Rep. Matt Ubelhor, a Bloomfield Republican who manages coal mines for Peabody Energy, successfully pushed for changes that shield the project that he called a huge boon to Indiana’s coal industry from a second in-depth regulatory review.
As a result, the $2.6 billion plant – and the Indiana state government’s contract to buy and then resell its product – would be much more likely to survive legislative and legal challenges from a group of opponents led by Vectren Corp.
“This is an anti-jobs bill. I’m trying to turn it into a jobs-providing bill,” Ubelhor said. “I’m trying to make sure this plant moves forward.”
The changes frustrated opponents of the Rockport project, who argued that it could saddle ratepayers with higher bills. “This thing is a real danger to our economy,” said Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis . . .It must be nice to have a day job like Ubelhor that provides an opportunity to earn merits from your employer for the votes and actions you take as an elected legislator that financially aid your employer. In an unusual move, the Republican-controlled House did not require a recorded roll call vote on the amendment. Instead, a division of the House was called and members supporting Ubelhor's amendment stood and were counted. There were 48 members counted as supporting his amendment, less than a majority of the 100-member body but a majority of those present when the vote was taken.
“Our ratepayers, maybe by a stroke of luck, will have an opportunity – if we seize it – from one of the worst deals I’ve ever seen negotiated on behalf of anybody,” said Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, who called his initial vote in favor of the Rockport project “the biggest mistake I ever made” during his legislative career.
“If you vote for this amendment, Rep. Ubelhor’s, you strip out that opportunity for us to save our ratepayers … and you replace it with the IURC kinda giving us some friendly advice,” Pierce said.
Also splitting with Ubelhor was the Republican chairman of the House Utility Committee, Rep. Eric Koch of Bedford . . .