Speaking Of The Legislature…

Indiana’s legislature is in session, demonstrating that it isn’t only Republicans in Washington who are more interested in protecting favored industries (aka donors)than the public or the environment. (I know, you’re shocked!)

Hoosiers and regular readers of this blog may remember the 2017 bill that made it much less advantageous for homeowners in Indiana to install solar.

Homeowners selling excess power generated by their solar panels back to the utility lost most of the benefit of doing so under Senate Bill 309. Prior to its passage, if you had rooftop solar, “net metering” allowed you to send any excess energy you generated back into the grid, with the utility crediting you for that excess at the same rate that you pay the utility for power when you aren’t generating enough to cover your needs.

Even if it was an even swap, however, you still had to pay the utility an amount sufficient to cover its overhead costs–billing, meter reading, etc. Fair enough.

After passage of SB 309, you were forced to sell all the electricity you generated to the utility at a much lower price than the utility charged you, and then buy back what you need at their substantially higher “retail” price.

Solar energy may be good for the environment, and good for consumers’ pocketbooks, but it had begun to cut into the profit margins of the big electrical utilities. Friends at the legislature to the rescue!

This year, the legislature is showing its solicitude for coal.

Credit where credit is due; the Indianapolis Star, which rarely covers government these days, had the story:

Hoosiers’ electricity bills could rise and several state utilities may face obstacles in their plans to phase out coal-based power generation in the coming years under politically charged legislation that would help a struggling Indiana industry.

House Bill 1414, filed last week by state Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, would require Indiana utilities to prove that any plans to shut down a power plant are either required by a federal mandate or otherwise in the public interest.

But not just any plants. Though the word “coal” does not appear once in the language of the bill, advocates and analysts say the legislation specifically targets coal-burning plants.

Utilities in the United States have been responding to market forces and (to a lesser extent) environmental concerns, and have been transitioning from the use of coal as an energy source in favor of natural gas and various renewables. In the past few weeks, at least two utilities in Indiana have announced their intention to shut down coal generating plants.

One state utility–northern Indiana’s NIPSCO– predicts that the shift could save customers billions of dollars in coming decades. NIPSCO is one of the Indiana utilities that has announced its intent to significantly diminish its use of coal and substitute renewable resources.

Typically, utilities have made their own decisions about their energy use, but Soliday’s House Bill 1414 allows the state to override those decisions. (I thought Republicans wanted government to “get out of the way” of business–silly me!)

Keeping coal plants running comes with a huge cost, according to Citizens Action Coalition’s Kermit Olson.

If coal plants are not able to be retired and if they have to be maintained — as another part of the bill suggests — then those costs will be passed down to customers.

“The idea that we are trying to, as a state, to undo a utility like NIPSCO’s current business plan, which is based on economics and least costs of service to customers is just absurd if not downright unethical,” Olson said.

He is referring to NIPSCO’s planning process in the last few years that determined accelerating the closure of all its coal plants and a transition to renewable energy sources, particularly wind, would save its customers nearly $4 billion over a few decades.

The utilities oppose this bill. Environmentalists oppose this bill. Consumers get screwed by this bill. But yesterday, it emerged from committee.

Coal companies– unable to compete in the marketplace– are lobbying hard, hoping their friends in Indiana’s General Assembly will put a very heavy thumb on the policy scale….


  1. The key words are “otherwise in the public interest.” How can anyone who is not the CEO of a coal mine (or a politician in the pocket of that CEO) think that getting “out of coal” is not in the public interest?

  2. To be fair, Soliday wrote the bill and chairs the utilities committee – the committee that decided to pass the bill forward. Seeing as the chairman wrote the bill, there wasn’t much chance of it dying in committee. Hopefully it just dies on the floor instead.

  3. Color me amazed. Surely, with all of the utility companies objecting to this bill, the coal companies can’t possibly be the highest bidder for the souls of the Republican legislators. Maybe this is just a plot to up the ante?

