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Second Cinergy trial starts in Indy

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A second clean-air violation trial is underway in Indianapolis about whether coal-fired power plant modifications triggered a need for new pollution-control equipment at facilities in Indiana and Ohio.

Expected to last six to 10 days, this trial in the decade-old case began Monday in U.S. District Judge Larry McKinney's courtroom in the Southern District of Indiana. A total of 84 prospective jurors were vetted before 10 were seated for the trial. Each side's attorney made an hour-long opening argument before jurors were dismissed for the day.

U.S., et al. v. Cinergy Corp., et al., No. 1:99-cv-1693, includes the states of Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York as plaintiffs, as well as the Hoosier and Ohio Environmental councils. Dozens of attorneys are listed on the case, including local counsel from Taft Stettinius & Hollister in Indianapolis: Scott R. Alexander, Jayna Morse Cacioppo, Robert R. Clark, and John D. Pappageorge.

The suit dates to 1999, when the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clinton administration alleged that energy company Cinergy - bought by Duke Energy in 2006 - substantially upgraded six power plants in Indiana and Ohio without installing required modern pollution controls as required by law. The government alleged that Cinergy's work exceeded ordinary maintenance or repairs and required a permit at each plant, but the company disagreed.

In what was dubbed the nation's first case to go before a jury on this issue, the first two-week trial in May 2008 in Judge McKinney's courtroom resulted in jurors finding that Cinergy had violated the U.S. Clean Air Act at its Wabash plant in Terre Haute. But they cleared the company regarding modifications made at four other plants in Indiana and Ohio. On balance, it was a victory for Duke.

But after that verdict, attorneys discovered a previously undisclosed piece of discovery that raised questions about the verdict and resulted in Judge McKinney ordering a new liability trial.

Most of the previous orders and rules in place apply to this second trial, and both sides are focusing on testimony from experts and engineers about the power plant projects and what affect they see that having on overall emissions. The case boils down to how the company analyzed possible pollution effects prior to starting construction in the 1990s.

During opening statements, attorneys used color photos of the power plants and charts with emission information to describe what is being debated in this case. U.S. Department of Justice attorney Phillip Brooks said evidence would prove that in repairing faulty components in major energy-generating units that could have shut down completely or at a lower level, Cinergy increased emissions by more than a standard 40 tons as a result of improvements done at the plant and that required a permit and pollution controls.


"There's nothing wrong with fixing these things, but there are rules in doing that," he said. "That's what is at issue here: whether the company followed the rules."

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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