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article imageScott Pruitt fails to stop Indiana's move to renewable energy

By Karen Graham     May 3, 2019 in Environment
When Indiana's third-largest utility, NIPSCO, analyzed the economics of its power plants last year, it decided to shift away from coal-fired power plants to renewable sources of electricity generation. Coal companies are fighting back.
Like many other utilities across the country, Northern Indiana Public Service Company LLC (NIPSCO), a subsidiary of NiSource Inc. - after careful analysis, decided it was time for a major shift away from their coal-fired units to renewable energy sources.
NIPSCO has also found that maintaining, repairing and upgrading coal-fired units is too costly when compared to the cost of solar and wind power. And as the IEEFA pointed out in its analysis of the latest EIA report on the shift away from coal- the projected forecast is momentous, given the increasing transition to renewables underway in the electric generation arena.
On October 31, 2018, NIPSCO unveiled its initiative to transition its customers to a more affordable and sustainable energy mix, calling their new initiative, “Your Energy, Your Future." In the announcement, NIPSCO president Violet Sistovaris said, “Customers want what’s best for their families: Energy that is affordable, reliable and sustainable. NIPSCO’s new plan puts them front and center."
Under its plans to transition to lower-cost renewable energy resources, NIPSCO looks toward being coal-free by 2028. The company expects to begin replacing the coal-fired generation with a combination of wind, solar and battery storage technology.
in February this year, according to NiSource, NIPSCO announced the addition of three new wind farms that will be based in Indiana and tied into the company's electric system serving nearly 500,000 electric customers.
"We're excited for the opportunity to add more home-grown renewable energy in Indiana," said Sistovaris. "In addition to the economic benefits that projects like these add, the transition we're making in our electric generation equates to an estimated $4 billion in cost-savings for customers over the long-term."
Coal companies not at all happy
NIPSCO knew the coal companies wouldn't be pleased with their new initiative, and they knew they would be facing a fight. Indiana has several coal mines and they are politically connected to coal interests. These coal interests hired the scandal-ridden former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt to lobby for them.
Pruitt registered as a lobbyist on April 18, 2019. The Chicago Tribune at the time said the lobbying disclosure report provided little information as to why Pruitt was in Indiana because the report lists his hometown as Tulsa, Oklahoma. But the report also says he is a self-employed consultant who will be lobbying on issues involving energy and natural resources.
What is even stranger about the lobbying disclosure report is that Pruitt's sole client is listed as RailPoint Solutions LLC, a Delaware corporation created in January that has no listed street address or website. However, the "fake" company's manager is listed as Heather Tryon - who just happens to be the chief financial officer of Terre Haute-based Sunrise Coal, which operates four coal mines in the state.
Pruitt fails to sway Indiana lawmakers
The Indiana Coal Council attacked NIPSCO's plan in filings with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, arguing that the utility "is biased against continued operations of the remaining coal plants, calling into question its conclusions."
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is one of several cabinet members to be d...
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is one of several cabinet members to be dogged by allegations of improper exenditures
Brendan Smialowski, AFP
They also used Pruitt to appeal to state legislators directly, urging them to deny NIPSCO's plans by inserting language into the state budget that would prevent Indiana utilities from replacing coal plants with gas and renewables. Pruitt failed, according to Utility Dive in late April.
There is a lesson to be learned from all this. The last big building boom for coal-fired power plants was around 1980. Those plants are now considered to be at an age where they need expensive upgrades. As plant owners consider whether to pay for upgrades, many are seeing that their money is better spent on less expensive power sources that are also cleaner and environmentally friendly.
Yes, as Bob Dylan's song goes - The Times They Are a-Changin'
More about Indiana, NIPSCO, coalfired units, Renewable energy, scott pruitt
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