Cinergy trial ends with split verdict

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A federal jury returned a verdict that a major energy company violated clean-air rules at a coal-fired power plant along the Ohio River in southeast Indiana.

The Southern District of Indiana verdict Tuesday night came following six days of trial and eight hours of jury deliberation in U.S., et al. v. Cinergy Corp., et al., No. 1:99-cv-1693. The decade-old case involves violations to parts of the Clean Air Act intended to make sure that older power plants that have major upgrades also meet more modern pollution limits with new permitting and emissions controls.

In a partial retrial of some claims after the original May 2008 verdict that went mostly in Duke's favor, jurors on Tuesday found that Duke - which bought Cinergy in 2006 - violated the law in two of its projects at three power plants and did not on four of those projects. Jurors found violations made in two repair projects at the Gallagher plant in Floyd County, while determining that four other projects at the Gibson plant in southwest Indiana and the Beckjord plant near Cincinnati, Ohio, did not violate federal clean air rules.

"I've got to say this about Indiana juries: They are really conscientious," said U.S. Department of Justice attorney Phillip Brooks, who was the lead plaintiffs attorney representing the government. "This was some really tough stuff, and they spent about eight hours going through it all. My brain is fried, but my hat's off to them."

A year ago, a jury found that Cinergy had violated the Clean Air Act at its Wabash plant in Terre Haute, but cleared the company on modifications made at four other plants throughout Indiana and Ohio.

This was the second time Duke has faced a liability on this issue, which dates to 1999. The Environmental Protection Agency alleged the energy company Cinergy had substantially upgraded some of its power plants in Indiana and Ohio without installing the proper modern pollution controls as required. The government alleged that Cinergy's work exceeded ordinary maintenance or repairs and required a permit at each of the plants before that construction began, but the company disagreed that the projects mandated any new pollution controls or permits.

U.S. Judge Larry McKinney late last year ordered a new liability trial after finding that Duke attorneys misled jurors about one of its witnesses, a former employee with knowledge of power plant improvements. The witness was paid a consulting fee, a point not revealed at trial; however, Duke attorneys at the same time portrayed government witnesses being experts paid for their testimony. That gave the government a second trial to prove its case, which started May 11 and ran through Tuesday morning when the jurors began deliberating about noon. A verdict announcement came about 8 p.m. from the court.

A Duke Energy spokeswoman could not be reached for comment about the verdict, but a spokeswoman for the Clean Air Task Force described this as an environmental victory despite the verdict falling mostly in Duke's favor.

"That simple math doesn't reflect the potential significance of this outcome for the people living near the plants and downwind of them," spokeswoman Ann Weeks said. " Those folks ... have had to breathe thousands of tons of additional air pollution that should not have been emitted since the company made the changes at the Gallagher plant that the jury has now found unlawful."

A remedy phase for these claims will be scheduled, and an order is expected soon on the previous remedy phase resulting from the rest of the verdict reached in May 2008 - that involved allegations at the Wabash plant in Terre Haute, where jurors found Cinergy had violated the law. Judge McKinney has not yet ruled on that remedy or scheduled the next remedy trial.


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  1. Great observation Smith. By my lights, speaking personally, they already have. They counted my religious perspective in a pro-life context as a symptom of mental illness and then violated all semblance of due process to banish me for life from the Indiana bar. The headline reveals the truth of the Hoosier elite's animus. Details here: Denied 2016 petition for cert (this time around): (“2016Pet”) Amicus brief 2016: (“2016Amici”) As many may recall, I was banned for five years for failing to "repent" of my religious views on life and the law when a bar examiner demanded it of me, resulting in a time out to reconsider my "clinging." The time out did not work, so now I am banned for life. Here is the five year time out order: Denied 2010 petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): (“2010Pet”) Read this quickly if you are going to read it, the elites will likely demand it be pulled down or pile comments on to bury it. (As they have buried me.)

  2. if the proabortion zealots and intolerant secularist anti-religious bigots keep on shutting down every hint of religious observance in american society, or attacking every ounce of respect that the state may have left for it, they may just break off their teeth.

  3. "drug dealers and traffickers need to be locked up". "we cannot afford just to continue to build prisons". "drug abuse is strangling many families and communities". "establishing more treatment and prevention programs will also be priorities". Seems to be what politicians have been saying for at least three decades now. If these are the most original thoughts these two have on the issues of drug trafficking and drug abuse, then we're no closer to solving the problem than we were back in the 90s when crack cocaine was the epidemic. We really need to begin demanding more original thought from those we elect to office. We also need to begin to accept that each of us is part of the solution to a problem that government cannot solve.

  4. What is with the bias exclusion of the only candidate that made sense, Rex Bell? The Democrat and Republican Party have created this problem, why on earth would anyone believe they are able to fix it without pushing government into matters it doesn't belong?

  5. This is what happens when daddy hands over a business to his moron son and thinks that everything will be ok. this bankruptcy is nothing more than Gary pulling the strings to never pay the creditors that he and his son have ripped off. they are scum and they know it.