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Ind. regulators approve modified deal with Duke

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 27, 2012 at 5:24 pm •  Published: December 27, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — State regulators on Thursday approved a deal that caps the amount of construction costs Duke Energy Corp. can pass along to consumers for its troubled coal-gasification plant in southwestern Indiana.

The deal approved by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission caps the amount at $2.6 billion, requiring the utility to absorb nearly $900 million in cost overruns.

The increase, which will be imposed in steps, is expected to raise ratepayers' bills a total of 14 to 16 percent by early 2014, Duke spokeswoman Angeline Protogere said. About 5 percent of that increase has already reached customers' bills, she said.

Protogere said Duke is still reviewing the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission order. The proposed deal was announced in April by Duke and the agency representing utility ratepayers. The commission said it modified the bargain to provide another $28 million in various credits to ratepayers.

The Duke plant at Edwardsport, about 15 miles northeast of Vincennes, has drawn strong criticism as its price tag vaulted from its original 2007 cost estimate of $1.9 billion to its current projected cost of $3.5 billion. It has also been the focus of an ethical flap for Duke Energy after company officials and regulators were found to be discussing the cost overruns in secret meetings, prompting several firings and resignations.

The utility commission's former chairman, David Lott Hardy, was fired and is now awaiting trial on four felony counts of misusing his office.

The Citizens Action Coalition, which had asked the commission to reject the settlement "in its entirety," intends to appeal Thursday's order, said Kerwin Olson, executive director of the Indianapolis-based group.

Olson called the settlement a "rubber-stamped Duke bailout package" that fails to protect the utility's customers from the plant's cost overruns.

"We feel that not only should these cost overruns not be approved, the previous cost overruns should also be revoked and Duke Energy should have to go back to square one and prove the prudency of the entire project," he said.

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