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Charlotte Area News

Duke-Related Decisions In Indiana Will Stand, Despite Ethics Scandal

Duke Energy is under investigation for romancing - and ultimately hiring - a top attorney from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission who was simultaneously presiding over decisions in Duke's favor. But an internal review of those decisions released yesterday by the utility commission found few red flags. The concern has been that attorney Scott Storms was biased in his rulings regarding Duke Energy because he was trying to get a job with the company. Published emails show him persistently wooing - and being wooed by - Duke Energy and plotting to make sure the state's ethics commission gave him a green light to pass quickly through the revolving door from regulator to regulated. So the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission reviewed every Duke Energy decision Storms presided over in the last year and says it found no evidence of undue influence. The decisions will stand, with one minor exception: A case involving storm damage to Duke equipment has already been appealed and will be reopened. But Storms - and Duke Energy - aren't entirely off the hook. The Indiana Inspector General is conducting an investigation into whether any ethical standards were breached. And the scandal has brought new scrutiny to a nearly $3 billion coal-fired power plant Duke Energy is building in Indiana. Duke wants to pass part of that cost on to ratepayers, but state regulators now want to more proof the plant is necessary and that ratepayers are getting a good deal. A hearing is set for Monday.