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Courier-Press: Official with Rockport coal-to-gas plant says contract changes would kill the deal January 22, 2013

Posted by Laura Arnold in 2013 Indiana General Assembly, Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), Vectren.
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Dear IndianaDG Readers:

The Leucadia Indiana Gasification plant proposed for Rockport, IN is likely to be a “hot potato” this session of the Indiana General Assembly. Sen. Eckerty has introduced SB 510. The digest for SB 510 is as follows:

Substitute natural gas contracts. Defines “guarantee of savings” with respect to retail end use customers of substitute natural gas (SNG). Amends the definition of “purchase contract”. Defines “savings shortfall”. Requires the Indiana finance authority (IFA) to submit a final purchase contract, including amendments, and any other agreements with a producer of SNG to the utility regulatory commission (IURC). Requires the IFA to determine on a three year cycle if retail end use customers are provided a guarantee of savings or a savings shortfall under a purchase contract. Requires the IFA to electronically submit its findings to the IURC. Requires the IURC to verify and approve the findings and, if there is a savings shortfall, order a producer of SNG to provide a refund.

There appears to be a delay still in House Bills appearing in the system, therefore, Rep. Crouch’s bill is still not available from the Indiana General Assembly website. Eventually, you should be able to find the bill she has introduced HERE.

Also be sure to read the second article from the IBJ for more background on this issue.

When there is more information about this issue you will be able to read it here.

Laura Ann Arnold

Lawmakers questioning wisdom of 30-year deal to buy plant’s gas at fixed price

By Eric Bradner, Evansville Courier & Press, Posted January 18, 2013 at 5:57 p.m., updated January 18, 2013 at 10:06 p.m.

INDIANAPOLIS —State lawmakers’ attempts to rework the deal Indiana struck with developers of the proposed Rockport coal-to-gas plant would kill the nearly $3 billion project, one of its top officials said Friday.

As a shale gas boom drives down natural gas prices, two Republican lawmakers say they question the wisdom of the Indiana Finance Authority’s 30-year contract to buy and then resell the plant’s synthetic gas at a fixed rate.

Both have filed bills that would drastically alter its terms. The bills would trigger the ratepayer protection mechanisms included in the contract every three years, rather than waiting until the end of the deal.

That would stop the plant in its tracks, said Mark Lubbers, a former

Gov. Mitch Daniels aide who is helming the Rockport effort for Leucadia National Corp.

“Any ‘true-up’ of savings before the end of the contract term makes the project unfinanceable,” he said.

The House and Senate utility committees could consider the two measures at a rare joint meeting, the chairmen of those committees told the Courier & Press on Friday.

“We can tell you that we have had many conversations regarding the Rockport coal gasification plant with our Senate and House colleagues. We’re currently considering holding a joint hearing on the issue, although no final plans have been set,” Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, and Rep. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, said in a joint statement.

Lubbers meanwhile doubled down on what he said is a rock-solid deal for Hoosier gas customers over the long term, saying Indiana needs a second plant — this one in Lake County — that would convert petroleum coke, rather than coal.

“Two plants would provide better consumer protection and keep even more Hoosier energy spending in Indiana,” Lubbers said.

His stance sets the stage for what could emerge as a critical battle in the opening weeks of the first term of new Gov. Mike Pence, who has not taken a stance on the project.

In 2009 lawmakers gave the Indiana Finance Authority the green light to hammer out a 30-year contract with Leucadia’s Indiana Gasification LLC to buy its synthetic natural gas and then resell it through the state’s utilities.

That deal, signed by Gov. Mitch Daniels, set a rate of between $6 and $7 per MMBtu for the life of the contract. It would have utilities tie 17 percent of ratepayers’ bills to that Rockport price, rather than their open market rate.

It appeared to be a steal when natural gas prices topped $13 per unit as recently as 2008. Since then, though, a nationwide shale gas boom has sent prices plummeting to near $3 per unit now.

And now that Daniels is gone, some lawmakers are looking for ways out of the deal.

“The market has changed, conditions have changed, and so we need to take a fresh look at this situation and there needs to be some changes that will protect the ratepayer,” said Rep. Suzanne Crouch, R-Evansville.

Crouch and Sen. Doug Eckerty, R-Yorktown, filed the bills that the utility committee chairmen are considering granting a joint hearing.

The Indiana Finance Authority’s deal required Leucadia’s Indiana Gasification LLC to set $150 million aside in an escrow account to reimburse ratepayers for any losses at the end of the 30-year deal.

The measures Crouch and Eckerty are pushing would shorten that window, requiring Indiana Gasification to pay ratepayers back for any losses every three years — a move that would harm Indiana Gasification’s bid for a federal loan guarantee.

Opponents of the Rockport plant include Evansville-based

Vectren Corp., which estimates the deal could cost Indiana ratepayers $1 billion in extra gas prices over its first eight years, and a host of environmental groups.

“When this thing was conceived, it was a good idea. Natural gas was volatile, there was an unknown long-term supply, and we were just coming off three or four years of the most volatile natural gas prices we’d seen in 25 years,” said Mike Roeder, Vectren’s vice president of government affairs and communications.

“The concept made a ton of sense, and so no legislator should feel any guilt about a vote from back then because it was a reasonable idea. But what has changed is shale gas.”

Lubbers, who has argued that recent years’ volatility in natural gas prices make the case for a project with fixed rates, said he will continue defending the project if state lawmakers consider the two bills this year.

“On the one hand, we are always grateful for a platform to talk about the plant and the contract. It is extraordinary public policy — the first time consumers have ever been guaranteed savings for any energy product; the first time consumers have ever had a lien on energy utility assets; a huge step forward in clean coal technology. It is a big idea and makes Indiana a real leader,” he said.

“On the other hand, after an 18-month negotiation that produced more consumer protection than the legislature or we ever envisioned, and an 11-month (Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission) consideration resulting in unanimous approval of the contract, to have it politically challenged by a self-interested utility is disappointing.”

