Search form

FAQ | Contact | (317) 205-3535

Latest News

2019 Consumer, Energy, and Utility Bill Watch List

 

Bad Bills:

 

HB1470: Utility transmission improvements and costs

Authors: Rep. Edmond Soliday (R), Rep. Ethan Manning (R), Rep. Ryan Hatfield (D), Rep. Carolyn Jackson (D)

Sponsor: Sen. Mark Messmer (R)

Status: In the Senate Utilities Committee

Position: CAC opposes this bill

Votes:

Description:  HB1470 is a clear attempt by Indiana’s monopoly utilities to usurp the regulatory process so they can raise your rates as much as they want, whenever they want. 

HB1470 amends the controversial Senate Enrolled Act 560 (SEA560, 2013), which gave Indiana’s electric and natural gas utilities a tracker to raise your rates virtually automatically for the costs related to investments in transmission and distribution infrastructure. This tracker is commonly referred to as the TDSIC (Transmission, Distribution, and Storage Improvement Charge). 

Trackers (a.k.a. bill “riders”) allow the utilities to raise your rates without filing a base rate case. This means that they get to raise rates when their costs are going up in certain areas, without having to open up their books and lower rates when their costs are going down in other areas. For example, the utilities would be able to charge you for new poles and wires with a tracker, while also continuing to charge you for the old poles and wires that they replaced that are still included in your base rates. 

HB1470 will effectively guarantee that captive Hoosier gas and electric customers will face ENORMOUS increases in their monthly utility bills. 

Before seeking approval for the TDSIC tracker, SEA560 required that the utilities clearly identified the projects (like poles, wires, pipes, and substations) that they were planning on spending your money on. Obviously the utilities didn’t like that, so they wrote HB1470 to remove that requirement. HB1470 mandates that the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission approve the TDSIC tracker even if the utilities have no idea what they will spend your money on. 

Additionally, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) has previously rejected the utilities including smart meters in the TDSIC tracker. Of course the utilities didn’t like that either, so they wrote HB1470 to change it. HB1470 mandates that the IURC allow the utilities to force you to pay for smart meters by including the cost of smart meters in the TDSIC tracker. And since they don’t have to file a base rate case, they can begin charging you for the new meter through the tracker, while continuing to collect for the old meter in your base rates.

Indiana should be exploring legislation to shield consumers from the excesses of monopoly utilities, NOT increasing the monopoly stranglehold on the regulatory process.

For more information and background on HB1470, visit https://www.citact.org/indiana-general-assembly-indiana-bill-watch/2019-indiana-general-assembly/news/background-house-bill

 

SB442: Underground storage of carbon dioxide

Authors: Sen. Jon Ford (R)Sen. Mark Messmer (R)Sen. Blake Doriot (R)Sen. Andy Zay (R), Sen. David Niezgodski (D), Sen. Karen Tallian (D), Sen. Jean Breaux (D)

Sponsors: Rep. Alan Morrison (R), Rep. Sean Eberhart (R)

Status: Moving to the House Environmental Affairs Committee

Position: CAC opposes this bill

Votes:

Description: SB442 was amended in the Senate into a study committee to research the underground storage of carbon dioxide waste. However, the House Utilities Committee has amended the bill to grant eminent domain to private corporations to force Hoosier property owners to allow dangerous carbon dioxide waste captured from dirty manufacturing facilities, like ammonia plants and coal-fired power plants, to be stored long-term underneath their properties without their consent. Additionally, SB442 puts Hoosiers on the hook for the long-term costs and liabilities associated with any problems which can occur as a result of storing carbon dioxide waste underground.

Those potential risks include:

  • The possibility of carbon dioxide leaking into our aquifers, poisoning our water;
  • The possibility of carbon dioxide migrating to the surface, causing asphyxiation because carbon dioxide is heavier than oxygen and displaces oxygen;
  • The possibility of long-term underground storage of carbon dioxide increasing seismic activity. Whether or not this can happen is unknown, but according to the United States Geological Survey, the underground disposal of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing has induced earthquake activity. The same could be true about the disposal of pressurized, liquefied carbon dioxide waste. 

SB442 is being pushed by a privately-owned corporation known as Wabash Valley Resources. They are claiming it is a climate change mitigation strategy, but the best way to mitigate climate change is not to produce carbon dioxide in the first place. 

Wabash Valley Resources intends to repurpose and expand the Wabash River Coal Gasification plant in Terre Haute into a large-scale ammonia production facility. According to the company’s website (www.wvresc.com), the proposed facility will use feedstock like petroleum coke in the gasification process, to produce 1,630 metric tons of ammonia per day. They will produce 1.65 million tons of carbon dioxide waste every year as a waste byproduct. They plan to capture this carbon dioxide waste and inject it as a pressurized liquid underground.

