Topeka Supporters of the rejected coal-fired power plants in western Kansas now are accusing Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of helping Iran, Venezuela and Russia.
"Why are these men smiling?" the full-page ad asks below photos of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"Because the recent decision by the Sebelius Administration means Kansas will import more natural gas from countries like Russia, Venezuela and Iran," the ad states.
The ad, partially funded by Sunflower Electric Power Corp. and Peabody Coal Co., appeared in newspapers statewide Monday.
Sebelius denounced the ad, describing it as "over-the-top nonsense."
She added, "Anyone who would associate our state with the controversial and disreputable world leaders pictured in this ad fundamentally misunderstands and disrespects the people of Kansas.
"The ad is offensive to every Kansan, and the people of Kansas deserve an apology."
The ads were launched by a newly formed group called Kansans for Affordable Energy.
Bob Kreutzer, a Garden City businessman who helped start the group, said the ads were meant to provide the public with information about Sunflower's proposal.
Without more coal-generated electric power, Kansas and the United States will be forced to rely on shrinking reserves of natural gas, and eventually have to import the fuel from hostile countries, the ad states.
"We need a balance" of energy sources, Kreutzer said.
Sunflower proposed building two 700-megawatt coal-burning power plants near Holcomb.
Last month, Kansas Department of Health and Energy Secretary Roderick Bremby denied permits for the plants, citing health and environmental concerns associated with carbon dioxide emissions.
Sebelius has supported the decision, but many western Kansas officials have said Bremby's order was unfair because there are neither state nor national regulations on carbon dioxide emissions.
Since the decision, Chesapeake Energy, an Oklahoma City natural gas company, has launched an advertising campaign criticizing coal as unhealthy and harmful to the environment.
Kreutzer said the pro-coal ad campaign was designed to combat the ads from the natural gas company.
He conceded linking Sebelius to the likes of Ahmadinejad may have been "a little bit extreme." But, he said, he signed onto the ad because last year Sebelius met with western Kansas leaders in Garden City and assured them she would not oppose the Sunflower plants.
"The governor directly looked at us and said, 'I will not oppose that power plant,'" Kreutzer said. He said the meeting occurred before the November election, in which Sebelius was re-elected to a second term.
But Sebelius has a different recollection of that meeting.
She said the meeting was at the start of the hearing process on the plants' permits.
"I told them that the intent was to gather information, and not intended to derail the plants," Sebelius said.
She said during the time since that meeting, she became convinced the proposal was not in Kansas' best interest.