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Indiana utility regulators launch investigation into Duke cases

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission today launched an internal investigation of cases over which a former commission attorney, who later took a job with Duke Energy Corp., presided.

Charlotte-based Duke said the investigation involves cases spanning from Jan. 1 to Sept. 30 over which Scott Storms presided.

The news comes after Duke said Tuesday it was reviewing e-mails featured in a news story about the Indiana president of Duke and a former lawyer for the commission.

The e-mails were part of a story by the Indianapolis Star that looked at e-mails between President Michael Reed and Storms.

Last week, Duke placed Storms and Reed on administrative leave. Duke, in a press release Tuesday, said it has hired the law firm Gibson Dunn and Crutcher to investigate the “company’s actions related to these matters.”

The commission also plans to audit all Edwardsport coal gasification plant cases dating back to 2006. The Duke plant is under construction in Edwardsport, Ind.

The commission has also asked Duke President and CEO Jim Rogers to appear at a Nov. 3 “technical conference” to explain the need for the Edwardsport plant.

Rogers said he will attend the Nov. 3 event.

“We understand the state’s actions and recognize the need to ensure public trust,” he said. “This has my full attention.”

Duke has reached a settlement with consumer groups that capped the Edwardsport project’s costs at $2.97 billion. Duke’s current cost estimate is $2.88 billion. The settlement lowers the customer rate impact from an overall average 19 percent to 16 percent by 2013, Duke said, adding that the average residential rate increase will be a total of 14 percent by 2013. The settlement case was filed with the commission Sept. 17 and is pending. A hearing for the settlement case is scheduled for Nov. 29.

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