Indiana's coal industry arguing reliability for protection by legislators

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The companies launched a trade association named Reliable Power, aiming to rebrand coal from a polluting, low-tech fuel into a reliable source of electricity, the Indianapolis Business Journal reported.

Posted: Dec 6, 2020 9:43 AM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Two large coal companies have started a new lobbying push as Indiana legislators are poised to again consider steps that could bolster the industry facing a shift toward renewable energy sources.

The companies launched a trade association named Reliable Power, aiming to rebrand coal from a polluting, low-tech fuel into a reliable source of electricity, the Indianapolis Business Journal reported.

Republican lawmakers are preparing proposals for the legislative session starting in January that they say will address stability and reliability on the electrical grid.

Environmental and consumer groups, however, worry that legislation could stall the growth of wind and solar power while propping up the coal industry.

Indiana electric utilities have announced plans to shut down at least 10 of the state’s 13 coal-burning power units by 2028, while coal companies in the past year have laid off hundreds of workers at mines clustered in southwestern Indiana.

“Certainly, there have been a number of challenges over the past five to 10 years nationally,” said Reliable Power CEO Matt Bell, a former Republican legislator and a high-profile Statehouse lobbyist. “But when we look globally, the industry is strong. And we believe that coal has an important part to play in the future of energy production in the U.S., at least for the foreseeable future.”

Oklahoma-based Alliance Coal and Terre Haute-based Hallador Energy formed Reliable Power despite the existence of the Indiana Coal Council, which has lobbied for the coal industry since 1980.

Kerwin Olson, executive director of the consumer advocacy group Citizens Action Coalition, said the “Reliable” name is just repackaging, “in an attempt to persuade lawmakers, regulators and the public that coal is necessary in order to ensure reliable power.”

The move comes after Republican lawmakers pushed through a bill during the Legislature’s 2020 session making it more difficult for electric utility companies to close more coal-fired power plants and a state energy task force in November urged passage of a law “to assure generation and transmission resource adequacy throughout Indiana.”

The coal-burning plant closings are happening even as President Donald Trump tried to boost the coal industry. Hallador had previously hired Trump’s former Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt in 2019 as an Indiana lobbyist aiming to block such closures.

Republican Rep. Ed Soliday, chairman of the House utilities committee, said a proposal being drafted would establish a reliability standard for electricity generation, giving the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission responsibility for making sure electric companies don’t move from coal to renewables so quickly that the electrical grid become unreliable.

“I couldn’t save the coal industry if I were the Apostle Paul,” Soliday said. “What we care about is, the lights come on when we turn the switch.”

Indiana Coal Council asked the energy task force last month to support the state requiring the utility industry as a whole to use coal for 52% of its fuel in the first year, then gradually decline to 24% in the 15th year.

Jesse Kharbanda, the Hoosier Environmental Council’s executive director, said that kind of step would be a setback to the growing renewables industry.

“Advancing such a bill would also signal that the Indiana General Assembly has a gross lack of confidence in the private sector,” Kharbanda said, “when Indiana’s utilities have been consistently providing reliable power to consumers and have a legal requirement to do so.”

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 660071

Reported Deaths: 12531
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion904161633
Lake48298874
Allen35720633
Hamilton31970396
St. Joseph29796510
Elkhart25331412
Vanderburgh21192377
Tippecanoe19927199
Johnson16312356
Porter15917269
Hendricks15785300
Clark11913180
Madison11717315
Vigo11562229
Monroe10300159
Delaware9824179
LaPorte9739196
Howard9038195
Kosciusko8539108
Bartholomew7424147
Hancock7399130
Warrick7399150
Floyd7180167
Wayne6622191
Grant6413157
Boone606888
Morgan6066124
Dubois5890111
Dearborn544466
Cass542899
Marshall5414104
Henry541392
Noble508476
Jackson464165
Shelby459890
Lawrence4174111
Gibson400981
Harrison397863
Clinton394453
Montgomery385083
DeKalb384378
Knox356285
Miami356163
Whitley348435
Huntington341876
Steuben337455
Wabash330576
Putnam328259
Ripley326461
Adams322149
Jasper314843
White297152
Jefferson293773
Daviess285096
Fayette271156
Decatur270188
Greene260780
Posey260431
Wells257174
Scott250050
LaGrange240770
Clay240344
Randolph225376
Spencer216930
Jennings214344
Washington209927
Sullivan202939
Fountain201042
Starke187250
Owen181953
Fulton177937
Jay177528
Carroll176218
Perry173335
Orange170950
Rush164322
Vermillion160141
Franklin159135
Tipton145941
Parke138615
Pike127432
Blackford120527
Pulaski106544
Newton96531
Brown94839
Benton91713
Crawford90313
Martin80114
Warren75312
Switzerland7527
Union66910
Ohio52911
Unassigned0433

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 964380

Reported Deaths: 17183
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1114961198
Cuyahoga950781723
Hamilton72988958
Montgomery47128883
Summit39949954
Butler35292468
Lucas35069761
Stark29218837
Warren22294272
Lorain21904389
Mahoning19348540
Lake18307304
Clermont18271210
Delaware16347135
Licking14893199
Fairfield14449157
Trumbull14239460
Greene13520212
Medina13290219
Clark12194335
Wood11460193
Portage10928155
Allen10742233
Richland10226205
Miami9984187
Muskingum8125129
Columbiana8086182
Tuscarawas8003235
Pickaway800199
Marion7963137
Wayne7837218
Erie6826184
Ross6104136
Geauga6030129
Hancock5965112
Ashtabula5917144
Scioto5906104
Lawrence521874
Union508852
Darke5021123
Belmont488388
Huron4761117
Jefferson4756107
Sandusky474494
Seneca4640103
Athens460931
Washington458787
Mercer4577101
Auglaize454698
Shelby440368
Knox400486
Putnam3976101
Madison390947
Fulton377364
Ashland377195
Defiance3699102
Brown368342
Crawford356096
Logan352459
Preble351771
Clinton338564
Highland326255
Ottawa320867
Williams301077
Jackson288556
Guernsey285034
Champaign284445
Fayette267644
Perry266743
Morrow258624
Henry244865
Hardin243256
Holmes2428104
Coshocton232847
Van Wert228549
Gallia220746
Adams215132
Pike213627
Wyandot208752
Hocking193248
Carroll179828
Paulding159223
Meigs134636
Noble128442
Monroe115636
Morgan100434
Harrison100132
Vinton76615
Unassigned00
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