  4. Wow, not even subtle about it!

    Because this guys Messiah decides that polluting your own house is a good idea, so, he just takes it upon himself to prostrate himself in front of the throne? Hopefully a knighthood in the new world order will be on his Messiah’s docket, LOL, how pathetic!

    I worked for Illinois major electrical utility, I had a boss that was rigging bids, he was also a bigot, amongst other things! This contractor came in one day, from Indiana no less, he struck up a conversation with the boss. He then came back to me later on, and said, LOL, I would walk through fire for that man! Huh? I did the double take a couple of times, and actually uttered the word, Huh. He told me that he found someone in authority that had the same views, and someone “who gets it.”

    This from a guy who had deep religious viewpoints, all of them nonsense by the way, and as I looked through the rearview mirror, these both were guys that genuinely hated anything that would help “others,” even, if it was to their own personal detriment. They would actually fall on their sword, and one of them actually did, to perpetuate their racist and xenophobic viewpoints.

    I ran that guy out of Dodge so quick, the door couldn’t even hit them in the backside. Of course that ticked off the boss which created other issues, but I never worried about that too much. It’s amazing to me how there are those who will fall under sword for some sort of ignorant nonsense. How they will work against their “own” self interests, just to stick it to those “others.”

    On top of everything else, besides burning down the house we all live in, they just use everyone, even those of their own ilk, as commodities! Their mindset, doesn’t make much sense, and that’s being generous. When your house is burning down, do you run back inside to grab that can of gasoline you left? These idiots do that very thing, because that can of gasoline causes pain to folks they don’t like, even if they are destroying themselves in the process.

    This is their religion, they worship the God of HATE! How could someone hate their fellow man, their brothers and sisters, by all theories, so much that they would commit “suicide” to show how much they despise those “others.” That my friends, is what you would call fanaticism!

    In the Scriptures the word “hate” has several shades of meaning. It may denote intense hostility, sustained ill will often accompanied by malice. Such hate may become a consuming emotion seeking to bring harm to its object, even if it has adverse effects on the one hating.

    Proverbs 26:4-12 reads; “Do not answer the stupid one according to his foolishness, So that you do not put yourself on his level. 5 Answer the stupid one according to his foolishness, So that he does not think he is wise. 6 Like someone who cripples his own feet and harms himself Is the one who entrusts matters to someone stupid. 7 Like the limp* legs of the lame, So is a proverb in the mouth of stupid people. 8 Like tying a stone to a sling, So is giving glory to someone stupid. 9 Like a thorn plant that comes into the hand of a drunkard, So is a proverb in the mouth of stupid people. 10 Like an archer who wounds at random, So is the one who hires the stupid one or those passing by. 11 Like a dog that returns to its vomit, The stupid one repeats his foolishness. 12 Have you seen a man who thinks he is wise? There is more hope for someone stupid than for him.”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  5. Those of us in Indiana need to call our state reps and we also need to encourage everyone we know to call their state rep to demand that this bill dies.

    We can make contacting the state reps of our friends and acquaintances very easy by providing the Bill number and the phone number of their state rep.

    A facebook post or email or phone call will take very little time and effort to do our part to stop this insanity.

  6. “This bill emerged from committee.”

    This bill was sent by ALEC to Soliday to sign his name and pass along. I just posted an article in the New York Times about all the federal regs being rolled back under Trump which are gifts to the coal and farming industry. #ImagineThat

    This state bill will reference federal regulations because ALEC is providing Pence recommendations of which ones need to be rolled back/eliminated to coincide with the state bills sent to around 23-24 statehouses controlled by ALEC/Koch/GOP.

    From the Times article:

    “All told, the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks could significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions and lead to thousands of extra deaths from poor air quality every year, according to a report prepared by New York University Law School’s State Energy and Environmental Impact Center.”


  7. We have reached a decidedly temporary society in so many ways but all driven by a capitalists dream – unending growth. In fact though growth is no longer a dream, it’s a nightmare. It has to end. It will end.

    The question is what will replace it?

