Photograph courtesy of John Blair

Former IURC Chair David Lott Hardy's indictments by a Marion County grand jury on three felony counts link agency corruption to the $3 billion Edwardsport coal gasification plant under construction in Knox County.

While citizen advocates hail indictments charging Gov. Mitch Daniels's chief utility regulator with official misconduct, they say David Lott Hardy is but a symbol of rampant corruption during the outgoing governor's two terms. A Marion County grand jury on Dec. 12, 2012, indicted the former chair of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) on three felony counts in cases concerning Duke Energy Corp.

"Although assaults on democracy are bipartisan and in Indiana date back to the Bayh administration, Mitch Daniels has taken crony capitalism to new heights," ValleyWatch's John Blair said in a statement issued to The Bloomington Alternative. "It seems there is nothing he won't do to enrich his corporate friends at the expense of taxpayers and ratepayers. And although he must share the blame with his appointed IURC, which is still inherently corrupt, it is clear the problem here runs to the top of the Daniels administration."

Citizens Action Coalition (CAC) Executive Director Kerwin Olsen said the Hardy affair further taints Duke's integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC), "clean coal" power plant under construction at Edwardsport in Knox County.

"These indictments show a direct link between the IGCC project and the improper communications," he wrote in a statement. "This fact raises further questions about the legitimacy of the Edwardsport IGCC project, the behavior of others who may have been involved, and more importantly, the money that Duke Energy Indiana ratepayers have been forced to pay for this fiasco to date."

The Indianapolis Star detailed the indictments in a Dec. 12 story, noting that Daniels fired Hardy in October 2010 after Duke hired IURC general counsel Scott Storms as its regulatory attorney.

"The first count of the indictment accuses Hardy of knowingly aiding and abetting Storms by communicating with employees of Duke Energy regarding Storms’ prospective employment while allowing Storms to continue to participate in proceedings involving the utility.

"The second count accuses Hardy of failing to disclose a secret, ex parte communication with Duke Energy that occurred on March 17, 2008, with an employee of Duke concerning cost overruns at the utility’s Edwardsport coal-gasification plant.

"The third count accuses Hardy of failing to disclose a secret, ex parte communication with Duke Energy that occurred on Feb. 24, 2010, concerning cost overruns at the Edwardsport power plant."

The Star's John Russell broke the story on those communications by using open records laws.
"David Lott Hardy deserves a maximum sentence because it is scandals like this that makes citizens so cynical that they think they have no power to change things." - John Blair, ValleyWatch
Olsen said the indictments renewed the Indianapolis-based CAC's faith in the justice system.

"CAC remains firm in our belief that the failure to disclose the communications between Duke Energy executives and the former chairman of the IURC at a very minimum were improper and represented a serious violation of the public trust," he said. "Now we know that the Marion County prosecutor believes the chairman’s behavior violated state law."

Blair said he has read the e-mails, and they do indeed represent an assault on the democratic system.

"David Lott Hardy deserves a maximum sentence because it is scandals like this that makes citizens so cynical that they think they have no power to change things," the Evansville environmentalist said.

But he doesn't believe the situation will improve when Daniels leaves office at the end of 2012.

"Unfortunately, the choices which we are being given in 2012, (Republican) Mike Pence or (Democrat) John Gregg, give me little hope for the future," he said. "Citizen action like the Occupy movement are really the only hope we have to correct this dangerous path."

Steven Higgs can be reached at editor@BloomingtonAlternative.com.