This is clearly another huge science experiment for which another private corporation wants to force Indiana taxpayers to assume liability. On their website, Wabash Valley Resources boasts that this will be, “The nation's first carbon sequestration project producing ammonia for local farmers in Indiana and Illinois.” A press release from the Department of Energy posted to the company’s website states that the company received a grant from the DOE for research and development, to help “determine the feasibility for commercial-scale storage complexes that can hold 50+ million metric tons of carbon.” In other words, capturing and storing carbon waste at this scale is unproven. 

It makes no sense to open up the entire State of Indiana to the long-term storage of carbon dioxide waste.  SB442 as introduced is a false solution to climate change that places the health, safety, and the pocketbooks of Hoosier taxpayers at risk. The State of Indiana needs to study this issue before passing any legislation related to the underground storage of carbon dioxide waste.

  

HB1468: Utility consumer counselor

Authors: Rep. Heath VanNatter (R)Rep. Edmond Soliday (R)

Status: Died in the House Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications Committee

Position: CAC opposes this bill

Description: HB1468 guts and renders impotent the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC), the state agency whose mission is to, "To represent all Indiana consumers to ensure quality, reliable utility services at the most reasonable prices possible through dedicated advocacy, consumer education and creative problem solving."

  

Author: Rep. Thomas Saunders (R)

Status: Died in the House Local Government Committee

Position: CAC opposes this bill.

Description: HB1027 makes it a criminal offense for a public servant in a community in which a proposed wind farm development is being considered to participate in decision-making if they or a member of their family will financially benefit from the development. The intent of the bill is that if public servants will benefit from a wind development, they should have to disclose their financial interests and recuse themselves from decision-making regarding the development.

The issue with this bill is that it singles out wind development, but does not make if a criminal offense for public servants to do this in regard to other forms of energy or development. 

  

HB1260: Local referenda for wind power devices

Author: Rep. Thomas Saunders (R)

Status: Died in the House Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications Committee

Position: CAC opposes this bill

Description: HB1260 states that before a wind development can be approved, it has to first be voted on and approved by the community. The issue with this bill is that it singles out wind development, but does not place this condition on other forms of energy or development. 

  

SB472: Utility rates and acquisitions

Authors: Sen. Eric Koch (R), Sen. Chris Garten (R), Sen. Ed Charbonneau (R), Sen. James Merritt (R), Sen. Erin Houchin (R), Sen. Andy Zay (R), Sen. Lonnie Randolph (D), Sen. Dennis Kruse (R), Sen. Blake Doriot (R), Sen. John Ruckelshaus (R)

Sponsors: Rep. Ed Soliday (R), Rep. Carey Hamilton (D)

Status: In the House Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications Committee

Position: CAC opposes this bill

Votes:

Description: SB472 is an attempt to modify and clarify regulatory laws around the acquisition of municipally owned water and wastewater utilities by larger investor-owned water utilities. This bill is an attempt to address the heart of the water & wastewater issues facing residents in Lake Station, IN, and Charlestown, IN. You can read more about these issues here: https://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/brown-water-flows-from-lake-station-faucets/article_e0615b91-638e-5cdf-80e5-a2d8f600a876.html, and here: https://www.wlky.com/article/indiana-appeals-court-approves-sale-of-charlestown-water-to-indiana-american-water/25730199 

 

------------------------------------------------------

 

Good bills:

 

HB1406: Water infrastructure assistance fund and program

Authors: Rep. Edmond Soliday (R)Rep. Todd Huston (R)Rep. Matt Pierce (D)Rep. Ryan Hatfield (R)

Sponsors: Sen. Ed Charbonneau (R), Sen. Susan Glick (R), Sen. David Niezgodski (D)

Status: In the Senate Utilities Committee

Position: CAC supports this bill

Votes:

Description:  HB1406 is a response to a very real clean water crisis that is growing across Indiana. Across the country and across our state, water delivery infrastructure is crumbling. It has not been properly maintained since it was originally installed. In many cases, the water delivery infrastructure has gone over 100 years without any real maintenance.

Additionally, most water utilities across the state are small, municipally-owned utilities. Local politicians are loathe to raise rates for fear of being voted out of office, so in many cases these small utilities have never had the correct levels of revenue to properly maintain their water infrastructure. As a result, many of these small municipal utilities are now in desperate need of help to be able to make the needed upgrades to their systems in order to continue providing clean water to their customers.

