Today Earthjustice, on behalf of several state and national environmental and citizen groups, filed an amicus or “friend of the court” brief with the Indiana Court of Appeals in support of a challenge to the approval of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission of a new Duke Energy coal gasification power plant in Edwardsport, Indiana.
The 618-megawatt plant, which was put online in June, is projected to emit four million tons of carbon dioxide every year for at least the next 30 years, in addition to other harmful air pollutants. It will cost more than $3 billion dollars—nearly two billion dollars more than Duke’s initial estimates—the bulk of which Duke aims to impose on Indiana ratepayers. And these current estimates do not include any costs associated with Duke’s compliance with future regulations on the plant’s carbon emissions to address climate change, despite the fact that President Obama announced in June that his Administration would complete those regulations in the next two years.
“Duke should not be allowed to foist onto Indiana ratepayers the financial risks of building another dirty coal plant,” said Aimee Erickson, Executive Director of Citizens Coal Council. “Duke needs to pull its head out of the sand and make a plan now to transition to cleaner sources of energy.”
“It is not fair to ask ratepayers to continue to foot the bill for investments in coal that will negatively impact their health and their household incomes,” said Barbara Bolling, Indiana NAACP State President.
Today’s amicus brief—filed on behalf of Citizens Coal Council, Earth Charter Indiana, Healthy Dubois County, Inc., the Hoosier Environmental Council, Hoosier Interfaith Power & Light, Indiana Distributed Energy Alliance, and the Indiana State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People—argues that Duke’s investment in new coal-fired electric generation is imprudent and that Duke should be required to mitigate the four million tons of carbon pollution that the plant will emit each year for the next 30 to 40 years.
“President Obama has made clear that climate change is a growing threat and that power plants like Edwardsport are the biggest source of harmful carbon emissions,” said Earthjustice attorney Bridget Lee, who is representing the Indiana citizen groups who filed a brief today. “Duke cannot ignore this fact and make its ratepayers responsible for its risky investments.”
Appellants Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, Save the Valley, Sierra Club, and Valley Watch filed their brief appealing the Commission’s decision last week. Those groups challenged, among other things, the Commission’s failure to rule on whether Duke should be required to mitigate the risks to its ratepayers from the future regulation of carbon dioxide emissions and have requested that the Indiana Court of Appeals remand the matter to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.
Today’s amicus brief identifies a path forward for Duke to protect Indiana ratepayers: Duke must diversify its portfolio to replace coal with clean energy that is becoming increasingly cost-effective, especially when climate impacts are taken into account.
“Climate change poses a real threat to Indiana communities,” said Earth Charter Indiana Executive Director, Jim Poyser. “Any responsible public utility must take into account the costs of its investment in climate-polluting fossil fuel power generation. When the true costs of coal-fired power are calculated and internalized, the feasibility of actual clean energy sources becomes clear.”