City of Indianapolis wants to charge customers for project totally unrelated to electricity production

August 5, 2014 Cherrish Pryor

For immediate release:
Aug. 5, 2014


INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana State Rep. Cherrish Pryor (D-Indianapolis) today issued the following op-ed column:

When the name BlueIndy first came on our radar screens, it sure sounded good.

Electric cars. Ride sharing. A cleaner environment. Reduced dependence on foreign oil. Improved transit.

What’s not to like?

Quite a bit, as a matter of fact. The speed and stealth with which the City of Indianapolis has moved in trying to get this project off the ground has proven to be an effort to mask some serious problems with the way this project is being financed and its implications for utility ratepayers in Central Indiana.

According to documents filed with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), the City of Indianapolis wants the Indianapolis Power & Light Company (IPL) to add a charge on your electric bill to pay for BlueIndy and the group behind it, a private French company called Bolloré Group.

Electric ratepayers are being asked to pay for electric cars…something that has absolutely nothing to do with delivering safe, affordable and reliable electricity.

Utilities are essential needs. Ratepayers should pay for utility service and investments that solely benefit the utility system. You pay for what you use.

This request does not meet that standard. The only standard it does meet is defining greed. It is corporate welfare in its purest form.

I cannot recall a time when a unit of government has sought an increase on a utility bill for the sole purpose of paying the freight for a private project sought by a private company. Approving this concept would set a precedent in which all utilities could be subject to increases for all types of projects that have nothing to do with providing service to the people who pay for them. In testimony filed with the IURC, city officials already have said they would seek similar increases for other projects if they get state approval for BlueIndy.

Now, the project itself sounds like something worth considering. I am not opposed to the idea here, but I am very much against the taxing of hard-working Hoosiers to pay for it.

As elected officials, it is our job to look out for taxpayers, ratepayers, constituents, and the people. This latest move by the City of Indianapolis falls short of that.

In fact, the city’s conduct through much of this effort has fallen short of public expectations. Officials provided no feasibility study, market analysis, cost-benefit analysis, or analysis of savings to ratepayers. In fact, they tried to get state approval with as little public input as possible.

Ratepayers are being asked to provide their hard-earned dollars for a program that city officials “feel” might be successful. In testimony to the IURC, those officials make it clear they aren’t sure it will be successful. If it is not successful, ratepayers will be on the hook for more than $16 million.

If it does turn out to be a success, ratepayers will see no benefits. According to documents, Bolloré will receive 85 percent of any profits, while the city will get 10 percent and IPL 5 percent.

And don’t forget that this proposed increase will impact all IPL ratepayers, including those who live outside Marion County. Forcing a captive group of citizens to pay for a service they will never use is unconscionable. It is taxation without representation.

Blindly asking for a tax increase for an unproven system that would lead to added increases on utility bills is not the message that government should be sending to its citizens.

Despite the city’s best efforts to get this tax increase approved without public comment, I was able to work with the Office of the Utility Consumer Counselor and the Citizens Action Coalition to get a public hearing on the request.

The hearing will begin at 6 p.m. next Wednesday (August 13) in the auditorium of the Crispus Attucks Medical Magnet High School, located at 1140 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Street. Prior to that hearing, there will be an informational session starting at 5:30 p.m. I encourage everyone to come and take part.

If this project is valid, then the responsibility for proving that fact should fall upon the developer and the unit of government that finds it worthy of consideration. It should not be done on the backs of families who have enough problems paying their monthly utility bills.