Citizens, environmental and consumer advocacy organizations seek strong ratepayer protections
Special to Frost Illustrated
INDIANAPOLIS—The Indiana chapter of the NAACP passed a statewide resolution recently calling for the “Indiana State legislature, Governor Pence and the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to safeguard Hoosier ratepayers from the ‘Leucadia Tax’ by ensuring that strong ratepayer protections are prioritized over the interests of a Wall St based hedge fund.” By passing the resolution, the NAACP Indiana joins a broad coalition of citizens, environmental, consumer and other advocacy organizations in calling for real ratepayer safeguards from the financing agreement for the proposed Leucadia coal gasification plant, which would force Hoosier ratepayers to pay more on their energy bills over the course of the 30-year contract. These organizations include the Sierra Club, AARP Indiana, Citizens Action Coalition, the Indiana Community Action Association (INCAA), the Indiana Coalition for Human Services, Valley Watch, Spencer County Citizens for Quality of Life, League of Women Voters, the Distributed Energy Alliance and Save The Valley.
“This proposed Leucadia tax would force lower income communities, veterans returning home and communities of color to spend even more of their hard-earned income to cover losses on the plant,” said Denise (Blackburn) Abdul-Rahman, Environmental Climate Justice chair for the NAACP Indiana and a Desert Storm Veteran. “We should be promoting sustainable economic development in our communities, not saddling families with a new tax on their energy bills.”
In 2009, the State of Indiana signed a deal with Leucadia National Corporation to finance the construction of a proposed coal gasification plant in Spencer County. The agreement requires Hoosier ratepayers to purchase synthetic gas from the plant for 30 years, even when cheaper energy alternatives are readily available. According to Indiana University, the financing agreement would force Hoosier ratepayers to spend nearly $400 more on their energy bills over the first eight years of the project, and small businesses roughly $2,000 more—amounting to a new “Leucadia tax.” The financing agreement would disproportionately threaten communities of color, low-income communities, and senior citizens who spend more of their income on energy needs.
Recently, it was reported that two lawmakers, Rep. Matt Ubelhor and Sen. Jim Merritt, responsible for watering down legislation that would have guaranteed safeguards for Hoosier families, have close ties to both the coal and railroad industry both of which would stand to benefit from the plant.
“With so little time to act before the end of the legislative session, it is critical that our elected leaders stand up for families and by ensuring that ratepayers and businesses will be protected from this new Leucadia tax. It’s time we put Main Street over Wall Street and special interests in Indiana,” said Barbara Bolling, president of the Indiana NAACP.
The full resolution reads as follows:
Indiana State Conference Resolution Regarding Leucadia Corporation Proposed Rockport Plant
WHEREAS the Leucadia Corporation’s plans for a coal gasification plant in Rockport,
Indiana and its associated 30 year contract has shown to be a great financial risk and burden for the State and Indiana natural gas ratepayers;
WHEREAS the portion of one’s income spent on energy is higher for lower income communities and communities of color
WHEREAS, the proposed “Leucadia Tax” would force the lower income communities and the communities of color to spend , even more of their hard-earned income to cover losses on the plant.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the NAACP Indiana State Conference opposes the Leucadia Corporation plans to build a coal gasification plant in Rockport in its present form and the “Tax” placed upon the residents of the State of Indiana
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by the NAACP Indiana State Conference, its leaders listed below and its members throughout the State, that we call upon the Indiana State legislature, Governor Pence, and the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to safeguard Hoosier ratepayers from the “Leucadia Tax” by ensuring that strong ratepayer protections are prioritized over the interests of a Wall St based hedge fund.
THEREFORE BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution be delivered to all the people and entities named above.
Barbara A. Boiling, State President
Doris McDougal, State Secretary
Denise (Blackburn) Abdul Rahman, State Environmental Climate Justice Chair
This article originally appeared in the May 1 print edition.