Photo: Joe Gratz (Flickr)
The Indiana Court of Appeals is pondering whether utility regulators have the right to change their minds about a rate hike.
Duke Energy won permission for a phased-in rate hike to offset the costs of cleaning up after a windstorm and ice storm four months apart. That approval was on appeal when news broke that the hearing officer in the rate case, Scott Storms, had been negotiating the terms of a job offer with Duke at the time.
Regulators held a second hearing and reversed the ruling. Duke attorney Jon Laramore notes the panel never found there was undue influence in the first hearing.
Judge Michael Barnes suggests some level of influence is inevitable in the presentation of the case and conduct of the hearing — Laramore argues whatever the commission‘s concern, the panel is obligated under the rule of law to spell out the reasons for its about-face.
The court questioned Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission lawyers just as sharply about the lack of an explanation.