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Rockport on the rocks

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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.”•
 

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  1. Applause, applause, applause ..... but, is this duty to serve the constitutional order not much more incumbent upon the State, whose only aim is to be pure and unadulterated justice, than defense counsel, who is also charged with gaining a result for a client? I agree both are responsible, but it seems to me that the government attorneys bear a burden much heavier than defense counsel .... "“I note, much as we did in Mechling v. State, 16 N.E.3d 1015 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014), trans. denied, that the attorneys representing the State and the defendant are both officers of the court and have a responsibility to correct any obvious errors at the time they are committed."

  2. Do I have to hire an attorney to get co-guardianship of my brother? My father has guardianship and my older sister was his co-guardian until this Dec 2014 when she passed and my father was me to go on as the co-guardian, but funds are limit and we need to get this process taken care of quickly as our fathers health isn't the greatest. So please advise me if there is anyway to do this our self or if it requires a lawyer? Thank you

  3. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  4. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  5. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

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