The state’s contract with Indiana Gasification is also the subject of a court battle.

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the state’s utility regulatory commission’s approval of the deal last year, pointing to a problem that the Indiana Finance Authority and Indiana Gasification said would be easily fixed.

But Vectren has sought to use that opening to force the deal back onto the starting blocks, requiring it to be vetted and approved by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission all over again.

Bill could be hurdle for proposed $2.8B synthetic gas plant

Chris O’Malley, January 15, 2013, Indianapolis Business Journal

The company that plans to build a $2.8 billion synthetic gas plant in Indiana could face another hurdle if a bill introduced by a state senator is successful at the Statehouse.
Under the legislation, state utility regulators could order Indiana Gasification LLC to make refunds to gas customers every three years if the price of synthetic gas it produces from coal is greater than the market price of natural gas over the period.

Senate Bill 510, by Sen. Doug Eckerty, R-Yorktown, is aimed at alleviating concerns raised by consumer groups and some lawmakers about legislation passed in 2010 that helped enable the plant proposed for Rockport, near the Ohio River.

That legislation allowed the Indiana Finance Authority to act as a purchasing intermediary for synthetic gas produced at the plant. The authority would sell the gas on the open market. Whether gas customers would receive discounts, or see their bills increase, would depend on whether the authority made or lost money on its sales.

It’s estimated that Indiana Gasification could produce gas between at a cost of $6 and $7 per MMBtu, a common measurement used by the energy industry.

When the Rockport plant was proposed, natural gas was selling for around $13 per MMBtu, Eckerty said in a prepared statement Tuesday. Butwith an abundant supply of natural gas now available, the fuel recently was selling at $3.10.

“With these changes in mind, many state officials – including myself – believe it is not in Hoosiers’ best interests for the state to put taxpayers at risk by subsidizing substitute natural gas,” Eckerty said.

Natural gas prices have plummeted in recent years, with mass extraction of natural gas from shale deposits. Evansville-based gas and electric utility Vectren projects the synthetic gas made at the proposed plant would cost customers $1 billion in the first eight years, or up to $375 for an average retail customer.

Critics say under the current contract with the state, natural gas customers may not see Indiana Gasification’s promised $100 million in savings until the end of the 30-year contract.

Legislators who passed the original measure did not intend for such savings to be realized so late, said Kerwin Olson, executive director of Citizens Action Coalition.

“This is a good proposal. It clarifies the Legislature’s original intent,” Olson said of the new bill. “It helps to erase the generational discrimination.”

Indiana Gasification has found fault with opponents’ insistence that natural gas prices will remain low over the long-haul, noting that natural gas prices historically have been volatile.

That volatility is a certainty was citied by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission in its approval of the deal.

Indiana Gasification also insists that the proposed plant will diversify the state’s supply of gas and help lessen volatility.

Currently, the gas supply contract between Indiana Gasification and the Indiana Finance Authority is mired in litigation.

Last October, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed regulator approval of the gas-purchasing contract deal, but on narrow grounds. It found the legislation authorizing the purchases never was intended to result in certain industrial customers’ sharing in the costs or benefits of the purchases, as would residential customers.

Indiana Gasification said a simple, 37-word deletion of language in the contract would satisfy the court. But Vectren has filed an objection, arguing that the contract was essentially made null and void by the court last October and that the regulatory process should start over again.

The proposed plant operator counters that Vectren already lost on many of its arguments and that the tactic is meant to cause delays that could jeopardize financing of the project.

Eckerty’s bill could potentially void the disputed contract between Indiana Gasification and the state finance authority “because it makes retroactive changes to current statute that would modify the terms of that contract,” said a bill analysis by Indiana Legislative Services Agency.

Indiana Gasification officials did not immediately offer comment on the bill.

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In Indiana, debate over how ‘trackers’ shape future energy system | Midwest Energy News January 21, 2013

Posted by Laura Arnold in 2013 Indiana General Assembly, Uncategorized.
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This article from Midwestern Energy News discusses SB 560  on utility transmission introduced by Sen. Brandt Hershman.  There is no official word yet about when this bill will be scheduled for a hearing before the Senate Utility Committee. Continue to watch this blog for details!

In Indiana, debate over how ‘trackers’ shape future energy system | Midwest Energy News.

Transmission lines near Walnut, Indiana. (Photo by Patrick Finnegan via Creative Commons)

Transmission lines near Walnut, Indiana. (Photo by Patrick Finnegan via Creative Commons)

Posted on 01/17/2013 by

New legislation in the Indiana Senate would ensure a healthy, guaranteed profit in perpetuity on utility investments in wires, telephone poles, substations, and other parts of the transmission and distribution infrastructure, and ratepayer advocates and environmentalists are crying foul.

If such a measure becomes law, they say, it will burden low-income ratepayers with unnecessarily high bills and further entrench centralized, coal- and gas-based electricity generation, placing distributed, renewable generation at a disadvantage.

At issue in the new legislation is an important but esoteric provision of utility law called a cost tracker. When states allow trackers, they bypass rate cases, a key step in which state utility regulators scrutinize the books of monopoly electric utilities on behalf of the customers who are forced to buy their electricity.

The state then allows a line item to be added to utility bills for a specified purpose—in this case, for costs incurred when utilities replace or maintain power poles, wires and the like. In Indiana, trackers typically guarantee utilities a profit of between 8.5 and 12 percent on costs of a particular type, and ratepayers supply the company with that guaranteed profit.

Tracking trackers

The electricity bills that Indiana residents pay are a sum of the utility’s rate and the various line items.

Over the years, the state’s five investor-owned utilities—Duke Energy, Indiana Power and Light, Vectren, Nipsco, and Indiana Michigan Power, have persuaded state legislators to let them recoup most of their costs through trackers, including the cost of coal, natural gas, uranium and other fuel, the cost of scrubbers and other pollution controls, the cost of energy-efficiency efforts, and now the cost of wires, poles, transformers and other parts of the transmission and distribution network.

