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Associated Press
In this July 1, 2013, file photo smoke rises from the Colstrip Steam Electric Station, a coal burning power plant in in Colstrip, Montana

Indiana officials vow to resist emissions plan

Indiana's energy profile on a federal website explains why state political and business leaders would resist a regulation to cut carbon emissions from power plants that burn fossil fuels.

“Indiana ranked seventh among the states in coal production in 2012, and coal-fired electric power plants provided about 84% of Indiana's net electricity generation in 2013,” according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration website.

The nationwide rate was 37 percent. Only West Virginia, Kentucky and Wyoming rely more on coal for their power than Indiana does, The Associated Press has reported.

So when the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule Monday for reducing carbon emissions by as much as 30 percent, Hoosier officials lashed back.

“Indiana will oppose these regulations using every means available,” Gov. Mike Pence said in a statement.

“The EPA's proposed rules amount to a backdoor energy tax that will damage Indiana's economy and hike electric bills for all Hoosiers,” Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., said in a statement.

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce called the emissions regulation “potentially devastating to our state,” in part because of the cost to manufacturers.

Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., neither rejected nor endorsed the plan but insisted on conditions. He said in a statement that the EPA must preserve competitive electricity rates and “reflect emissions reductions that are achievable with existing technology so that we can protect our environment without harming our economy.”

Indiana environmental groups praised the Obama administration's effort to limit pollutants that scientists say contribute to global warming and cause health ailments.

“The things we love most about Indiana, our homes and the health of our families are at risk. The time to act is now,” Steve Francis, chairman of the Sierra Club Hoosier Chapter, said in a statement.

The Hoosier Environmental Council pointed out that the regulations would give the state 15 years to reduce its 2005 carbon emission levels by 20 percent, according to the federal formula.

“This will not only allow Indiana companies to cost-effectively comply with this policy, but will allow Indiana to become a major market for innovation in low-carbon technologies,” the council's executive director, Jesse Kharbanda, said in a statement.

Such a conversion would require an about-face for much of Indiana's energy industry. The Energy Information Administration says that Indiana consumed 8 ½ times more coal as it did renewable energy in 2012 and nearly twice as much coal as cleaner-burning natural gas.

By comparison, Michigan uses much more natural gas than coal. Illinois consumes more nuclear power than either coal or natural gas. And Ohio's power portfolio, in which coal accounts for 69 percent of electricity generation, is more diverse than Indiana's.The administration's profile of Indiana does mention that the nation's largest geothermal heating and cooling system is being built in Muncie, on the campus of Ball State University.

A much smaller geothermal system is being installed at Indiana Tech by Fort Wayne-based WaterFurnace. Both projects – geothermal systems use pipes and pumps to transfer heat between buildings and the ground – have received federal subsidies. Also, an Indianapolis utility reportedly is converting two coal-fired power plants to natural gas.

bfrancisco@jg.net

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