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Indiana Court of Appeals Rejects Deal Between State, Coal Gasification Plant

The Indiana Court of Appeals has thrown out a deal between the Indiana Finance Authority and a company that wants to sell synthetic gas to the state's utility customers.From The Associated Press: The court ruled Tuesday that the deal should not include certain industrial customers, so the Finance Authority and Indiana Gasification must amend the contract and seek new approval by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. Finance Authority attorney Andrew Kienle says it hopes to get a new deal done by the end of the year. Indiana Gasification spokesman Mike Murphy says the company believes the ruling clears the way for its proposed coal-gasification plant in Rockport. Consumer attorney Jerry Polk predicts more fighting over the deal. His clients oppose the deal.I reported on this plant earlier this year, when the public comment period ended in January. At the time, experts were conflicted about using coal to create synthetic gas. Industry experts say coal gasification is a viable technology, and a way to use coal in a cleaner—and sometimes more versatile—way. Jim Neathery of UK’s Center for Applied Energy Research says the technology has been available for decades. He says sometimes it makes sense to convert coal to gas, because people use gas to heat their homes, and the infrastructure already exists to transport the fuel. “It makes a lot more in sense in terms of the environment too,” he said. “You’re able to clean the coal while you’re converting it to get a natural gas that meets standards of any home in the United States by gasifying it.”But environmental groups say using coal to create synthetic gas still releases excess carbon dioxide, and thus isn't good for the environment. And with low natural gas prices, the economic question is whether it's a better investment to build a natural gas plant or spend billions to build a plant to create synthetic gas.

Erica Peterson is WFPL's Director of News and Programming.