RE: HB 1414 – A Healthy Influence of Coal Lobby on Indiana Politics?

Recently, Representative Ed Soliday has fast-tracked legislation that is anti-conservative and anti-business. HB 1414 would stop utilities from making the best economic decisions for their shareholders and/or customers when they do a full financial analysis and determine that upgrading electricity production to less expensive renewables of wind and solar is best for business. While the national energy markets are investing in other sources of cost-effective energy production for the 21st century, Rep. Soliday’s bill appears to hold Hoosier energy production back in the 20th century.

During the 21st Century Energy Policy Development Task Force study committee hearings this past year, many representatives of the coal and fossil industries testified. While several of these speakers opined on the unfairness of subsidies for renewable energy in tax credits, the costs of pollution to the air, water, and soil and their negative effects on human health were not considered. When some committee members tried to raise questions about the unaccounted costs of health care for conditions such as preterm birth, cardiovascular disease, lung disease, and cancer that have been associated with living near coal-fired power plants, these were dismissed as irrelevant.

Did the Task Force recognize, the real dangers to Indiana water supplies that are likely with the more frequent severe rain events causing flooding along our waterways? Many toxic coal ash ponds are located next to sources of drinking water. Were such known risks even acknowledged?

The minutes from the interim study closing session state the following:

“Task Force Action: The Task Force made no findings or recommendations regarding the testimony received at the meeting. The Task Force considered a draft of an interim information report that: (1) summarizes the Task Force’s statutory directive and work program for the 2019 interim; and (2) states that the Task Force issued no findings or recommendations concerning any of the topics it considered during the interim. (See Exhibit 12.) The Task Force adopted the information report on a 10-0 roll call vote. (See Exhibit 13).”

HB 1414 seems to reach a conclusion not supported by the Task Force minutes. At best, it makes sense only if one turns a blind eye – as the Task Force leadership did in its committee hearings — to the higher costs and ill health effects of continuing reliance on expensive coal-fired power plants. Hoosiers who care about utilities’ right to choose the benefit of cheaper, cleaner energy production should oppose HB 1414.