In an update from Jasper City outside attorney Bill Kaiser with Bingham Greenebaum and Doll, the Utility Service Board was told Monday night that Healthy Dubois County has proposed an out-of-court settlement with the City of Jasper on the Power Plant conversion to burn Miscanthus grass and natural gas to generate electricity.
The lawsuit and proceedings have been on-going for two years with the filing of the lawsuit by Healthy Dubois County the day that the Utility Service Board and Jasper City Council voted to move ahead with the conversion of the idle Jasper Power plant to burn biomass as a fuel source.
The lawsuit was tried in Perry County and was decided in favor of the City of Jasper by Judge Lucy Goffinet. Then, Healthy Dubois County appealed and won a re-hearing of the trial. Now the proceedings are moving forward for a January trial in Dubois County with Judge Sherry Gregg-Gilmore presiding.
Whether it is due to mounting legal costs or a way to help further their cause, Healthy Dubois County is willing to settle the suit. Kaiser tells what the settlement proposal contains:
Utility Service Board President Wayne Schuetter asked for a motion to categorically reject the settlement proposal. It was made by Ken Sendelweck, seconded by Alex Emmons and passed by the board with NO nay votes.
Next, the board gave Kaiser the approval to pursue a settlement of their own:
Any settlement agreement would have to be approved by the City Council.
The Dubois County Free Press is reporting that Dr. Kreilein with Healthy Dubois County has responded to questions about the settlement offer made to the City of Jasper, which was read at the Utility Service Board Meeting last night.
Dr. Kreilein was asked why Healthy Dubois County decided to try to offer a settlement. Her answer includes these statements:
“Healthy Dubois County’s actions and message have always been consistent with the primary motives to promote government transparency, to fully inform the public, and to protect the health of area residents, not only Jasper citizens. Local media have consistently omitted critical aspects of the plant’s risk: for the local and national government supporting it financially, the farmers at risk for growing such an expensive crop, and the inescapable harm to the public from ultra fine particulates added to the current burden of pollution from other sources. From August through December of 2011, HDC was denied discovery, amendment, and continuance; the City of Jasper’s legal arguments and the trial judge’s conclusions in the first trial were found to be categorically inappropriate and illegal by the Indiana Court of Appeals. Those tactics continue in this trial as HDC still has not received a single e-mail or meeting notes despite Mr. Kaiser assuring publicly in November of 2012 that the city was going to cooperate with discovery and prepare for trial.”
When asked if she would be open to negotiating a settlement with the City, Kreilein responded:
“We look forward to a solution that will benefit citizens and hope that this is possible; it remains to be seen whether the established pattern of “volunteer group” unnoticed meetings and blatantly ignoring scientifically documented concerns changes. Our group represents educated and concerned citizens that have been validated by the scientific community, the Indiana Court of Appeals, and the Indiana Utility Ratepayers Trust. City officials, particularly Mr. Schuetter, have to date deliberately avoided effective, respectful dialogue, choosing to have citizens believe that such a “pillar of death” in the community, as described by Dr. Avery in his recent letter to the editor, is not only necessary but beneficial.”