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Calls for Increased Scrutiny of Duke Energy and IURC

December 14, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS - For more than a year, Indiana utility watchdog groups have urged the state Utility Regulatory Commission to investigate the impact of "ex parte" or private conversations about the Duke Energy Edwardsport project which took place between Indiana regulators and Duke.

In an IURC filing last week, Duke argued that unless an outside investigation suggested wrongdoing, a probe is not appropriate or necessary.

Kerwin Olson, executive director of the Citizens Action Coalition, disagrees - particularly after the indictment of former IURC head David Lott Hardy on charges of felony official misconduct.

"Without question, the Marion County prosecutor has identified those communications as fitting within the context of the ex parte statutes and, more specifically, has filed criminal charges against former chairman Hardy for failing to disclose those communications."

Hardy was fired from the IURC last year by Gov. Mitch Daniels after it became known that he was aware IURC general counsel Scott Storms was being courted to work for Duke while Storms actively participated in proceedings with the utility.

Steve Francis, chairman of the Indiana Sierra Club, is convinced that the private communications need to be scrutinized more closely to determine what effect they had on the Edwardsport project.

"I think it rises beyond perception now that there have been improper communications. It's not just the reputation of the IURC as an independent regulatory agency that's at stake - it's really restoring public trust in it."

After the indictments, says John Blair, president of Valley Watch in Evansville, he's lost all faith in the IURC and thinks the current system should be thrown out.

"We should have an elected IURC - with the stipulation that utilities and the people who work for them would not be able to contribute to that campaign."

Daniels has said Hardy's indictment does not mean the Edwardsport project was tainted by the scandal, and that he believes the project is necessary to keep up with the state's electricity demands.

Leigh DeNoon, Public News Service - IN