WSJ: A Fine Clean Coal Mess; Duke Energy loses its bet on cap and trade. December 15, 2010Posted by Laura Arnold in Duke Energy, Edwardsport IGCC Plant, Emissions Trading/Cap and Trade, Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), Uncategorized.
Tags: "green coal baron", Duke Energy, James Turner, Jim Rogers CEO Duke Energy
On Sept. 24, Scott Storms, a lawyer for the Indiana utility commission, quit and went to work for Duke after receiving an ethics waiver. That decision outraged consumer advocates. On Oct. 5, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels fired the commission’s head and ordered a reopening of Mr. Storm’s recent decisions involving Duke. Duke later fired Mr. Storms and also its top local executive who had hired him.
End of story? Not by a long shot. Then came a release of emails pried loose by the Indianapolis Star, which led to the resignation last week of James Turner, Duke’s executive in charge of its regulated utility businesses. The emails exposed an allegedly excessive coziness between Indiana regulators and Duke executives, who joked about cars, wine and wives. In one email, Duke’s Mr. Turner wondered if the state’s “ethics police would have a cow” if a top regulator visited him at his weekend home.
Then again, you might wonder how the people involved could have helped being buddy-buddy with each other. Virtually all the players working for Duke had once worked for the Indiana government, while the main player on Indiana’s side, the head of its utility commission, had once been a lawyer for a local utility now owned by Duke.
The company in the future might be smart to hire out-of-staters to run its Indiana business. The state might be smart to subject its utility regulators to legislative confirmation or direct election by voters, as other states do to ward off cronyism. Hovering over all is Duke’s Edwardsport coal-gasification plant, whose high-tech white elephanthood is a direct product of Mr. Rogers’s attempt to position his company to prosper in the age of climate politics.