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Duke loses appeal of scandal-touched IURC rate case reversal

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The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission’s reversal and subsequent rejection of deferred accounting of $11.9 million for Duke Energy was affirmed by the Court of Appeals Friday in a case revisited because of an ethics scandal involving state regulators.

Duke appealed an IURC ruling against its request for deferred accounting related to expenses incurred in a 2009 ice storm. The IURC previously had found in Duke’s favor, and the utility sued claiming that the decision against it was arbitrary and capricious.

Even though the IURC provided no reasons for denying Duke’s second request, the COA ruled that it didn’t have to in Duke Energy Indiana, Inc. v. Office of the Utility Consumer Counselor, Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission,  93A02-1111-EX-1042.

“We find that there were changes in the evidence from the first hearing to the second hearing that justified the IURC’s decision to deny Duke relief the second time around, and, in any event, the IURC was not required to explain why it reached a different conclusion,” Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote for the court. “We therefore affirm the IURC’s decision to deny Duke’s request to utilize deferred-accounting treatment for over $11 million in storm-operating expenses.”

The IURC’s decision against Duke came after it was discovered that former IURC chairman David Lott Hardy was aware that administrative law judge Scott Storms was talking to the utility about a position at Duke while he was presiding over their cases.

Storms was hired by Duke and subsequently fired, and a state ethics panel fined him $10,000 and forbid him from holding future state employment. Hardy was fired and charged with three Class D felony counts of official misconduct.    
 
“Duke is unable to cite to any authority requiring the IURC to fully explain why it changed its mind following a new hearing on the issues at which updated evidence was presented,” Vaidik wrote, noting that the IURC did make required findings in the second case.

“What happened here is analogous to what sometimes happens in civil cases across this state. That is, it is similar to a trial court denying a party’s summary-judgment motion without explanation early in a case but then granting that very same summary-judgment motion, on the same evidence, one week before trial without explanation. In both instances, the evidence is essentially the same, and the ‘judge’ is not required to give an explanation as to why he changed his mind between one decision and another,” Vaidik wrote.

“Although the better practice would have been for the IURC to clearly articulate why it reached different conclusions, we find that the updated evidence presented at the second hearing justified the IURC’s decision to deny Duke relief in its October 2011 order, and, in any event, the IURC was not required to explain why it reached an opposite conclusion in its October 2011 order.”

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  1. For many years this young man was "family" being my cousin's son. Then he decided to ignore my existence and that of my daughter who was very hurt by his actions after growing up admiring, Jason. Glad he is doing well, as for his opinion, if you care so much you wouldn't ignore the feelings of those who cared so much about you for years, Jason.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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