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February 06, 2013

Angry in Indy: Activists Take On Big Coal's Plan to Raise Rates

Indiana Beyond Coal

Big Coal got a rude awakening recently after angry customers and clean-air advocates in Indiana filled a public hearing after Indianapolis Power & Light (IPL) released a proposal to increase rates. The utility's at least $510 million plan toward pollution controls at two old, dirty coal plants excluded any hope for investing that money into forward-thinking clean energy.

"If we're going to have a rate increase, it would be better to invest in a plant that isn't going to poison our air and contaminate our soil with mercury," said City Councilman Zach Adamson in the Indianapolis Star.

Beyond Coal Organizer Megan Anderson said her team had less than two weeks to mobilize activists and turn out for the recent Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission hearing. About 150 people showed up with 33 testifying, some waiting as long as three hours to give the commission their two cents.

"The team went all-in for this critical event," said Anderson. "We held multiple phone banks, did one-on-one outreach, and leveraged our grassroots and grasstops networks. Our leaders spent hours inviting petition signers and we saw huge success as a result."

IPL's power generation is nearly 99 percent coal and a major source of climate-changing pollution and health ailments in Indiana. IPL has done nothing to modernize its business model despite raising monthly rates on customers by as much as 44 percent over the past decade, an increase driven by the costly coal industry. The half-billion dollars the utility seeks from its customers would be in addition to more than $600 million it already got in 2011 for its dirty coal plants, according to Citizens Action Coalition, a coalition partner.

A decision by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission is expected in a few months. Activists are poised to keep the pressure on.

Indiana Beyond Coal

"We had a great turnout with over 150 people, accompanied with several thousand comments to the commission from people saying they oppose IPL's dirty proposal," said Megan. "People spoke about how coal damages their health and environment, the benefits of clean-energy investments, and their vision for a coal-free Indy.

"The people are sending a clear message to the utility and the regulatory commission: Customers don't want their money spent on dirty, outdated coal plants. Indy is ready to move beyond coal."

--Brian Foley

 

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