Controversial Coal Bill Narrowly Passes Indiana House

Feb 4, 2020

A bill that would make it harder for utilities to close coal plants in Indiana passed in the state House on Monday 52 to 41. An amendment by Rep. Alan Morrison (R-Brazil) to help former coal miners may have made the bill more attractive to some Republican lawmakers. 

Among other things, the bill would require the state to review possible coal plant closures until May of 2021. The state would have to hold a public hearing and issue a formal opinion of whether or not the closure is reasonable. The bill would also give former coal miners priority for workforce training grants.

Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso), who authored the legislation, says coal mining towns are suffering as mines and coal plants close.

“So you're not just getting rid of the coal people. You're getting rid of the lady who works in the dentist's office, the lady who sells the tennis shoes, you're killing the communities,” he says.

Soliday says the state is rapidly transitioning to more renewables — which could threaten reliability. But Democratic lawmakers say the bill would prop up the coal industry and raise Hoosiers’ electric bills by making ratepayers continue to pay for inefficient coal plants.

Rep. Carey Hamilton (D-Indianapolis) says groups representing utilities, manufacturers, environmentalists and public health have all spoken against the bill.

“These are unlikely allies. This is a powerful coalition of organizations representing all sorts of interests across our state, aligned in opposition to this bill," she says.

The bill now moves on to the state Senate for consideration.

Contact Rebecca at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.

Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.