Sierra Club — “National Consumer, Environmental Groups Urge Indiana Lawmakers To Reject Coal Bailout Bill”

Alex Formuzis, EWG, February 6, 2020

A coalition of leading national environmental and consumer protection groups today called on state lawmakers in Indiana to scrap legislation that would make it difficult for electric utilities to retire dirty, uneconomic coal-fired power plants.

EWG, the Environmental Law & Policy Center, Public Citizen and the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign sent a letter today to Republican State Sen. Rodric Bray, president pro tempore of the Indiana Senate, urging rejection of H.B. 1414. The bill, recently passed by the state House, would make it harder for utilities to close any coal-fired power plant in the state.

The groups wrote:

The sole purpose of this legislation is to sustain the profits of two coal mining companies, regardless of the negative consequences – higher utility bills, harm to public health, and making it harder for utilities to retire aging, uneconomic coal-fired plants that are not necessary to ensure a reliable supply of electricity.

There is overwhelming opposition to this legislation, including from all five investor-owned utilities in Indiana. It runs fundamentally counter to the inevitable trends in the power market, including the systematic phaseout of coal-fired power.

The only support for the bill comes from the coal industry. Opposition includes all of the state’s investor-owned power utilities, the Chamber of Commerce, the Indiana Conservative Alliance for Energy, the NAACP, environmental and consumer advocates and ratepayers across Indiana.

The bill narrowly passed the House by a vote of 52 to 41. The author of the bill, Republican State Rep. Ed Soliday, defended the proposal in remarks on the House floor, claiming that without coal-fired power plants, Hoosiers’ electricity might as well come from “rabbits on a treadmill.” 

Clean, safe renewable energy from wind and solar are quickly eclipsing coal as a dominant source of electricity, and utilities are shedding uneconomic coal plants at a near-record pace. In the first half of 2019, coal-generated power dropped 13 percent nationwide, and electricity from solar alone grew by 10 percent. Over the past decade, the cost of solar and wind power fell by nearly 90 percent and 70 percent, respectively.

Federal data show that if the trend of coal plant closures continues in 2020, there will be more shuttered coal plants during President Trump’s time in office than under any previous president, despite his repeated empty promises to “bring back coal.”

“This bill belongs in a museum with other relics, not the law in Indiana. It will drive up energy costs for consumers, pollute the air and exacerbate the climate crisis,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “If it becomes law, it will cost Hoosiers money and put their health at risk. That’s dumb policy, but even dumber politics. It would make Indiana a rogue state in the inevitable and urgently needed shift to clean, renewable energy.”  

“The Indiana State Senate should not force the public to pay higher rates in order to keep economically uncompetitive coal plants open,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “The market has spoken: Clean, safe, reliable renewable energy is growing across Indiana, which should adopt policies that drive renewable energy innovation and leadership.”

“Working families’ utility bills and the climate are at risk from legislation designed to make it more difficult to decommission uneconomic coal power plants,” said Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen’s energy program. “Coal has been eclipsed in the market by cheaper and cleaner resources, and the state should be focused on accelerating this affordability transition, rather than bailing out coal.”

“This bill is nothing but a giveaway to the coal industry,” said Wendy Bredhold, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in Indiana. “Legislators should be focused on how to support communities impacted by coal plant retirements instead of trying to slow the transition to clean energy at the expense of all Hoosiers.”

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