Because the state’s utilities are allowed a variety of trackers, their rates are not an accurate reflection of what customers actually pay. So when an Indiana utility says that its rates are rising only 2-3 percent per year, that’s technically correct, said Kerwin Olson, executive director of Citizens Action Coalition, an Indianapolis-based ratepayer advocacy group. But it’s also misleading, Olson said, because “customers don’t pay rates, customers pay bills.”

What’s more, Olson said, “utilities don’t like rate cases” and try to avoid them because they’re expensive to litigate, and because they allow the public utility commission, and the interested public, to examine their books and question whether costs they’re trying to get reimbursed for are costs they actually incurred.

That’s nonsense, said Ed Simcox, president of Indiana Energy Association, a trade group that represents the state’s investor-owned utilities.

Trackers are routine in Indiana and other states, he said, and they’re legitimate ways to recoup costs. The tracker for transmission and distribution infrastructure, in particular, is a legitimate way for companies to recoup costs to repair and replace aging infrastructure, he added.

A benefit for whom?

The tracker for transmission and distribution is important for reliability, Simcox said.

There are some very basic needs that the system has, he said. “They include pipe in the ground for gas companies, half-century-old wooden poles to string power lines and aging transformers that need to be replaced,” Simcox said. A lot of this will be done in the foreseeable future—over the next 10 years.

Moreover, Simcox said, the expenses recouped by trackers “have to be approved by the commission. That’s something these advocates wouldn’t tell you. The commission has the ability to open the books of the company at any time.”

Having trackers even benefits ratepayers, Simcox maintained. By guaranteeing revenue, it “enhances the position of the company in the financial community.” That means that utilities can pay lower interest rates when they borrow money for capital improvements, which in turn saves money for ratepayers, who reimburse the companies for their costs, he said.

Olson maintains that utilities are simply feathering their nest at the expense of ratepayers.

“Utility rate increases are the most regressive taxes you can have on the general population. They hit the poor the hardest,” Olson added.

Moreover, trackers are simply a different way for utilities to get guaranteed revenue to maintain a reliable electrical system. Whether the companies open their books in rate cases or use trackers to pay for it, utilities still need to do their job and provide reliable electricity.

“They’re going to do that stuff anyway because they have to,” Olson said.

Charging ratepayers for coal’s costs

Guaranteeing cost recovery for transmission lines could perpetuate an electrical system that produces far more climate-warming greenhouse gases than it might, said Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council.

“If you replace the transmission and distribution infrastructure on a 1:1 basis or build in anticipation of new central power plants, you’re reinforcing the current system,” he said.

That current system in Indiana is one of the most coal-reliant in the nation. In 2010, the most recent year for which data was available, the state generated 90 percent of its electricity by burning coal, far more than the U.S. average of 48 percent, according to data from the Energy Information Administration.

And according to a report [PDF] from the Environmental Integrity Project, Indiana was the fourth-largest greenhouse gas emitter overall in the United States in 2010, emitting more than three times the carbon dioxide of New York and California, which are far more populous.

Trackers are one of several ways Indiana’s utilities perpetuate the current system, Olson said. Utilities have had such dominion over the Indiana legislature, he maintained, that if the current bill passes they will have guaranteed that ratepayers pay fully for the costs of coal to burn; pollution controls that keep coal plants in compliance with federal environmental rules, and the costs of wires and infrastructure to move electricity from central plants to the populace.

“Essentially they have a tracker from coalmine to light switch,” Olson said.

CAC says–“IPL: Stop investing in the past; Start investing in the future! Tell the IURC to say NO to IPL rate increase!” January 21, 2013

Posted by Laura Arnold in Feed-in Tariffs (FiT), Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), Indianapolis Power and Light (IPL), IPL Rate REP, Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC), Uncategorized.
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Do you agree that IPL should stop investing in the past and start investing in the future? Should IPL reconsider renewing and extending Rate REP or feed-in tariff which allows customers to invest in renewable energy and distributed generation?

Click this link below for information from Citizens Action Coalition (CAC) concerning the upcoming field hearing for the IPL Environmental Compliance case in Cause No. 44242.

For details on how to participate in the hearing see: https://indianadg.wordpress.com/2013/01/17/voice-your-view-on-ipl-environmental-compliance-case-12413/

IPL: Stop investing in the past; Start investing in the future! Tell the IURC to say NO to IPL rate increase!.

Indianapolis Power and Light (IPL) is currently seeking permission from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) to raise rates in order to install pollution control equipment on their fleet of aging coal-fired power plants.  IPL’s almost exclusive reliance on coal (approximately 99% of the electricity generated by IPL is from burning coal) continues to expose ratepayers and shareholders to enormous costs and risks and is contributing to significant public health and environmental problems.

It’s time for IPL to begin to diversify their generation portfolio and move into the 21st century by making meaningful investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency.  Investing in renewables and efficiency will reduce ratepayer and shareholder risk, protect our health and the quality of our environment, and put money back into Hoosiers’ pockets by creating jobs and reducing monthly electric bills.

01-13-13 IPL Rate Hike Fact Sheet from Citizens Action Coalition (CAC)

Let us know if you plan to attend the hearing. See you there!!

