ILNews

Rockport on the rocks

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Lawmakers ended the 2013 legislative session by nearly driving a stake through the heart of a widely criticized deal for construction of an experimental power plant that promised to turn coal into substitute natural gas. Legislators bowed to the Indiana Supreme Court to rule on the politically charged matter.
 

15col-Rockport.jpg Lawmakers raised new hurdles for a proposal to build a coal gasification plant in Rockport on the site shown above on the yellow-shaded area. The Legislature also deferred to a possible ruling by the Indiana Supreme Court on the fate of the plant. (Photo courtesy John Blair)

That deference to the court, plus the likelihood of a new round of state regulatory review, are outlined in Senate Enrolled Act 494. Plant backers provided the subtext: They said even if the justices keep alive a contract to finance the Rockport facility along the Ohio River in part by guaranteed gas rates above current market prices, the Legislature’s action already may have doomed a project estimated to cost at least $2.4 billion.

“Since this conscious decision was made, the judgment of the state is very clear: neither the Legislature nor the governor support the contract or the project,” Indiana Gasification LLC, a subsidiary of hedge fund Leucadia National Corp. said in a statement. Leucadia announced April 30 it was suspending work on the Rockport site pending judicial review.

“Therefore, the claim made by legislative leadership and the governor that everything is fine if the Supreme Court sides with us is a

false promise; no one would invest $750 million where such clear opposition from the government is evident,” the company said, referring to passage of the legislation. “The institutions that provide the capital to build a plant of this size will not do business in a state that is so cavalier about the $20-plus million dollars we have already invested.”

But critics of the proposed plant celebrated the General Assembly’s rejection of a plan that had been pushed by former Gov. Mitch Daniels and that lawmakers passed just two years ago. Even if the state has to pay Leucadia $20 million for its trouble, opponents said that would be getting away cheap from a project they claim would saddle ratepayers with a 30-year contract to buy gas at rates upwards of double the current market price.

Opponents also cast the plant as an untested design, an environmental menace and a brazen example of crony capitalism benefiting former Daniels adviser Mark Lubbers, now project director for Indiana Gasification.

“The whole reason that a Republican governor and a Republican Legislature decided to have the government step in and buy the gas was because nobody in the marketplace would do it,” said Jermone Polk, an attorney representing plant opponents Sierra Club and ValleyWatch.

“It was one of the most perverse and bizarre arrangements that I’ve seen,” Polk said. “We could be paying billions of dollars and not see any benefit. … The only people who benefit from the plant are the investment company pushing the project, Leucadia and coal interests.”

Polk wrote an amicus brief for the environmental groups that formed an unlikely alliance with Vectren Corp. and other utilities to oppose the deal. A divided Indiana Court of Appeals last year nullified Leucadia’s contract with the Indiana Finance Authority.

Attorneys have requested the Supreme Court grant transfer in Indiana Gas Company, Inc. and Southern Indiana Gas and Electric Co., et al. v. Indiana Finance Authority and Indiana Gasification, LLC, 93A02-1112-EX-1141. The court has been fully briefed, but justices have yet to decide if they’ll take the case. (Indiana Gas Co. and Southern Indiana Gas and Electric Co. do business as Vectren).

Rockport attorney Jeff Lindsey chairs the Lincolnland Economic Development Corp. of Spencer County, an amicus party that supported plant construction. He said Vectren’s clout rather than environmental or fiscal concerns was most responsible for lawmakers all but pulling the plug.

“It’s a tremendous blow for economic development and economic growth in the Southwest Indiana region,” Lindsey said. “It’s truly unfortunate that Vectren Corp. seems to be so determined to prevent this type of beneficial economic growth.

“I don’t know of any other single entity that lobbied harder, invested more time, energy, effort and money in their lobbying effort and legal fight, and unfortunately, I have to pay Vectren rates,” Lindsey said, calling the utility’s rates among the state’s highest. He said the agreement to build the plant through the Indiana Finance Authority provided for rates that are not outside historic price fluctuations.

“I don’t believe (Vectren’s) opposition to this has anything to do with benefiting the ratepayers. It has everything to do with benefiting their stockholders and their executives,” he said.

Tom Funk, a Krieg DeVault LLP partner representing Vectren, declined to comment, citing the pending litigation. Attorneys representing Indiana Gasification in the pending litigation did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Lindsey compared the plant’s promise for the region to the Toyota plant in nearby Princeton. “I think it would have brought a lot of jobs here. I think it would have been a game-changer,” he said. “The area would have received a huge amount of focus nationally and internationally on the type of clean-coal usage that should be done.”

