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Ind. governor signs bill pausing coal plant retirements

A new Indiana law designed to pause coal plant retirements is expected to have little impact on utilities that have announced plans to shut down power plants in the state.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb on March 21 signed House Bill 1414, which prohibits the state's utilities from shutting down power plants before May 1, 2021, without proper notification and regulatory review.

The Indiana Senate on March 10 voted 28-21 to adopt a conference committee report on H.B. 1414, while the Indiana House of Representatives voted 55-38 to adopt the committee report.

"I would say that the bill that was passed does not materially change our current generation strategy," Northern Indiana Public Service Co. spokesman Nick Meyer said in a March 11 email.

The NiSource Inc. subsidiary plans to retire all of its coal capacity in the state within the next 10 years as part of the company's transition to cleaner energy resources.

Under the new law, a public utility "may not retire, sell, or transfer a reliable capacity resource with a capacity exceeding [80 MW]" before May 1, 2021, unless the utility first notifies the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. The utility must provide the IURC with "at least six months advance notice" of any planned retirement, sale or transfer if it has not already been disclosed in the utility's most recent integrated resource plan.

The commission will review any potential power plant retirements and hold a hearing "concerning the reasonableness of the planned retirement, sale, or transfer."

Duke Energy Corp. subsidiary Duke Energy Indiana LLC's most recent integrated resource plan moves up the planned retirement dates of more than 4,100 MW of coal capacity by shutting down its Cayuga and Gibson coal plants by 2038.

The emergency act prioritizes retraining for coal mining workers and employees at coal-fired power plants in Indiana subjected to layoffs tied to the closure of a coal mine or coal plant.

In addition, Indiana utilities with ownership interests in Ohio Valley Electric Corp.-operated coal plants are prohibited from terminating their power purchase agreements without providing the IURC "with at least three years advance notice of the termination."

American Electric Power Co. Inc., which has an ownership stake in OVEC's Clifty Creek coal plant in Indiana, in July 2019 agreed to retire its 1,300-MW Rockport unit 1 in Spencer County, Ind., by the end of 2028 as part of a federal court-approved settlement with environmental groups. The Rockport unit, operated by AEP subsidiary Indiana Michigan Power Co., is among the largest coal units in the nation.