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Judge orders shutdowns of plant units

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A federal judge in Indianapolis has ordered the shutdown of three units at a Terre Haute coal-fired power plant because of clean air violations committed almost two decades ago.

In his 58-page ruling issued late Friday afternoon, U.S. Judge Larry McKinney in the Southern District of Indiana ruled that Duke Energy - which bought out Cinergy Corp. in 2006 - has to close three units by Sept. 30.

This is the latest decision in the decade-old case of U.S., et al. v. Cinergy Corp., et al., 1:99-CV-1693, which involves issues surrounding 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. A federal jury in a May 2008 liability trial found that Cinergy had violated the law at its Wabash plant, but cleared the company regarding modifications made at four other plants in Indiana and Ohio. A remedy trial earlier this year paved the way for this ruling from Judge McKinney.

Most of the plant's capacity is unaffected by the ruling, which calls for units 2, 3 and 5 to be closed down.  The remaining two Duke-owned units at the station will be unaffected. The change will remove about 39 percent of the station's overall 677-megawatt power-generating capacity by shutting down units that are more than 50 years old, according to Duke.

Judge McKinney accelerated a timetable proposed by Duke in February, ordering that the shutdown happen this year rather than 2012. His ruling also means the company won't have to install additional emissions reduction equipment on the two units staying open, that Duke will need to surrender money spent between May 2008 and September 2009, and that Duke will pay less in fines on the Beckjord plant near Cincinnati - $687,500 instead of $1.32 million.

"We are disappointed with the court's decision to accelerate the shutdown...," Duke Energy Chief Legal Officer Marc Manly said in a written statement. "But even though disappointed, I will reiterate our satisfaction that after 10 years of litigation, the company's position regarding power plant projects was vindicated in the vast majority of instances about which the government originally complained. We will continue to review the Court's ruling and evaluate our options."

This fits into a larger clean air violation puzzle ongoing in federal court. After last year's trial, Judge McKinney ordered a new trial be held on projects at three plants in Indiana and Ohio. That happened last month, and the jury found violations on two repair projects at the Gallagher plant in Floyd County and none at four other projects at the Gibson plant in southwest Indiana and the Beckjord plant in Ohio. A second remedy phase for these recent violations hasn't yet been scheduled.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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