several of its largest customers, the regulatory commission said the company and its investors would have to pick up about 900 million of the total cost.
Prospective plaintiffs in the threatened lawsuit are the Citizens Action Coalition, the Hoosier Chapter of the Sierra Club, Valley Watch and Save the Valley, all longtime opponents of the plant.
The plant, on the White River in eastern Knox County, employs a coal gasification process, a technology that has never been attempted at the scale of the Edwardsport plant. Gasification converts coal into synthetic natural gas, a cleaner fuel than coal, which then fuels turbines to generate electricity. Opponents point out that while some emissions will be reduced, the plant will still produce vast amounts of carbon dioxide, a leading cause of global warming.
Company officials say the project is essentially unique, with construction a learning project in which costs could not be precisely fixed in advance.
Opponents say Duke has mismanaged the project and that the company got special treatment by the regulatory commission at least partly because of improper relationships between regulators and company officials.
The former head of the commission was fired by then-Gov. Mitch Daniels and was charged criminally in connection with such improper communications, and the administrative judge overseeing approvals for the plant at various stages was disciplined after it was discovered he had applied for a job at Duke while involved in the case.
Duke officials say the plant has generated electricity from synthetic natural gas drawn from coal but is not expected to go fully on line until later this year.
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