FERC Proposes Rule to Speed Up Solar Energy Grid Interconnection January 21, 2013

Posted by Laura Arnold in Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), Uncategorized.
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Dear IndianaDG Readers:
This is a very interesting FERC development. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) stated:
In the petition, SEIA made clear to FERC that it appreciates that all “retail” interconnections of solar generation directly to consumers are subject to state, not federal, jurisdiction and that SEIA respects these jurisdictional boundaries. However, SEIA believes that if FERC improves its own rules, they could serve as a model for states that would like to improve solar market access. (emphasis added)
There are likely a number of changes needed concerning Interconnection in Indiana found at: 170 Indiana Administrative Code (IAC) 4.3 Customer-Generator Interconnection Standards.
In particular, I have heard stories from developers that their solar PV interconnection applications have not been processed in a completely timely fashion. We may have more to report after the deadline passes for IPL Rate REP Interconnection and Contract by the end of this month. There is a clearly defined time frame for this process whether Interconnection is being requested for a feed-in tariff or merely net metering.
Do you believe that your interconnection application(s) are not receiving timely treatment? Please contact me and provide details. We may need to work on this now.
There are also other administrative rules pertaining to electric utilities which need a review and updating including 170 IAC 4.1 concerning Cogeneration and Alternate Energy Production Facilities. This rule sets out how electric utilities determine their “avoided cost”.
As used in this rule, “avoided cost” means the incremental cost to an electric utility of electric energy or capacity, or both, which, but the purchase from a qualifying facility or facilities, the utility would generate or maintain itself or purchase from another source.
Are you interested in working with us to update this administrative rule used to calculate “avoided costs”? Contact me.
Laura Ann Arnold
By Sharryn Dotson, Online Editor, Power Engineering January 17, 2013   |  13 Comments
Original article: http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2013/01/ferc-proposes-rule-to-speed-up-solar-energy-grid-interconnection?cmpid=SolarNL-Saturday-January19-2013

Tulsa, OK USA — The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has proposed changes to a rule that will speed up the process and reduce the costs to interconnect smaller-sized solar power projects to the grid while maintaining system reliability and safety. The changes were necessary, the organization claims, because of market changes that were due to state renewable energy goals and policies.

In 2005, FERC issued Order No. 2006, which established national interconnection procedures for generation projects that are 20 MW or less in size and subject to FERC’s wholesale jurisdiction. However, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) filed an interconnection rulemaking petition with FERC in February 2012, arguing that certain aspects of the order have become barriers to cost-effective and timely interconnections. Its proposal will allow solar projects that met certain technical screens to qualify for a “fast track” interconnection process. As a result, the amount of solar considered under the sped-up process is expected to as much as double.

The FERC’s new Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposes four specific reforms:

  • Allow interconnection customers to request a pre-application report from transmission providers to help them better evaluate points of interconnection before submitting a final request.
  • Increase the current 2 MW threshold to 5 MW in order to participate in the Fast Track Process. Eligibility would also be based on individual system and resource characteristics.
  • Revise customer options meeting and supplemental review for projects that fail the Fast Track screens.
  • Give interconnection customers an opportunity to provide written comments on the upgrades necessary for the interconnection.

SEIA said the changes are welcome news in the solar power industry. “We applaud FERC for recognizing the challenges facing wholesale distributed generation development, which is one of the fastest-growing segments of the solar energy industry,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA. “This important proposed rule has the potential to roughly double the amount of solar generation capacity eligible to be fast-tracked in the U.S.”

Resch said he hopes the states will look at the proposal as a prototype for their own interconnection rules.

Voice Your View on IPL Environmental Compliance Case 1/24/13 January 17, 2013

Posted by Laura Arnold in Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), Indianapolis Power and Light (IPL), Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC), Uncategorized.
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See next blog post for more information on this case pending before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) from the Citizens Action Coalition (CAC).

Written consumer comments also invited

The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) is encouraging Indianapolis Power & Light Company (IPL) customers to comment on the utility’s pending environmental compliance construction case, through both written comments and the case’s upcoming public field hearing.

An Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) public field hearing will be held

DATE: Thursday, January 24, 2013

TIME: 6:00 pm EST

PLACE: Indiana History Center , 450 West Ohio St., Indianapolis, IN 46202

The hearing’s public comment portion will start at 6:00 p.m.

Sworn oral and written comments regarding the case will be accepted during the field hearing.

Oral and written consumer comments carry equal weight and will become part of the case’s official evidentiary record.

Commissioners are not allowed to answer questions during the field hearing. (However, OUCC and IURC staff will be available before, during and after the hearing.)

An OUCC informational session on the regulatory process and public field hearing procedures will begin at 5:30 p.m.

IPL is asking the IURC to approve its proposed Environmental Compliance Construction Project, which would include the construction, installation and operation of new pollution control equipment at IPL’s Petersburg and Harding Street generating stations. The equipment would be installed on five generating units that make up 82 percent of IPL’s coalfired capacity. It would reduce mercury emissions along with emissions of non-mercury metal hazardous air pollutants and acid gas hazardous air pollutants.

In its testimony, the utility states that the project is necessary for compliance with federal regulations, specifically the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics (MATS) rule.

IPL is also seeking IURC approval to recover the project’s costs through rates, with rate adjustments to be made every six months. The utility currently estimates the project’s construction costs – not including financing and demolition costs – at nearly $511 million (compared to an initial construction cost estimate of $606 million).

By 2014, IPL expects the project to add $1.13 to the monthly bill for a residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours (kWh). According to IPL’s testimony, this monthly amount would rise to $8.92 in 2017.

The OUCC – which represents consumer interests in cases before the IURC – is still evaluating this case and is scheduled to file testimony on January 28, 2013. Additional parties that have intervened in this case – including the Sierra Club, the Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana (CAC), and the IPL Industrial Group – are also scheduled to file testimony on January 28.

More information on this case is available online at www.in.gov/oucc/2732.htm.

Consumers who wish to submit written comments in this case may do so via the OUCC’s Website at www.in.gov/oucc/2361.htm, or by mail, email or fax:

Mail: Consumer Services Staff

Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor

115 W. Washington St., Suite 1500 South

Indianapolis, IN 46204

email: uccinfo@oucc.IN.gov

Fax: (317) 232-5923

Written comments the OUCC receives by January 24 will be filed with the Commission and included in the case’s formal evidentiary record. Comments should include the consumer’s name, mailing address, and a reference to IURC Cause No. 44242.”

Consumers with questions about submitting written comments can contact the OUCC’s consumer services staff tollfree t 1-888-441-2494.

