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Gov. Pence lets energy program expire without signing bill
By John Russell / indystar.com

A 2-year-old program designed to cut energy consumption in Indiana homes, schools and businesses will end Dec. 31 without Gov. Mike Pence's signature.

In a statement issued shortly after 8 p.m. today, Pence said he had mixed feelings on the bill but would allow it to become law without his signature. That means he neither signed or vetoed the measure, but will let it take effect anyway.

Senate Bill 340 will shut down the Energizing Indiana program, under which energy auditors­ visit homes and businesses and recommend ways to reduce energy consumption. Typical recommendations include switching to energy-efficient light bulbs, wrapping pipes in insulation, turning down the temperature on water heaters and getting rid of old, energy-gobbling refrigerators.

The decision will remove Indiana from the ranks of 26 states that require utilities to offer programs that reduce energy use, part of a growing national effort to reduce electricity demand, lower prices and cut carbon emissions.

Both houses of the General Assembly passed the bill by wide margins.

Pence said he supported the goals of energy efficiency, and he called on the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to immediately begin developing recommendations for a new program that would provide an opt-out for large electricity consumers, such as steel mills, which have paid millions of dollars a year into the program.

But Pence said he could not veto the bill, "because doing so would increase the cost of utilities for Hoosier ratepayers and make Indiana less competitive by denying relief to large electricity consumers, including our state's manufacturing base.

The program was launched in 2012, a few years after it was approved by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission with the support of then-Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Many manufacturers and utility supported the bill to end the program. Environmental and consumer groups opposed it.

"This is a very dark day for the ratepayers of Indiana and a crushing blow to our state's economy," said Kerwin Olson, executive director of Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana.

The Sierra Club said the decision makes Indiana the first state in the nation to roll back its energy savings goals.

Pence said he was disappointed the legislature chose to eliminate the energy efficiency program without offering an alternative. He said he has informed leaders of the General Assembly of his intention to bring energy efficiency legislation back next year for consideration.

Call Star reporter John Russell at (317) 444-6283. Follow him on Twitter: @johnrussell99.

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Gov. Pence lets energy program expire without signing bill