    Anything touched by fossil fuel energy is diseased now and will end soon, sooner in fact than our culture can or will adapt. Governments and corporations are stumped and have no idea how to behave in these circumstances. We the people are caught in a perpetual dither. Leaders are grossly short of even imagining not only what stability will return as, but more importantly the transition, the path, a more comfortable way to get there. So, they hang on a little longer to what used to work. It no longer does though no matter how hard they flog it or us or themselves.

    We have cancer the old fashioned way, endless pain with no cure possible. We will collectively fail a part at a time, all except what makes pain, before everything is over.

    Then what?

  8. I really do think (wink-wink) the only thing to do to save these poor, poor coal executives pocket books is for everyone to clean their chimneys and install base-burners in their living rooms again. (eyebrows sticking together from all the winking.)

  9. @Pete

    The world leaders in Davos this week voted that climate change was the most concerning issue they are facing.

    Trump stood up and told all the world leaders on Day 1 that climate change was a hoax. Mr. Disillusioned once again represents a significant number of US citizens who have no faith in science any longer. In fact, they have ushered in a post-truth movement where up is down and left is right. #FakeNews


  10. My older daughter lives in rural Bloomington, Indiana, and has solar panels on the roofs of her house and garage. She told me the same story Sheila has told us today about the difference between wholesale and retail treatment of surplus electricity that the legislature decreed in the, uh, public interest. She thought her 35 grand investment would be partially offset by sale of her surplus electricity at retail, but the legislature, which was neither privy nor a party to her contract, decreed otherwise, which should but doesn’t give her standing to sue the legislature for the little known tort of “interference with advantageous third party relationships”). So much for Republican propaganda in re “free enterprise, “what the market will bear,” the evils of “Big Government”and other such myths these business socialists peddle.

    It’s a good thing the Indiana legislature of today was not in power during the transition from horse and buggy days to horseless carriage days, considering recurring cleanup costs, and speaking of consideration, consider Amazon with its new merchandising methodology and quick delivery and what it is doing to our brick and mortar culture. Is the Hoosier legislature (with an eye on campaign contributions) considering a means of political tampering with innovation in this marketplace niche via taxation or welfare or whatever? Let’s hope such interference in the marketplace Republicans pretend to revere isn’t contagious and that the State of California doesn’t pull a coal or an electrical stunt on Silicon Valley, an unlikely event as measured by scale but illustrative of the principle involved.

    There are lots of reasons to carry Aunt Nell to the polls this fall; this is one of them.

  11. Folks – with all due respect for your advice to “contact your legislator”. There is much current research to suggest that all those contacts result in is work for the connected folks whose salary is paid by us as the legislators’ “staff”.

    A recent study even showed that when masses of people say “vote X”, their rep goes the other way if the Party and/or special interests say so.

    This is a lovely result of gerrymandering the districts. Unless your district is at all competitive , don’t waste your time. A better use would be to get those seldom or never voters to register so all of you can throw the bums out.

  12. John Sorg,
    Your post jives with the view of an upper-middle class dude who told me during the Bush II administration’s Great Recession that he would gladly accept a downturn in the economy, if it would knock off $25,000 from everyone’s income, including his. “I can afford to lose 25 Gs, but them black’ns can’t. One way to get rid of ’em is starve ’em.”

  13. Where will jobs come from? What will we have to give up? What about those who distinguished themselves by multiple oversized residences? We have millions of reparians who will have to relocate. What will farmers do without the Ogallalah Aquifer? What if corn and wheat no longer are suited to the Mid West climate? What will auto workers do when we no longer need multiple new vehicles every 3 or 4 or 5 years? How can we afford to pay much higher taxes to repair the damages that are caused now by energy consumption and energy companies in the past? How do we get back to public education for everyone after flirting with private education? Who pays to fill potholes now that we don’t own autos? Can we convert our garages into small houses for the rampant feral people roaming the streets? What else are stadiums useful for? Where are all of the people who had to abandon Equatorial living going to go?

    So many questions. So few answers.

