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November 30, 2012

New Poll Finds Ratepayers Strongly Oppose Duke Energy Coal Boondoggle

Smokestacks1As state regulators prepare to make a major decision on the future of a proposed Indiana coal plant with a $3.5 billion price tag, this week the Sierra Club and allies released a new poll and report showing that the public is strongly opposed to footing the bill for this over-budget boondoggle. Duke Energy is expecting its Indiana customers to pay for a new coal plant that's now $1.5 billion over-budget and will emit an estimated four million tons of climate-disrupting carbon pollution every year.

The 618-megawatt Edwardsport, Indiana, Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle Generating Facility (IGCC) is a $3.554 billion monument to cost overruns, concealment, mismanagement and malfeasance. That's according to our new report produced in partnership with Citizens Action Coalition and other Indiana allies.

Duke's justification for building the Edwardsport IGCC coal plant rested on environmental and economic grounds: the plant was touted as the next best thing in "clean" coal construction and a cost-effective hedge for Indiana ratepayers. Sadly for Indiana, Duke kept neither of these promises. Duke will make no attempt to mitigate the millions of additional tons of carbon pollution that will be emitted by the facility.


What's more, if the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission approves the proposed settlement that Duke has reached with certain other parties, Duke ratepayers will pay considerably more than $600 million in costs, over and beyond the originally approved amount of $2 billion.

The scandal surrounding the Edwardsport facility has resulted in the firing or resignation of several high-ranking officials of both the State of Indiana and Duke Energy. Yet Duke hopes these serious allegations of fraud, concealment, and gross mismanagement will simply "go away", to quote a Duke spokeswoman, if the Commission approves the settlement.

The Commission has refused outright to investigate additional allegations of undue influence and improper communications -- a serious disservice to Duke Energy ratepayers who will pay the price for the company’s unethical conduct.

A new poll released this week shows that Duke Energy ratepayers feel strongly that the Utility Regulatory Commission must reject Duke's proposed settlement, as it forces ratepayers to bail Duke out for its own incompetence and turns a blind eye to Duke's misconduct. The poll found that 78% of Duke ratepayers feel Duke should pay for its own cost overruns, and 81% want to see the utility invest in truly clean energy solutions, like wind and solar.

Coal is not cheap no matter how you look at it. In addition to the cost overruns of this specific coal plant, Americans all pay with their health and the health of their air and water. Moms and dads are tired of watching their kids struggle with asthma. Anglers are tired of the mercury warnings for fish in the waterways they frequent. Appalachian residents are tired of watching coal companies blow up beautiful mountains and contaminate their air and water.

Americans know we can do better than coal power. In poll after poll -- just like this latest one -- they are choosing clean energy over coal.

When will our leaders and utilities listen? Hopefully, Indiana regulators will get the message loud and clear when they rule on the settlement later this month.

-- Mary Anne Hitt, Beyond Coal Director

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