HB1406 is designed to allow the Indiana Finance Authority (IFA) to have access to money from the State of Indiana to be able to create and manage loans for these small utilities to be able to make the necessary upgrades to their systems, while simultaneously allowing them to phase in the necessary rate increases over time in order to pay the loans back. The goal is to ensure that customers of these small utilities have access to clean water, while also preventing them from getting a jolting rate shock on their water and wastewater bills all at once.

  

SB4: Water and wastewater utilities and runoff 

Authors: Sen. Ed Charbonneau (R)Sen. Susan Glick (R)Sen. David Niezgodski (D)Sen. James Merritt (R)Sen. Eric Koch (R)Sen. Erin Houchin (R)Sen. Lonnie Randolph (D)Sen. Jean Leising (R)Sen. Andy Zay (R)Sen. Mark Stoops (D)Sen. J.D. Ford (D)Sen. Chip Perfect (R)Sen. Blake Doriot (R)Sen. Chris Garten (R)Sen. James Buck (R)Sen. Victoria Spartz (R)

Sponsors: Rep. Ed Soliday (R), Rep. Carey Hamilton (R)

Status: In the House

Position: CAC supports this bill

Votes & Actions:

Description: SB4 requires the Indiana Finance Authority (IFA) to divide the state of Indiana into study areas and to hold annual meetings with the water and wastewater utilities located in each study area. It authorizes the utilities within a study area to meet voluntarily to determine area water and wastewater priorities, promote cooperation among the utilities, and consider other matters. It also requires biennial reports from the utilities of each study area and from the IFA on the cooperative activities of the utilities. SB4 requires that a utility applying to the IFA for a loan, a grant, or other financial assistance must demonstrate that its officers and employees have participated in study area activities. 

SB4 further requires every water utility, at least once in each calendar year, to perform an audit of its water distribution system to determine the causes of the water utility's water losses (where treated water is being lost in the utility’s system), for the purpose of identifying and reigning in waste. Reducing water loss offers utilities the ability to increase their water use efficiency, improve their financial status, minimize their need for additional water resources and assist with long-term water sustainability.

SB4 also urges the Indiana General Assembly to assign to an appropriate interim study committee the task of studying issues related to storm water management systems, including storm water runoff in the agricultural sector.

  

SB430: Elimination of net metering phase out

Authors: Sen. J.D. Ford (D)Sen. Vaneta Becker (R)Sen. Mark Stoops (D)Sen. Ron Alting (R)

Status: Died in the Senate Utilities Committee

Position: CAC supports this bill

Description: SB430 repeals SEA309, the legislation passed by the Indiana General Assembly in 2017 that killed net metering. You can read more about SEA309 here: https://www.citact.org/politics-and-money-indiana-general-assembly/campaign/2017-indiana-general-assembly.

SB430 states that electric utilities must make net metering available to their customers until their net metering customers are generating 3% of the utility’s most recent summer peak load (the amount of electricity needed on the utility’s system at the time of highest electric demand by the utility’s customers). SB430 goes even further to state that 30% of the 3% cap must be set aside for residential customers, and not more than 5% of the 3% cap can be taken up by facilities that use organic waste biomass to generate electricity.

  

HB1331: Homeowners associations and solar power

Authors: Rep. Mike Speedy (R), Rep. Carey Hamilton (D), Rep. Jerry Torr (R), Rep. Matt Pierce (D)

Sponsors: Sen. Aaron Freeman (R), Sen. James Merritt (R)

Status: in the Senate Judiciary Committee

Position: CAC supports this bill

Votes:

Descriptions: Prohibits homeowners associations (HOAs) from the following:

  • Prohibiting homeowners within the association from installing solar systems on their homes.
  • Imposing unreasonable limitations on the owner's ability to install or use a solar energy system.
  • Requiring the removal of a solar energy system that has been installed. 

Provides, however, that a homeowners association may require preapproval of the location of a solar energy system and of the manner in which the solar energy system is installed. Applies only to rules, covenants, declarations of restrictions, and other governing documents adopted or amended by a homeowners association after June 30, 2019.

  

HB1395: Broadband development

Authors: Rep. Sharon Negele (R), Rep. Dave Heine (R), Rep. Terry Goodin (D), Rep. Matt Lehman (R)

Status: Died in the House Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications Committee

Position: CAC supports this bill

Description:  HB1395 follows up on a study regarding the Indiana Universal Service Fund that was conducted last year by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC). It allows the IURC to adopt rules that determine which communication utilities should assess the Universal Service Fund (money collected for programs designed to keep everybody connected), and how much they should collect.

HB1395 also provides that Internet service providers are utilities and as such, have access to public rights-of-way and easements without having to pay fees.

