Anyone who thinks Indiana's Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels should run for president hasn't paid much attention to the dark cloud hanging over Duke Energy's new coal gasification plant -- a massive industrial complex rising up at the edge of the tiny town of Edwardsport, Ind.
Three highly placed men have lost their jobs in recent weeks in a scandal over influence peddling at the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), while a citizens' organization is accusing Duke of misleading the commission and mismanaging the project.
On Wednesday Nov. 3, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) conducted a hearing on the continued need for Duke Energy’s coal gasification plant currently under construction at Edwardsport, Ind. The plant is way off its original price tag of $1.2 billion. The cost is now close to $3 billion and counting.
Indiana’s consumer counselor, David Stippler, stated at the hearing that, for economic development purposes and the use of Indiana coal, it would be a “sin” not to complete construction of the plant and use our “God-given” resource, Indiana coal.
In March 2002, Palestinian-American activist Edward Said wrote in CounterPunch, "That pseudo-pundit -- the insufferably conceited Thomas Friedman -- still has the gall to say that 'Arab TV' shows one-sided pictures, as if 'Arab TV' should be showing things from Israel's point-of-view the way CNN does, with 'Mid-East violence' the catch-all word for the ethnic cleansing that Israel is wreaking on the Palestinians in their ghettoes and camps."
Indeed, Friedman has made a career of blaming the victim, and he stayed true to form during a Nov. 4 speech at the IU Auditorium when he explained why the United States is in economic distress. Using a Power Point, the New York Times columnist and author explained his "I'll be gone/You'll be gone" theory, blaming "people who make $50,000 a year purchasing an $800,000 home."
Citizens Action Coalition, Save the Valley
Hoosier Chapter Sierra Club, Valley Watch
Yesterday's firings by Duke Energy of President Michael W. Reed and staff attorney Scott Storms raise serious questions about what was uncovered by Duke in its internal investigations pertaining to the ongoing ethics scandal. On Nov. 5, 2010, Duke President James Rogers stated before the IURC that if any misconduct was discovered, his company would take "decisive and appropriate actions."
"Clearly the decision to terminate Mr. Reed was 'decisive,'" said Richard Hill, president of Save the Valley. "Something was revealed in the course of these investigations to also characterize the termination as 'appropriate.' The unanswered question is: What was it?"
Wendell Berry will be in Bloomington Nov. 9-11 to read from his work and participate in a discussion with Wes Jackson and Scott Russell Sanders as part of the Patten Lecture series. Berry spoke with Thomas P. Healy from his northern Kentucky farm prior to the November elections.
TPH: You're going to be giving the Patten Lecture in Bloomington, and I wanted to see if you'd given any thought to what you'd be discussing in that lecture.
WB: To tell you the truth, I haven't. There are a number of possibilities, I'm not going to write a lecture, I've already told them that, and I may be reading a piece of fiction. I just don't know.
Citizens Action Coalition, Sierra Club Hoosier Chapter
Valley Watch, Save the Valley
A coalition of consumer and environmental organizations filed a request today with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission that two public field hearings be scheduled regarding the cost increases pertaining to the problem plagued IGCC power plant currently under construction in Knox County by Duke Energy. The coalition also questions Duke Energy's continued need for the overly expensive project.
"Given the ethical and legal questions swirling around the decisions made regarding the Edwardsport plant, its escalating cost and the questionable need for the plant in relation to more economic alternatives, we urge the IURC to hold several public hearings at locations and times accessible for public comment by Duke ratepayers, who ultimately will foot the bill for this expensive experiment," said Steve Francis, state chairperson for the Sierra Club Hoosier Chapter.
Amid the current ethics scandal and announcement by Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) Chairman James Atterholt of a full audit of Duke Energy dockets, which include the unneeded and problem-plagued IGCC power plant under construction in Edwardsport, the time is now for Duke Energy to come clean and disclose what the true impact on consumers will be as a result of adding this boondoggle into their electric rates.
Duke has been misleading the public and the General Assembly about the true costs to consumers since they actively began lobbying for enabling legislation earlier this decade. In a press release dated November 20, 2007, Duke Energy announced the IURC granting approval to build the 630MW IGCC power plant in Edwardsport, IN. At that time, the cost to construct the plant was $1.985 billion. That press release stated: "The plant will result in an average electric rate increase of approximately 16 percent..."
Citizen Action Coalition
The Citizens Action Coalition (CAC) applauds new IURC Chairman James D. Atterholt on his decision to audit cases overseen by former Chief Administrative Law Judge Scott Storms, who is now on administrative leave with Duke Energy. The cases to be re-examined include the original proceeding in Cause No. 43114, or the case which granted Duke the approval to build the problem-plagued Intgrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) power plant, currently under construction in Knox County.
“We are cautiously optimistic that Chairman Atterholt will audit these decisions,” states Grant Smith, executive director of CAC. “However, we are concerned that when an agency investigates itself it may not be as aggressive and transparent as necessary and that the timeframe is too short. We believe the investigation should be conducted by an outside, independent agency to ensure a complete, objective and independent conclusion is reached and that sufficient time be allowed to adequately collect and review the evidence.”
The revolving door between the Indiana Utility Regulatory has been well established for a very long time but may have a more difficult time in the future.
In what may be the clearest signal yet of a run for the presidency by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, he decided yesterday to try to mitigate a scandal of huge proportions by firing the Chairman of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission David Lott Hardy.
Once again, the record needs to be set straight and the facts disclosed after the annual Duke Energy media tour regarding their now $2.88 billion boondoggle known as the Edwardsport integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) power plant. This year, the propaganda was spread by the newly appointed president of Duke Michael W. Reed, fresh off his stint on the cabinet of Governor Daniels and before that at the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC).
I'm surprised that Mr. Reed admits to the $2.88 billion and still growing price tag. What he fails to disclose is rampant cost increases and mistakes in engineering and planning. The plant was originally promised at $1.2 billion in 2006. Then in November 2007, Duke sought approval at the IURC at a cost of $1.985 billion.