- Associated Press - Thursday, April 9, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The Indiana Court of Appeals has issued a ruling that could hinder a public utility’s $1.2 billion electric modernization plan.

The court determined Wednesday that the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission made several errors in approving Northern Indiana Public Service Co.’s plan in February 2014. The (Munster) Times (http://bit.ly/1yfIc8L ) reports the court ruled that the commission didn’t provide industrial customers with enough detail on the projects to approve special charges to pay for them.

NIPSCO has estimated funding for the $1.2 billion in improvements will come in the form of yearly rate increases totaling 4.9 percent by 2020.

The utility said it’s still trying to figure out how the ruling will affect both the improvements and customer charges, some of which already have been collected. Parties can still appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court.

“The projects we’ve identified are necessary in modernizing our system for the future,” NIPSCO said in an email. “The level of detail the Court of Appeals has requested is available, and we are confident it supports our 7-year plan.”

The commission will have to reconsider the NIPSCO orders and perhaps reopen the case. Its orders were challenged by the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor as well as some of the utility’s biggest industrial customers, including BP Products North America and ArcelorMittal USA.

Jennifer Terry, an attorney with the law firm representing companies challenging the commission’s orders, said the group might ask the commission to order NIPSCO to refund customer charges.

NIPSCO was the state’s first utility to bring its electric modernization plan to the commission under an Indiana law passed in 2013. The commission has also approved an $800 million gas modernization for NIPSCO and a similar request from Vectren for a $650 million program. Duke Energy has a $2 billion electric modernization plan being considered by the commission.

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Information from: The Times, http://www.thetimesonline.com

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