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Coal-to-gas talk at Sierra Club

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The Winding Waters Sierra Club will meet at 7 p.m. today at the Bartholomew County Public Library to discuss action being taken against a pair of coal-to-gas energy projects that the environmental group opposes in Indiana.

The meeting, which will take place in the library’s Red Room, will feature as speakers attorney Mike Mullett of Columbus and Grant Smith, legislative chairman for the Hoosier Chapter of the Sierra Club.

The meeting will be conducted one day before a Senate committee in the Indiana General Assembly takes up Senate Bill 510, which the Sierra Club believes would protect consumers from being saddled with too much of the cost of a proposed coal-to-synthetic gas plant private developers want to build in Rockport.

The Senate bill, and the companion House Bill 1515, would require the plant’s owners to give a refund to utility customers every three years if the price of its synthetic gas turns out to be higher than the market price of natural gas over the period.

The plant is supposed to come on line in 2017.

Meanwhile, Mullett will provide an update on a separate legal case the Sierra Club and a handful of other environmental groups have taken on appeal to challenge an Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission rate case involving a Duke Energy coal-to-electricity plant in Edwardsport.

If the plant comes to fruition, approximately $2.65 billion of Duke’s construction costs, as well as $650 million in financing, are part of the utility’s future rate base, Mullett said, and the Sierra Club argues that’s too heavy a burden on consumers.

The Sierra Club also contends the commission’s original review of the Duke Energy plant was marred by conflicts of interest, mismanagement and unethical behavior by the utility company and state employees at the time.

Another issue involves the Sierra Club’s contention that Duke has ignored what to do with an estimated 4 million tons of carbon dioxide that the plant would emit on an annual basis once it’s operating.

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 510 by state Sen. Doug Eckerty, R-Yorktown, is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Utilities Committee Thursday morning.

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