# # #

IURC Cause No. 44242

The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) represents Indiana consumer interests before state and federal bodies that regulate utilities. As a state agency, the OUCC’s mission is to represent all Indiana consumers to ensure quality, reliable utility services at the most reasonable prices possible through dedicated advocacy, consumer education, and creative problem solving.

Visit us at www.IN.gov/OUCC, www.twitter.com/IndianaOUCC, or www.facebook.com/IndianaOUCC

PUCO chief blasts ‘green’ energy on Twitter; Is this appropriate behavior for a state utility regulator? Objectivity??? January 17, 2013

Posted by Laura Arnold in Uncategorized.
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Dear IndianaDG Readers:

OK, so this guy is not tweeting about open cases before the Public Utility Commission of Ohio (PUCO) but it does appear to me that he is inherently biased and does not have an objective and open mind about renewable energy. Isn’t that bad enough for someone who should be an impartial judge making decisions based on the evidence presented in the record. I thought things here in Indiana were bad in the past but I think things are now much better under Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) Chairman Jim Atterholt after the departure of David Lott Hardy.

This might be on par though with action when last year Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels put  on his recommended Christmas Book List Robert Bryce’s  book entitled, Power Hungry: The Myths of “Green” Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future. No problem though now. Daniels is no longer Indiana’s Governor. Now Daniels is the new President of Purdue University.

Laura Ann Arnold

PUCO chief blasts ‘green’ energy on Twitter.

puco_decision_jq_6

PUCO observers say Chairman Todd Snitchler is unusually vocal about his opinion

By Darrel Rowland                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

The Columbus Dispatch–Saturday January 12, 2013 6:04 AM

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio’s ruling this week against a solar-energy project may not have come as a surprise to anyone following Chairman Todd Snitchler’s Twitter account.

The former lawmaker from Uniontown, Ohio, frequently shares material critical of solar, wind and“green” energy, even re-tweeting a story called “Elites of West have cranked up myth of Global Warming” from Pravda, a Communist Party-connected newspaper in Russia, calling it “interesting.”

Among more than 1,000 tweets from the past year, Snitchler did not once share anything positive about renewable energy. Instead, he tweeted about how “clean-energy aid racks up losses” and “the Himalayas and nearby peaks have lost no ice in past 10 years, study shows”; shared the conservative website Drudge Report’s “complete list of green energy failures” and conservative political commentator Laura Ingraham’s “windbag & greeniac update”; and re-tweeted “electric cars pose environmental threat,” “after Sandy no one lined up for wind turbines” and that the “  ‘green’religion is taking over from Christian religion.”

The social medium Twitter allows users to communicate in messages of up to 140 characters, and to re-tweet others’ messages, which often include links to websites.

The Republican, who uses Ronald Reagan in front of an American flag for his Twitter photo, also tweets about the shortcomings of Barack Obama, the press and those advocating gun control.

Following the president’s re-election, Snitchler tweeted: “Last night’s big winner: the politics of personal destruction.” Two days after the school shootings in Connecticut last month, he re-tweeted: “Would it be too much trouble to enforce the gun laws already on the books?”

Snitchler notes on his Twitter bio that “these tweets are mine and do not reflect the views of the PUCO or anyone else.” However, he commingles notices of PUCO hearings and official news with his personal observations.

Snitchler would not talk in person about his Twitter account, instead relaying answers through Jason Gilham, the PUCO’s deputy public-affairs director, who noted, “There’s no references to any open cases.”

About the same time, Snitchler was tweeting, “Say goodnight Gracie…”

Gilham said all five commission members undoubtedly have their own opinions, which is one reason the law mandates bipartisan representation.

But longtime observers of the utilities commission say past chairmen were never so vociferous or openly partisan about their opinions.

“I would say they were a little more circumspect,” said William Spratley, who was state consumers’ counsel from when the office was formed in 1977 to 1993. He now runs Green Energy Ohio, a nonprofit group he founded 13 years ago that educates the public on solar and wind issues.

By law, Snitchler also is chairman of the Ohio Power Siting Board, which considers whether proposed major wind or solar facilities are in the public interest.

Snitchler voted along with a majority of PUCO members this week to nix the Turning Point Solar project, a 49.9-megawatt photovoltaic array planned by American Electric Power for southeast of Zanesville. PUCO staff had recommended to the governing board that the project was needed. The facility, which would have brought an estimated 300 construction jobs and 300 manufacturing jobs, would have been the largest project of its type east of the Rockies. AEP, which was denied permission to assess ratepayers for the undertaking, is now considering funding alternatives.

Gilham said there was nothing in Wednesday’s PUCO order that discounts the merits of the solar project.

The Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel would not comment on the tweets.

drowland@dispatch.com

Turning Point 49.9 MW solar PV project in Noble County (OH) with AEP all but dead; IndianaDG looked at it ‘longingly’ January 17, 2013

Posted by Laura Arnold in American Electric Power (AEP), Indiana Michigan Power Company (I&M), Uncategorized.
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Dear IndianaDG Readers:

There has been much speculation about whether the Turning Point solar project with American Electric Power (AEP) in Ohio would receive the “green light” from the Public Utility Commission of Ohio (PUCO). I am not an insider on this project by any means but I have been asking solar companies in Ohio about the prospects for this project with AEP for some time.

During the Indiana Michigan Power Company (I&M) general rate case before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) in Cause No. 44075. See https://indianadg.wordpress.com/iurc/indiana-utility-rate-cases/indiana-michigan-power-company-aep-44075/. That case is now completed and awaiting a decision by the IURC.  Inovateus Solar interevened and offered the testimony of Joseph Jancauskas urging that I&M develop and offer more renewable energy programs. In their concluding filings in this case I recall that Inovateus Solar advocated that the IURC create a “Green Energy” sub-docket to explore this.

