Despite all the Gannett-induced drama, The Indianapolis Star still has some mighty fine reporters. We must
concur with the Society of Professional Journalists' naming John Russell
Russellthe Indiana Journalist of the Year. Through dogged persistence and
deft use of the state public information laws, Russell was able to identify an
all-too-cozy relationship between Duke Energy
Energyofficials engaged in a multi-billion dollar coal gasification plant
in Edwardsport and the state officials charged with oversight of the project.
The story began when a Star
editor received a Citizens Action Coalition
Action Coalitionnews release decrying Duke's hiring of Scott Storms, an
administrative law judge and general counsel at the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission
Utility Regulatory Commission. The editor told Russell, whose regular beat
had nothing to do with utilities, that the story merited a little digging.
Twenty-three open-records requests later, with enough
damning email to make even the most jaded and duplicitous executive blush, The Star was able to print what Russell
calls "my favorite headline in 26 years of journalism — 'Scandal
Topples Duke Executive.' "
Of course the kerfuffle resulted in other firings and
reassignments at Duke and within state government, plus the recent indictment
of former IURC Chair David Lott Hardy.
The story's not over yet. The Edwardsport project continues
and Duke would like to bill consumers for its more than $1 billion in cost
overruns. Thankfully, Russell is still on the case.
In other energy-related news, when the Indiana General Assembly
General Assemblywasn't otherwise consumed with right-to-work drama in the
2011 legislative session, it got so bold as to pass a voluntary renewable energy standard
renewable energy standard. Between that and new federal rules tightening
emissions standards on coal-fired power plants, perhaps Indiana's reputation
for having some of the nation's dirtiest air will change in the next 50 years
or so. Meanwhile, as we nurse our kids through their asthma attacks,we can console them with the reassuring
knowledge that at least we have some of the cheapest electric bills in the