Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
105.9 FM is currently experiencing a degraded signal due to deteriorated antenna connections. We are working to schedule repairs. You can still tune in to WBAA News on AM 920, online at or through the WBAA mobile app. Thank you for your patience.

Governor signs bill upending Indiana Supreme Court case over Duke Energy's coal ash waste

The exterior of the Indiana Statehouse, from the northwest side of the building. It's late winter and frost can be seen on the building's green roof.
Lauren Chapman
IPB News
The original aim of Senate Bill 9 was to protect electric reliability by encouraging utilities to reconsider closing their coal plants earlier than planned.

Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a bill into law Wednesday that aims to undo the effect of an Indiana Supreme Court decision over Duke Energy’s coal ash waste on similar cases. The language that allows utilities to recover “unexpected” additional costs from their customers was put into Senate Bill 9 just eight days ago.

The cost to comply with federal rules on coal ash cleanup ended up being more expensive than Duke Energy thought. So even though it had already budgeted for those costs, the utility asked the state if it could raise rates in 2019.

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission approved the increase, but the state Supreme Court ruled it “retroactive ratemaking” — which is illegal.

But Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso) said the court should have deferred to the agency. He authored a major amendment to the bill, similar to one he proposed in the House.

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on statewide issues throughout the legislative session. And follow along with our bill tracker.

The new law lets utilities recover those extra costs that come with complying with federal rules without having to get pre-approval first — as long as the IURC approves them after the fact.

Consumer advocates worry this will mean higher electric bills for Indiana residents and businesses. Soliday said there are five cases pending before the agency that could be impacted by the law. But exactly how the IURC will respond isn’t clear right now.

The new law also wouldn’t let utilities that retire coal plants earlier than planned hike customers’ rates to pay off the cost of those plants in a shorter time frame. The original intent of Senate Bill 9 was to ensure utilities don’t threaten electric reliability by transitioning away from coal “too quickly.”

Rebecca is our energy and environment reporter. Contact her at or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.

Rebecca Thiele covers statewide environment and energy issues.