Many of us here in Indiana following the Turning Point solar project with AEP in Ohio looked at this project longingly. Therefore, I am disappointed that the PUCO has rejected this proposed project at this point. Clearly, I plan to obtain and read the order on this matter and to try to understand what happened. In the meantime, if you have any information or a perspective on this recent action by the PUCO I would appreciate hearing it. OK? There seems to be more than just a little politics surrounding this.

Laura Ann Arnold

P.S. Please see next blog post: PUCO chief blasts ‘green’ energy on Twitter. This only gets better people.

Turning Point solar project in Noble County all but dead.

By      Dan Gearino     

The Columbus Dispatch Wednesday January 9, 2013 7:59 PM

 A plan that was to give Ohio the largest solar array east of the Rockies is now all but dead, potentially costing hundreds of jobs.
American Electric Power is saying that actions today by regulators make it difficult to see how the 49.9 megawatt project near Zanesville can ever come together.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio voted 3-1 yesterday to strip the Turning Point Solar plan from a larger report about AEP’s projected power needs. The majority wrote that AEP didn’t prove the project is needed, and left it up to AEP to provide further justification.

While the commission says it remains open to exploring ways to make Turning Point happen, AEP spokeswoman Terri Flora says the vote is a severe blow that undoes years of work.

“‘Disappointed’ is the word I would use,” she said. “This is a missed opportunity.”

The Ohio Democratic Party and environmental groups seized on the decision, calling it  a job-killer and an abandonment of clean energy.

“This ruling is a slap in the face to clean energy, new jobs, and southeast Ohio,” Brian Kaiser, director of green jobs at the Ohio Environmental Council, said in a statement.
While AEP was to be the key buyer of power from the project, the developers were several other companies.

AEP was hoping the PUCO would allow the utility to pay for electricity from the project by making all customers pay for a portion of the costs through a new charge in utility bills. Previously, the agency has said it would allow charges like this if there was a clear need and if the free market was not going to provide a similar resource. The PUCO’s staff had said the project was needed, part of a larger agreement with AEP.

The PUCO’s governing board decided to reject its staff’s advice, an action that leaves AEP with no clear method of paying for the project. Steve Lesser, the only Democrat on the panel, cast the dissenting vote.

The larger issue is Ohio’s continuing movement toward energy deregulation, which means projects like this would no longer be paid for by mandatory charges. Several business groups urged the commission to reject AEP’s plan because it would go against the idea of free markets.

If the PUCO had approved the plan, it would likely have been challenged in court, and the opponents felt good about their chances.

Turning Point, estimated at one time to cost $250 million, was announced in October 2010 with much fanfare by AEP and then-Gov. Ted Strickland in the closing weeks of a gubernatorial campaign. He said it would lead to 300 permanent manufacturing jobs and 300 construction jobs.

Isofoton, a Spanish solar-components company, chose Napoleon, Ohio, as the site for a factory partly to be near Turning Point. The plant is now open with a small number of employees, with plans to ramp up to 300. It is not clear how the PUCO action will affect those plans.

Critics suggested that Turning Point’s main purpose was to promote Strickland.

“It had all the trappings of a political stunt to begin with,” said Sam Randazzo, an attorney for Industrial Energy Users-Ohio, which has argued against the project.

The Ohio Democratic Party is blaming Gov. John Kasich, Strickland’s opponent in that election, for what has happened. Chris Redfern, the party chairman, noted that one of the project’s leading opponents is FirstEnergy, which is a key Kasich donor.

“It’s deeply disappointing that Gov. Kasich has given the appearance his administration is more interested in rewarding his campaign donors than supporting a project that would create more than 600 jobs, including many for veterans,” he said.

Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said in response: “We respect the independence of the commission, and its decision today had nothing to do with us. The PUCO enforced the rules that the previous administration and environmentalists wrote, yet they now want to change the rules of the game because they didn’t like the outcome. Perhaps these people should simply recognize the PUCO’s independence and let them do their job.”

dgearino@dispatch.com

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

IndyStar: Wind turbines: Birds at risk from growing wind power in Indiana; Really? January 14, 2013

Posted by Laura Arnold in Uncategorized.
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Wildcat Wind Farm photo

Several wind towers are already up inside the Eon Wildcat Wind Farm in Elwood on Sept. 10, 2012.  /  (Matt Detrich / The Star)

Indiana has avoided extensive bird kills, but lack of regulations may add to risk (Click to see original story)

Written by Bill McCleery 8:34 PM, Jan 13, 2013

Indiana is home to one of the world’s single largest concentrations of wind turbines.

But all of those giant rotors — about 700 standing among the corn and soybeans along I-65 in Benton County — do more than harness energy from the wind.

They also can kill birds.

“During migration, birds are traveling long distances, often at night,” said Brad Bumgardner, president of the Indiana Audubon Society and an interpretive naturalist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

“Birds migrating at night simply don’t see these spinning blades.”

So far, wind farms in Indiana have avoided the extensive bird kills documented in other states, most notably Maryland and California, but Bumgardner and other local naturalists are concerned about the turbines’ continuing development here and the lack of strong regulations to protect birds.

Developers face virtually no federal regulations aimed at preventing bird deaths at wind farms, said Kelly Fuller, wind campaign coordinator for the Washington, D.C.-based American Bird Conservancy.

Fuller’s organization had lobbied the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to impose mandatory rules to protect areas near strategic migratory stopping points, but the agency declined the conservancy’s petition in March and instead endorsed a 71-page list of voluntary guidelines, a document the conservancy considers toothless.

“We were rather frustrated,” Fuller said. “At least 175 organizations are on record wanting some kind of mandatory standards to protect wildlife at wind projects, including the Sierra Club, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, American Birding Association and many local Audubon chapters.”

Naturalists acknowledge that birds face far greater threats than wind farms, such as the neighborhood cat. Still, the federal government does not deny a problem exists.

In 2009, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service estimated that 440,000 birds per year were killed by U.S. wind turbines, a fraction of the 10 billion to 20 billion birds estimated in the U.S.

