Controversial energy bill moves to Indiana Senate

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- A controversial energy bill has environmental groups crying out in opposition. The proposal could delay the closing of coal plants and raise rates for customers.

Those against this bill say it’s a coal bailout and sends the wrong message. Those in favor call it a jobs bill and say it will help with Indiana’s transition into alternative sources of energy.

Republican State Senator Jim Merritt will likely take up the bill in the Senate Utilities Committee this session.

“This passed by a very slim margin so it raises conversations and it raises questions about the bill in that sense,” said Merritt.  “We’re going to take tender loving care with this piece of legislation, we’ve been working on coal issues in the state of Indiana for 30 years we’ve been working on alternative energy issues approximately 15.”

Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane agrees, this bill will get a very close look.

“I hope we slow it down,” said Lanane.

The bill raises the bar for utilities wanting to close power plants. The cost of keeping those plants open could be passed on to utility customers.

Merritt says he will keep the consumer in mind first.

“The decisions will be based on the ratepayer and what is best for that person," said Merritt. "And if it is to have the use of coal, great, if it’s to allow more alternative energy to play a role in fueling our utilities, that’s what we will do."

Those in favor of this bill say it will help coal miners transition into alternative energy options. They call it a jobs bill. But the Hoosier Environmental Council wants lawmakers to focus on the message that would send.

“This bill undermines helping those families and communities because it sends a negative signal to the clean energy marketplace which is a new source of jobs, the kinds of jobs that can replace those that are declining in coal mining,” said Executive Director Jesse Kharbanda.

The council strongly opposes this bill along with many similar groups and utility companies.

“Let’s work together to create a separate bill, a separate piece of legislation that is focused on boosting the amount of funding for job training,” said Kharbanda.

He says the numbers are telling.

“Every job in Indiana is precious but the fact of the matter is that there are 2,500 jobs in coal mining, according to the Department of Natural Resources and there are about 90,000 jobs in clean energy.”

We will closely follow this legislation as it makes its way through the Senate.\

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