  14. Sheila, I was likewise shocked The Star had this story. I read this story at the YMCA a few days ago. Usually, they have some story about, the newest Brew Pub opening up, or some one from North Hooterville High who scored a decisive game winning basket 20 year ago.

    I agree with Todd, on the source of the wording – ALEC or some similar group.
    Here is excerpt from an article last year.

    Energy policies that could shape life and commerce in Indiana, perhaps for decades, are set to be crafted over the next two years under the leadership of a veteran Northwest Indiana lawmaker.

    State Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, last week was appointed by House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, to serve alongside state Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, as co-chairman of Indiana’s 21st Century Energy Policy Development Task Force.

    House Enrolled Act 1278, enacted in May by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, directs the 15-member panel to examine the state’s electric generation policies; evaluate how different energy sources affect the reliability, resilience and affordability of electric service; and determine whether state regulators have the flexibility necessary to ensure ratepayers are not unduly harmed by any changes.

    So if I am reading the tea leaves right or chicken entrails the fix is in. The selection of the “Who” seems to guarantee the desired result, which is to keep solar and wind energy out.

  15. Monotonous,
    Thanks for sharing that article link. Looks like we need to bombard the gov’s office with phone calls too.

  16. Yep Larry, it’s insane.

    One thing about that though, all of those overweight way to disabled Kentuckians riding around on their Hoveround’s, think that they are the only ones that are supposed to get Medicare coverage for their special equipment, LOL. Anyone else, it’s a crime. They are entitled to be obese, diabetic, pneumonic, full of emphysema, all while still smoking. Medicare was made just for them.

  17. I read an article a few years ago, noting the intent to switch to more solar and wind. One case for the switch was the rapidly improving technology in wind and solar. The report mentioned over the long haul upgrading wind and solar technology would cost far less than upgrading or retro-fitting fossil fuel plants.

    The other issue pointed out in this article was the “left overs” from the combustion process. The “left over” especially from coal is particularly toxic. Usually some legislative gift will exempt the utility from properly disposing of the coal ash and then we have toothless or underfunded regulatory agency that never bothers to monitor.

    One thing we can always bet house on is the Indiana GOP will fight like hell to be decades behind.

  18. @ML who writes, “One thing we can always bet house on is the Indiana GOP will fight like hell to be decades behind.”

    Indianapolis and Muncie just started separating stormwater and sewer lines. Indy’s cost is well over a billion. Muncie’s is around $300 million.

    This is in response to the federal Clean Water Act passed in 1972, or nearly five decades ago.


  19. Perhaps Gerald’s idea, and supporting information, is one solution. And perhaps even the backroom support of ALEC and even VP Pence might come to light on a national basis. A good cause for ACLU.

    After all sueing the State Legislature might just make Fox News as Big Drama News.

  20. Monotonous, one of the “leftovers” from burning fossil fuels (burning is how we get them to let go of the solar energy invested in them 350,000,000 years ago) are copious amounts of water vapor and carbon dioxide. We have always assumed that these are easy to dispose of just by dumping them into the atmosphere where they disappear nearly instantly, or so we once thought. The truth is that carbon dioxide doesn’t but stays there for hundreds of years as a greenhouse house (climate changing) gas, a harbinger of climate to come, unprecedented over the history of human civilization.

    We built our civilization infrastructure assuming and in accordance with the only climate we have ever known and now we are voluntarily choosing to change it to something unlike we are familiar with. That inevitably means more extreme weather and sea level and relocating and rebuilding our civilization to boot.

    Put as directly as possible, our present selves are screwing our future selves but that translates into our present fuel corporate interests selves are screwing our future tax payer selves.

    Wealth redistribution anyone?

  21. Here’s a little something to take your mind off of blatant corruption. I have noted lately the return of perfectly good words to describe what we see every day. The top three are:


    We might be busy killing the souls of liberals, but at least we’ll go down with an enhanced vocabulary.

  22. I am not surprised about the ALEC connection. I would like to see a source for the study that says contacting your legislator is waste of time in todays partisan gerrymandered environment.

