INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - A proposed $2.8 billion coal-gasification plant that won a reprieve last month from the Indiana Supreme Court is facing a new challenge, this time from environmental groups that contend the southern Indiana project’s construction permit is invalid and expired last month.
In an appeal filed Monday with the state’s Office of Environmental Adjudication, the Sierra Club and Valley Watch Inc. argue the permit is void because the public wasn’t given a chance to weigh in on developer Indiana Gasification LCC’s request for a six-month permit extension.
The groups argue that the Indiana Department of Environmental Management was required under state law to provide a 30-day public comment period on the request but approved it Dec. 26 - the same day the developers applied for the extension. Their appeal asks an administrative law judge to strike down IDEM’s decision and declare that the permit has expired.
“IDEM’s hasty same-day approval demonstrates that our environmental agency merely rubber stamps requests they receive from industry,” she said in a statement.
The groups’ appeal also contends IDEM did not provide a required justification for extending the permit, which will expire June 27 if construction work on the plant does not begin by that date.
He said that while the agency approved the permit extension hours after Indiana Gasification formally requested it, the developers had contacted IDEM about extending its construction permit within a day of the Indiana Supreme Court’s Dec. 17 ruling upholding the company’s state contract with the Indiana Finance Authority.
That 30-year contract requires Indiana to buy the synthetic natural gas the plant would produce at its planned site in the Ohio River town of Rockport, purchasing it at a fixed price and then reselling the gas on the open market.
The plant’s supporters have said it would be a boon for Indiana’s coal mining industry and would bring new jobs. Opponents maintain the plant would saddle Indiana utility customers with as much as $1.1 billion in higher natural gas rates.