Environment

Consumer advocate says Duke ratepayers shouldn't pay for cost overruns

July 8, 2011

In a shocking reversal of position, the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) has altered its support for the Duke Energy Edwardsport power plant fiasco.

Just last Nov. 3, OUCC head David Stippler gave the plant and ratepayer support for it a glowing endorsement during a "technical hearing" before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC). On July 1, his office modified that endorsement and said ratepayers should no longer be on the hook for the massive cost overruns in the construction of the beleaguered plant, which is now said by Duke to cost more than $3 billion.


June 25, 2011

There’s plenty of news these days -- gas prices are down, the Republican presidential field is shaping up, and U.S. troops will soon be leaving Afghanistan. But despite all the political and media spin to the contrary, there’s not much good news in any of this.

While we can all breathe a little easier now that Anthony Weiner has lost his texting privileges, every silver lining has a dark cloud. Here are a few stories behind the news stories making headlines this summer.


June 16, 2011

Mountains are sacred the world over, and when about a thousand of us gathered at the foot of Blair Mountain June 11, you could feel the spirit rising. For five days, several hundred people had walked single file down roads from Charleston, W.V.'s capital. Now, joined by several hundred more, they staked a claim to the historic site of the Battle of Blair Mountain 90 years ago when a faceoff between United Mine Workers and coal companies reached such a peak that federal forces came in to quell the conflict.

So pivotal was that fight that in 2009 Blair Mountain was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a move that would have protected it from surface mining if coal companies had not succeeded in getting it promptly delisted. We had gathered at the mountain on this hot June day to call for honoring the past by protecting Blair Mountain from mountaintop removal, but we had also gathered to march for the future -- a future, we hoped, when all mountaintops would be safe.


May 29, 2011

I waited until now to publicly thank Mayor Mark Kruzan for his May 13 vote against Interstate 69 because a private note I sent him came back saying he would be out of e-mail range until month's end. I know the mayor read my piece calling him out on the issue last November. We communicated about it. So, in the interest of journalistic proportionality, equal play for his courage is required.

Besides, the fallout from the mayor's stand against the corruption, abuse of power and anti-democratic forces behind the sociopathic, $4 billion taxpayer mugging is falling hardest around him and the Bloomington/Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) now. For example, with a lack of self-awareness worthy of The Office's Michael Scott, newspaper editors in Evansville called local MPO members "clowns" in a May 22 editorial. (More on that below.)

May 28, 2011

Twelve Bloomington citizens protested the May 26 sale of timber in the Monroe-Morgan State Forest Backcountry Area, which Indiana Forest Alliance (IFA) member David Haberman called a “complete betrayal of what was set up by the state to protect this wilderness area.”

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) established the Backcountry Area in 1981 to provide a backcountry wilderness experience for Indiana citizens. The intent, according to IFA's Website, "was to show that the state could protect areas just as well as land that was put into federal Wilderness Area protection. … The particular area they intend to put on sale on Thursday contains stands of the largest and oldest trees in the Backcountry Area.”


May 19, 2011

The idea that possible presidential candidate Mitch Daniels represents fiscal restraint sounds like hogwash to opponents of three pricey projects moving forward on his watch as governor of Indiana.

At Edwardsport, construction cost overruns have skyrocketed at a Duke Energy plant that would convert coal into synthetic gas to generate electricity. Consumer groups and industrial customers have balked at the $2.72 billion bill that Duke wants ratepayers to pick up.


May 13, 2011

For a variety of reasons -- among them a 60th birthday and news that three more significant figures from my life didn’t reach that milestone -- I’ve been contemplating that most foreboding of subjects: life expectancy.

My curiosity is driven by events and informed by an observation made several years ago in a story by a student journalist. An IU Health Center source said her generation -- the student’s -- due to lifestyle and environmental factors, would be the first in American history to live shorter lives than their parents.


April 30, 2011

You've heard it before: "I-69 is not a done deal." A panel of five activists presented ample evidence bolstering that statement at Green Drinks at the Upland Brewery banquet hall on April 27.

Chris Doran, from the I-69 Accountability Project, moderated. The panel was made up of Jody Madeira, whom Doran introduced as a "pissed-off" homeowner and IU law professor; Christine Glaser, an environmental economist; Tim Maloney, from the Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC); Tom Tokarski, from Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads (CARR); and Sam Allison, Monroe County council member.

MacNeil's 'Autism Now' honest, enlightened, public-interest journalism

April 30, 2011

After an involuntary hiatus, it's always invigorating to re-engage with the "real work" (Beat poet Gary Snyder's words), especially when the initial reconnect is celebratory in nature. Especially when the celebration involves an institution at the heart of the mission, in this case journalism.

And so, with a bow to journalist Robert MacNeil, I begin this summer's phase of my investigation into the twin epidemics of autism and developmental disabilities. His investigative report Autism Now, which aired on the PBS NewsHour in April, reacquainted me with the issues I'm exploring in the Ohio River Valley, where the rain is toxic and data show the kids just aren't quite right, developmentally speaking. Three years' into this project, I've not found a more honest or enlightened media report.

April 29, 2011

"Justice delayed is justice denied." -- William E. Gladstone, British statesman and prime minister, 1809-1898

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About 1 million women, according to the Cancer Prevention Coalition (preventcancer.com), work in industries that expose them to more than 50 carcinogens linked to breast cancer.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. In a large number of cases, cancer is preventable. This fact applies especially to carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemicals in the workplace.

“At least one in every 10 cancers – and probably many more – is the result of preventable, predictable workplace exposures,” according to Occupational Cancer/Zero Cancer: Union Guide to Prevention.

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