John Blair of ValleyWatch in Evansville is an outspoken critic of the proposal. “Rockport is already one of the most polluted places on Earth,” he said. Based on data from the Environmental Protection Agency, emissions in the town of about 2,300 people are greater than those of industrialized American cities with a combined population of more than 34 million, he explained.

“We’ve been making the case with the Department of Energy that this is a serious environmental justice issue,” he said.

Blair ridicules claims of an economic or environmental boon from the plant. He noted fertilizer companies recently began seeking permission to build plants near the proposed Rockport site that would dwarf the facility that recently exploded and leveled much of the town of West, Texas. That’s the kind of development a new coal-based energy plant attracts, he said.

“Just because you spend a lot of money in a community doesn’t mean that it makes you healthy or wealthy,” Blair said. “My observation is anywhere coal goes, it depresses a community. … There are zero prosperous coal communities in the United States, and I suspect the world.”

Blair argues that Justice Mark Massa, a Daniels appointee who was the former governor’s chief counsel, should recuse himself from consideration of the pending case. Lubbers, Indiana Gasification’s project manager, hired Massa in 1985 to be a speechwriter in the administration of former Gov. Bob Orr. Lubbers also delivered remarks during Massa’s investiture.

Massa did not respond to a request for comment through court public information officer Kathryn Dolan.

Rockport’s backers, meanwhile, said they’ll fight for the project in court and signaled a willingness to apply political pressure to keep it alive.

“We will work hard for a win if the Supreme Court takes the case,” Indiana Gasification said in its statement. “If we win, however, only a clear reversal of position by the governor would enable the project to go forward.”•
 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. wow is this a bunch of bs! i know the facts!

  2. MCBA .... time for a new release about your entire membership (or is it just the alter ego) being "saddened and disappointed" in the failure to lynch a police officer protecting himself in the line of duty. But this time against Eric Holder and the Federal Bureau of Investigation: "WASHINGTON — Justice Department lawyers will recommend that no civil rights charges be brought against the police officer who fatally shot an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Mo., after an F.B.I. investigation found no evidence to support charges, law enforcement officials said Wednesday." http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/22/us/justice-department-ferguson-civil-rights-darren-wilson.html?ref=us&_r=0

  3. Dr wail asfour lives 3 hours from the hospital,where if he gets an emergency at least he needs three hours,while even if he is on call he should be in a location where it gives him max 10 minutes to be beside the patient,they get paid double on their on call days ,where look how they handle it,so if the death of the patient occurs on weekend and these doctors still repeat same pattern such issue should be raised,they should be closer to the patient.on other hand if all the death occured on the absence of the Dr and the nurses handle it,the nurses should get trained how to function appearntly they not that good,if the Dr lives 3 hours far from the hospital on his call days he should sleep in the hospital

  4. It's a capital offense...one for you Latin scholars..

  5. I would like to suggest that you train those who search and help others, to be a Confidential Intermediary. Original Birth Certificates should not be handed out "willie nillie". There are many Birth Parents that have never told any of their families about, much less their Husband and Children about a baby born prior to their Mother's marriage. You can't go directly to her house, knock on her door and say I am the baby that you had years ago. This is what an Intermediary does as well as the search. They are appointed by by the Court after going through training and being Certified. If you would like, I can make a copy of my Certificate to give you an idea. you will need to attend classes and be certified then sworn in to follow the laws. I still am active and working on 5 cases at this time. Considering the fact that I am listed as a Senior Citizen, that's not at all bad. Being Certified is a protection for you as well as the Birth Mother. I have worked with many adoptees as well as the Birth Parents. They will also need understanding, guidance, and emotional help to deal with their own lost child and the love and fear that they have had locked up for all these years. If I could talk with those involved with the legal end, as well as those who do the searches and the Birth Mothers that lost their child, we JUST might find an answer that helps all of those involved. I hope that this will help you and others in the future. If you need to talk, I am listed with the Adoption Agencies here in Michigan. They can give you my phone number. My email address is as follows jatoz8@yahoo.com. Make sure that you use the word ADOPTION as the subject. Thank you for reading my message. Jeanette Abronowitz.

ADVERTISEMENT