Hoosiers could pay the price for coal bill


South Bend Tribune

For all the well-deserved criticism directed at House Bill 1414 (iga.in.gov/legislative/2020/bills/house/1414), which could delay coal plant closings in Indiana, the legislation has managed to unite a diverse coalition of Hoosiers in opposition.

The controversial measure, which comes as utility providers in the state have announced plans to shift away from coal-burning power, could end up raising rates for customers. On Feb. 10 HB 1414 passed out of the House, 52 to 41, and moved to the Senate.

This disingenuous effort — the word “coal” does not appear in bill’s language, though it’s clear the legislation specifically targets coal-burning plants — is a denial of and roadblock to the future. Little wonder that critics call it the “coal bailout bill.”

Coal mines in Indiana have closed at a rapid pace in the last several years. In 2010, the state had 26 active coal-burning power units. By 2016, it had just 13.

Bill sponsor Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, claims the bill is needed to make the state more thoughtful about the implications of closing its coal-fired power plants.

In fact, as pointed out by state Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, there’s already a process in place, with federal and regional oversight, to ensure that such transitions are handled in a responsible manner.

Democratic lawmakers say that the bill would prop up the coal industry and raise Hoosiers’ electric bills by making ratepayers continue to pay for inefficient coal plants.

Supporters of the bill defend it as a stopgap measure to help the state as it moves toward cleaner energy sources.

Among those aligned in opposition to HB 1414 are environmentalists and conservatives, who perceive it as heavy-handed favoritism. The list of opponents includes the state’s five investor-owned utilities; the Indiana Chamber of Commerce; the Indiana Conservative Alliance for Energy; the National Taxpayers Union; the Indiana State Conference of the NAACP; Citizens Action Coalition; the Hoosier Environmental Council; and Sierra Club.

The only group to speak up in support of the bill during hearings of the House utilities committee? The Indiana Coal Council.

Soliday noted during his comments on the floor that the state “is in a transition, and all we’re asking is to be able to manage it.”

But HB 1414, in ignoring the future of energy and making Hoosiers pay the price, is pure mismanagement.

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