    Having worked for a utility for several years, coal is dead. A typical overhaul or large maintenance project can cost upward of $100,000,000 for a large coal plant. Sinking that kind of money into an aging plant is a business question. Will you get your $100,000,000 back with a profit in a reasonable amount of time? In todays rapidly changing environment, the answer is almost always NO.

    If (in the US) you don’t have the cash on hand to do that kind of work, then you go a big multi-national bank. If you tell them they will get their money back for a coal project they will laugh at you. Things are changing too fast and there is to much uncertainty to invest in coal.

    That said, the only way you can keep coal going is through direct subsidies. That costs money, so unless the state want to spend actual dollars subsidizing coal, they best they can do delay it’s death. It is a good move if you are taking in lobbyist dollars. It is not so good for the rest of us.

  23. “After passage of SB 309, you were forced to sell all the electricity you generated to the utility at a much lower price than the utility charged you, and then buy back what you need at their substantially higher “retail” price.”

    Florida tried to pass something similar a couple of years ago. Fortunately, they got greedy[ier.] They tried to pass it as an amendment to the Florida constitution — because it would be harder to repeal once the people cottoned on to what they had done [the language was deceptive. Surprise, surprise.]

    So there was a statewide education effort to explain what the bill would actually do [force owners of panels to sell any power they had generated that day and had not used by sundown to Duke Energy — then buy any power they needed at night at retail.]
    It still managed to garner 52% of the vote but, since they had tried to make it an amendment rather than a simple law, they needed 66.66% of the vote. 666 — that seems appropriate, doesn’t it?

    So far, so good. My current bill is still $22 per month. But who knows for how long? What we DO know is that they will try again. And again. Till they get what they want.

    Other than what I outlined above, they’ve always managed to do exactly that.
    When I ordered my panels, there was a program in place that required the energy company to buy any excess power generated by panels at 66% of retail which they could then sell at full retail to the public. But, by the time the installation was complete, Rick Scott who had just been elected, had gotten rid of that program with a stroke of his pen.

  24. This is totally off subject. I thought the “hair” issue in schools was settled in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s.

    A Texas school district is coming under fire for suspending a black prospective graduate over his refusal to cut his hair. Deandre Arnold, a senior, is being barred from walking across his graduation stage in May unless he cuts his dreadlocks.

    I guess down in Texas dreadlocks are a threat to all those WASP’s. Student Arnold is learning the nail that stands up must be hammered down.

  25. ML,

    It’s nothing different than has happened throughout history, for the most part, the wealthy have been the ones set the rules. The educated have usually been the ones to fight against that trend.

    The Greeks, the Romans, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, eventually they all went after the educators. They would prefer the wealthy run the show and preferred to keep the population is ignorant as possible.

    That my friend, is an old and stubborn nail.

  26. Oops, I misspoke in my earlier comment. Sorry.

    Actually, the panel owners wouldn’t have been allowed to SELL their power to Duke at all. Since all unused power flows to the grid — unless the owner has batteries to store it in — it would become, de facto, Duke’s property immediately. THEN the panel-owners would have had to buy it back, at the retail price, at night and when it was cloudy. [Yes, it gets cloudy, often very much so, in Florida.]

    So Duke would have received the energy for free and be able to sell 100% of it — including back to the people who had generated it in the first place.
    They tried to sell the bill by saying that panel owners were being carried by everyone else and the bill would make them “pay their fair share.”

  27. @ Todd Smekens, who wrote:
    “Indianapolis and Muncie just started separating stormwater and sewer lines. Indy’s cost is well over a billion. Muncie’s is around $300 million.”

    Saved by the skin of their teeth! Trump just repealed all those pesky 1972 bills. If Indianapolis and Muncie haven’t paid the full amount yet, they can just stop the work right now.

  28. Back in the day when the legislature met every other year, Governor Roger Brannigan supposedly said that Hoosiers would be better off if rather than meet for 60 days every other year, the legislature should meet for 2 days every 60 years. Unfortunately, he was right.

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