HB1395 also works to extend Internet access to unserved areas in Indiana by allowing the use of the I-Light network to provide Internet access to these areas. (The I-Light network is Indiana’s high-speed fiber optic research and education network. You can learn more about I-Light at https://ilight.net/.) 

  

HB1421: Net metering for tax supported power customers

Authors: Rep. Ronald Bacon (R), Rep. Carey Hamilton (D)

Status: Died in the House Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications Committee

Position: CAC supports this bill

Description: HB1421 allows electric utilities to net meter beyond the limit of 1.5% of the utilities peak summer load (the amount of electricity needed on the grid at the time of highest use) if the utilities so desires.

It also states that public schools, public libraries, and units of local government (“tax supported power customers”) that have a net metering agreement with their electric utility as of July 2019 shall be allowed to continue to net meter, even while net metering ends for other customers as a result of SEA309 (2017). You can learn more about SEA309 here: https://www.citact.org/politics-and-money-indiana-general-assembly/campaign/2017-indiana-general-assembly.

  

HB1438: Water and wastewater infrastructure

Authors: Rep. Edmond Soliday (R), Rep. Todd Huston (R), Rep. Matt Pierce (D), Rep. Ryan Hatfield (D)

Status: Died in the House Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications Committee

Position: CAC supports this bill

Description: HB1438 establishes a Water Infrastructure Task Force, composed of two state senators and two state representatives, to examine and assess Indiana’s water resources and study the issues related to water and wastewater infrastructure across the state.  It requires the task force to issue a report setting forth its findings and recommendations not later than December 1, 2019. 

HB1438 also requires water utilities to submit a water loss audit report to the IURC every two years, beginning in 2021. This report is supposed to detail where treated water is being lost in the utility’s system, for the purpose of identifying and reigning in waste. Reducing water loss offers utilities the ability to increase their water use efficiency, improve their financial status, minimize their need for additional water resources and assist with long-term water sustainability. HB1438 allows the IURC to make rules requiring water utilities to meet certain performance standards for the volume of their water losses. 

Additionally, HB1438 directs IDEM to establish and maintain a water data collection hub in which all quantitative information concerning the water resources of the state that is gathered by or reported to state agencies will be stored. It also urges the governor to create a position or an office within the administrative branch of government to oversee and coordinate the water related programs and activities of the state. 

  

SB205: SPEA study of low-carbon and green industries

Authors: Sen. Timothy Lanane (D), Sen. Mark Stoops (D)

Status: Died in the Senate Environmental Affairs Committee

Position: CAC supports this bill

Description: Requires the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) to assess the potential for development of low-carbon and green industries in Indiana and the job creation, economic growth, and wealth generation that could result for Indiana communities from the development of these industries. Requires SPEA to report the results of its assessment to the legislative council in an electronic format not later than December 1, 2019.

 

 

SB526: Use of state funds for broadband projects

Author: Sen. Erin Houchin (R)

Status: Died in the Senate Utilities Committee

Position: CAC supports this bill

Definition:   The intent of SB526 is to help bring broadband Internet service to unserved areas of Indiana by using state funds to award grants for qualified projects, to be administered by the Office of Community and Rural Affairs.

  

SB617: Broadband access grants

Author: Sen. Brian Buchanan (R) 

Status: Died in the Senate Utilities Committee

Position: CAC supports this bill

Definition: The intent of SB617 is also to help bring broadband Internet service to unserved areas of Indiana by allowing the Office of Community and Rural Affairs to award grants from the Rural Economic Development Fund to an Internet service provider who provides high-speed internet service to unserved areas of Indiana. SB617 defines “high speed” as at least 3 megabits upload speeds and at least 25 megabits per second download speeds. SB617 allows the Internet utility to receive a grant of $750 per Internet customer in the unserved area who subscribes to the ISP's broadband Internet service for one year.

 

 ------------------------------------------------------

 

Watching:

 

HB1103: Plan commission executive director

HB1106: Fuel taxes on compressed natural gas 

HB1123: Telephone solicitation

HB1305: Gas and oil well assessment

HB1347: Municipally owned utilities

HB1567: Modification of utility facilities

SB193: Sewer and water connections through rights-of-way 

SB407: State agency management 

SB460: Broadband development 

SB461: Broadband development funding

SB477: Storm water fee exemptions

SB499: Feed-in tariff for renewable energy facilities

SB517: Utility relocation for road projects

SB535: Extraterrestrial powers of cities and towns

 

------------------------------------------------------

Updated on 3/7/19 

Click here to go back to main 2019 Indiana General Assembly page

Sign Up for CAC Action Alerts

Current Campaigns

These are the issues of immediate importance we are working on right now.