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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. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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