But biologists suggest the number of birds killed by turbines will rise as wind energy becomes more prevalent.

Assessing risk

Wind farm developers must comply with federal laws such as the Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956.

But Fuller fears that wind farms receive special consideration even in regard to those laws.

“There has never been a single prosecution of the wind industry for killing birds protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act,” she said, “despite copious documentation of those deaths, such as at Altamont Pass (in California). In contrast, the oil and gas industry has been prosecuted for killing as few as a single bird protected by (the act).”

A wind farm project in North Dakota, she said, is moving through the approval process to receive permission from federal authorities to legally kill, through incidental collisions, two bird species that have been listed under the Endangered Species Act: whooping cranes and piping plovers.

By the most recent measure, in autumn 2010, Indiana ranked 10th in the U.S. in the amount of energy being produced via wind farms.

The wind farm in Benton County, northwest of Lafayette, was among the state’s earliest sites and now boasts one of the world’s largest concentrations of wind turbines. BP, the same company with interests in petroleum and other fuels, operates the wind farm with several partners.

BP is one of the nation’s leading wind farm operators and prepares its own environmental impact analyses before building wind farms, a company spokesman said. The spokesman declined to discuss the subject of bird deaths in further detail, however, saying others have greater expertise on the topic.

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission oversees wind farms developed in Indiana.

The state has no specific environmental rules governing the state’s wind farms beyond what is required by the federal government, said Danielle McGrath, a commission spokeswoman. The IURC, however, reviews petitions for compliance with other types of state regulations.

“The IURC looks for certain items within a petition that show it is a well-conceived project,” McGrath said, “and an avian risk assessment is a typical item that’s often included.”

McGrath provided a petition recently submitted for plans to build a wind farm in portions of Madison and Tipton counties northeast of Indianapolis. It included such an assessment, with specific references to at-risk species in the area: black and white warbler, black rail and peregrine falcon.

In each case, the petitioner made the case that the project posed minimal risks to those species.

Fuller remains convinced that mandatory federal rules ultimately are needed to protect U.S. wildlife.

“States have a varying patchwork of regulations, covering things like the distances wind turbines have to be set back from houses to whether or not projects have to undergo any environmental review at all,” Fuller said. “Some states such as Minnesota have a fairly rigorous review. Others such as Texas don’t have any.”

Location, wildlife experts say, is everything when it comes to whether wind farms pose major threats to migrating birds. So far, they say, planners have done a good job, whether by design or coincidence, in finding sites for Indiana’s wind farms outside major migratory paths.

“It seems that wind farms placed in open-country cropland with little habitat for migration or breeding are likely the ideal locations for wind farm development,” said Wes Homoya, a Purdue University researcher.

Deadly consequences

No one disputes that wind farms can prove devastating to birds that unwittingly fly into the spinning blades.

Biologist Michael Retter recalls one spring day in 2006 when, working as a consultant to a wind-energy company, he was walking amid acres of 240-foot-tall posts on which 110-foot-long blades spun in the wind. His job: to look for dead birds.

A movement out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. Looking closer, he realized it was the detached wing of a large raptor, lying on the ground and flopping in the wind.

Then he found the rest of the bird. It was a red-tailed hawk.

“I remember it was sliced into three pieces,” Retter said.

Retter is not permitted to disclose at what specific wind farm he was working that day, he said. Fortunately, he said, such discoveries were rare the year he was charged with checking for carcasses. The hawk was one of just two dead birds he found underneath the giant rotors. The other was an American coot, a species of waterfowl.

Retter said he worked at two biological consulting companies at three different wind farms in Illinois and Indiana over three years and never heard of any study linking Indiana wind farms to extensive bird deaths.

“This wind farm was not in a major migratory route, like a coastline, ridge top or mountain pass,” said Retter, now a West Lafayette-based editor with the American Birding Association. “It’s relatively safe.”

The wind farm in Altamont Pass, Calif., has drawn scrutiny for causing thousands of bird deaths annually, including about 75 of the relatively rare golden eagles each year.

Bumgardner, who currently works at Indiana Dunes State Park, agreed that location can be everything.

“In the larger scheme,” he said, the number of bird deaths “is fairly small compared to the hundreds of millions (caused by) cats, windows and power lines. … The great term here is ‘comparable risk.’ You must put it all in perspective.”

Bumgardner advocates regulating wind farms as other businesses and building projects are regulated.

“In areas of high bird migrations, such as coastal areas (including Lake Michigan),” he said, “we (should) zone them to not allow windmills, say, within 20 miles of the shore. Wind farms already have mapping done that shows where they want farms based on wind speeds observed, distance to transmission lines. … It’s merely a new layer on top of that to help minimize bird deaths while recognizing a clean energy source.”

Birds of prey, such as eagles and hawks, account for about one-third of deaths from wind turbines across the United States, said Don Gorney, a well-known Indianapolis birder and former president of the Amos W. Butler Audubon Society. Warbler species account for another third, he said, and all other species account for smaller proportions of deaths.

Gorney believes wind farms are compatible with bird conservation if sensible guidelines are followed. Homoya, the Purdue researcher, agreed.

“It’s interesting to point out that (one) study found that in terms of gigawatt-hours of electricity produced, there are roughly 13 times more bird deaths associated with fossil fuel energy production than with wind farms.”

Homoya has studied how Benton County wind farms affect the American golden plover’s use of a nearby migratory stopover site.

“Results are pending,” Homoya said, “but anecdotally it appears that effects are minimal.”

The next round of controversy in the development of wind energy, meanwhile, might already be brewing.

Whatever their effects on birds, some biologists say, the giant turbines could pose an even greater threat to another type of creature: bats.

Follow Bill McCleery at twitter.com/BillMcCleery01 or call him at (317)444-6083.

_________________________________________________________________

Wind turbines: a risk to birds

Typical size: Towers, 200 to 260 feet tall; rotors, 150 to 260 feet in diameter.
Blade tip speeds: 138 to 182 mph.
Rotor revolution: 11 to 28 rpm.
Energy output: 4.6 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year for modern 1.5-MW turbine.
Birds killed annually by U.S. wind turbines: 440,000; expected to increase to 1 million annually by 2020 with further construction of wind farms.
Sources: National Wind Coordinating Collaborative, American Bird Conservancy

_________________________________________________________________

Indiana latest to see proposed ban on UN environmental proposals, ‘Agenda 21’; Rep. Neese (R-Elkhart) introduces ban January 14, 2013

Posted by Laura Arnold in 2013 Indiana General Assembly, Uncategorized.
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Republican Rep. Tim Neese of Elkhart has proposed a ban on implementing any environmental proposals stemming from the U.N.'s "Agenda 21."

 Republican Rep. Tim Neese of Elkhart has proposed a ban on implementing any environmental proposals stemming from the U.N.’s “Agenda 21.”

Written by Tom Lobianco Associated Press 4:25 PM, Jan 13, 2013

A decades-old, innocuous-sounding United Nations document has quickly become a rallying point for those on the right who fear the U.S. government will be overthrown by the U.N., and Indiana is the latest state to join the debate born of the tea party.

‘Agenda 21’ calls for better management of global resources and better care for the environment, amid concern over how global warming will harm people. And, as a U.N. document, it has no power inside the U.S. aside from being a recommendation.
But with the rise of the tea party and help from people like former Fox News host Glenn Beck and conservative radio talk show host Alex Jones, the proposal has become a symbol of an assumed attempt for the U.N. to establish a global empire.
The battle is slowly moving from the fringes of the right into statehouses across the nation. Indiana is one of five states that will ponder a ban on implementing the proposal this year. Alabama and Tennessee became the first states to approve bans last year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

State Rep. Tim Neese, an Elkhart Republican and author of a proposal to ban implementation of the UN document, doesn’t see it in quite the same terms as tea party members who have adopted this as a core battle. But he does see it as a broader issue, one that concerns the protection of private property rights and Indiana’s state sovereignty.

“I don’t see it as a battle with environmentalists, as long as people have the ability to choose,” he said. “So when any type of special interest tries to — through a policy whether it be a legislative body or local or state official — to mandate that a specific type of material has to be used. That’s where I think the Agenda 21 policy is going beyond what is neutral.”

Neese’s proposal was sent to the House committee on interstate and international cooperation, where it has a chance to be heard this session. A companion measure filed by Sen. Dennis Kruse, an Auburn Republican, was sent to the Senate rules committee, where it is likely to die.

The General Assembly will have plenty of property control and sovereignty issues to deal with this session, all proposed by Republicans. One measure would allow gold and silver to be used as currency in Indiana, another would bar federal officials from apprehending someone without consent of the local sheriff and a Senate proposal would grant Indiana the power to nullify federal law, specifically the federal health care law.

Of course, the only thing that ultimately grants a state power is the U.S. Constitution’s 10th Amendment.

These “Agenda 21” measures are unlikely to develop legs, given that Indiana’s legislative leaders are looking to skirt as many hot-button issues as possible this session, focusing instead on the budget, education and jobs.

Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, said he’s surprised to see the “Agenda 21” proposal from lawmakers he’s previously worked with on other issues, “when they have been pragmatic and foresighted on tackling here-and-now challenges.”

“Indiana faces real environmental challenges with real economic impacts, like the blue-green algae problem, which is hurting our recreational sector and drinking water supplies,” Kharbanda said.

Environmental struggles have almost always consisted of charges that regulations will destroy economic growth and cost American jobs. Only recently have conservative Republicans’ arguments morphed into the threat of a global takeover of the United States.

Beating that drum is Beck and his new novel, named “Agenda 21.” In it, the U.N. creates a global government, abolishes the United States and forces Americans to run on treadmills to generate clean electricity for the New World Order.

“This is a massive movement, and its real intentions are being masked with environmental issues. The bad news is this was set up by those who want to establish a global government system,” Beck said in June 2011 on his Fox show, shortly before it was cancelled.

“Once they put their fangs in our community, they will suck all the blood out of it and we will not be able to survive.”

Before anyone can sink their “fangs” into the U.S., they’ll have to deal with a highly partisan and highly dysfunctional Congress. They would also have to get in line behind continued budget battles and another fight over raising the debt ceiling.

Washington has enough trouble with the basics these days without wading into other policy areas — like energy and the environment.

25x’25 Webinar on Distributed Renewable Energy Set for Jan. 16; Focus on Steps by Germany and Other European Countries January 11, 2013

Posted by Laura Arnold in Uncategorized.
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Join me for what looks like a terrific webinar next week presented by 25X’25.

The next 25x’25 Webinar is set for noon to 1:15 p.m. EST, Wednesday, Jan. 16, when the discussion will focus on “Energy for Economic Growth: Policy Tools for Expanding Distributed Renewable Energy Generation.”

Webinar presenters will review the steps that Germany and other European countries have taken to promote renewable energy. 25x’25 will also use the event to release the report, “Energy for Economic Growth: Pathways for Accelerating and Expanding Distributed Renewable Energy Generation in America.”

Webinar presenters include Dr. Georg Maue, First Secretary Climate and Energy Policy, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany; Günter Hörmandinger, First Counselor-Environment, Delegation of the European Union to the United States of America; Jerry Vap, Project Chair, 25x’25 Energy for Economic Growth Work Group; and Tim Fink, Project Manager, 25x’25 Energy for Economic Growth Initiative. Ernie Shea, Project Coordinator for 25x’25, will moderate the Webinar.

To register for this free webinar, click HERE.

Here is a recent PowerPoint presentation I found from Dr. Georg Maue that might provide a sneak preview of  his remarks.

http://www.grottos.us/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/4_Germany_GROTTO.165104542.ppsx