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Opinion

Opinion

Concern for health drove coal-plant decision

October 27, 2007

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An open letter to the people of Kansas:

Of all the duties and responsibilities entrusted to me as governor, none is greater than my obligation to protect the health and well-being of the people of Kansas. And that is why, after months of careful study and consideration, I support the recent decision of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment regarding Kansas' energy future.

This decision will not only preserve Kansans' health and uphold our moral obligation to be good stewards of this beautiful land, but will also enhance our prospects for strong and sustainable economic growth throughout our state. Instead of building two new coal plants, which would produce 11 million new tons of carbon dioxide each year, I support pursuing other, more promising energy and economic development alternatives. Kansas has great opportunities in clean energy and alternative fuels.

Kansas' reliance on coal

Throughout the nation, about 50 percent of electric power is provided by coal. In Kansas, almost 75 percent of our electricity comes from coal, and we are currently 10th in the country for per capita production of greenhouse gas from electric plants. Right now, "clean coal" is a goal, but not a reality. While there is a lot of research under way to capture carbon, or to find ways to clean carbon from the atmosphere, none have yet proven to be successful.

We now know that carbon has a huge impact on the atmosphere, and global warming is very real. In a state like Kansas, where more than 20 percent of our jobs and economy involves agriculture and the land, changes in the climate and atmosphere can be devastating. Less water and hotter temperatures will result in fewer crops and less production, and that affects our state, the country and the world.

Our economy also depends on reliable, affordable electricity for all Kansans. We have solid Kansas utility companies, including Sunflower, which have provided affordable electricity to customers for decades. Recently the Kansas utilities have agreed to be partners on developing alternative energy production, maximizing our wind assets. And they will be leaders in energy efficiency and conservation efforts, so we can lower our overall energy consumption without sacrificing economic growth.

In 2001 Sunflower Electric Cooperative applied for an air quality permit for a single 600-megawatt coal-fired power plant. The permit was granted by the previous administration, but the company chose to delay their building plans, and the permit expired.

Then, in 2006, a new application was filed for a far larger project. Sunflower proposed to build three new coal plants, far exceeding the needs of Kansas customers. During the process, Sunflower withdrew the application for one of the plants. Still only 15 percent of the energy produced in the remaining two plants would be used in Kansas; the remaining 85 percent would be sold to Colorado and Texas. So Kansans would have 15 percent of the energy and 100 percent of the pollution and environmental impact of 11 million new tons of CO2 each year. That is the equivalent of putting nearly two million new cars on Kansas roads in one year.

Threat of carbon dioxide

During the last several months, extended study and careful deliberation has been under way by the Department of Health and Environment, trying to determine the impact of this project on the health and well-being of our citizens.

Throughout the nation, there is a growing recognition of the harm caused by carbon. In April, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the EPA to determine the effects of carbon, and stated that the agency had the authority to impose regulations. Internationally renowned scientists produced further evidence this spring of the connection between global warming and carbon in the atmosphere. More than a dozen states, including Oklahoma, Florida and Texas, have decided, in the last 18 months, not to build new coal plants.

Expense of coal

The other issue looming on the horizon is the very likely probability that coal will become a lot more expensive in the next few years. There is growing pressure for the federal government to develop national standards for carbon emissions, like countries throughout Europe and South America. Many states have already begun that process.

Legislation has been recently introduced in Congress to tax the production of carbon, if that policy is adopted, utility companies and their customers will pay far more for energy that produces carbon, and to spend billions on equipment to clean the atmosphere as thoroughly as possible. Building additional coal plants now is likely to create a significant economic liability for Kansas in the future.

Renewable energy developed and produced here in Kansas uses far less water, a precious natural resource, and produces permanent jobs for Kansans.

Protecting citizens

Several years ago, in a different office, I faced another tough decision. When I was insurance commissioner, the executives and board of directors of Kansas Blue Cross Blue Shield asked me to approve a takeover of the company by an out-of-state insurance company.

After careful study, listening to hundreds of Kansans and looking at the facts, I determined Kansans would be better served by our company, with our directors, owned and operated in Kansas. I made that decision looking out for the health and well-being of the citizens of Kansas who elected me to serve.

This is a similarly tough decision. I am pleased with the careful and extended study of the Department of Health and Environment under the leadership of Secretary Rod Bremby. They have thoroughly analyzed a complex application, and kept the health and well-being of Kansans as the goal.

I am encouraged by this decision and am confident it protects the citizens of our great state.

We will continue to work aggressively for jobs and economic opportunities for western Kansas. We are committed to achieving growth, but we must make smart choices about the future. This project was sited in western Kansas, but its impact was not confined to one part of our state; it's a decision that affects our entire state and nation. It is critical that our efforts with energy production protect the safety and security of Kansans while pursuing economic opportunities, wherever they may be. This is a decision about all of us - today - and into the future.

Comments

Richard Heckler 6 years, 9 months ago

A smart decision by Rod Bremby and Governor Sebelius. Alternative energy has the potential of spreading new economic growth throughout western Kansas rather than concentrating economic growth to Holcomb. Health and smarter economic growth are a team.

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average 6 years, 9 months ago

While I'm in no way in favor of the Sunflower proposal (I'd prefer modern nukes somewhere with steady water, along with all the wind we can get), the decision is lousy. There has to be a number, either total CO2 from a new point-source or emissions per kWh delivered to Kansans. No firm line will mean lawsuits from here to eternity, and not just with Sunflower. A gut judgement call is a cop saying, "I think you were going too fast" with no radar gun and no speed limit.

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JSpizias 6 years, 9 months ago

The governor should learn a little bit more about energy before beginning her crusade to revolutionize energy utilization in Kansas. This decision was purely political and had little to do with either economic or public health. This is a pure political play to the East and West coast leaders of the Democratic party for higher office. It has very little to do with the health of the Kansas economy or Kansans. In a recent paper entitled "Thermodynamics of Energy Production from Biomass", Patzek and Pimentel, two of the country's leading experts in energy production and utilization make the following statement:

petroleum.berkeley.edu/papers/patzek/CRPS-BiomassPaper.pdf "We want to be very clear: solar cells, wind turbines, and biomass-for-energy plantations can never replace even a small fraction of the highly reliable, 24-hours a day, 365-days a year, nuclear, fossil, and hydroelectric power stations. Claims to the contrary are popular but irresponsible".

So much for Sebelius claim that the Kansas economy can be driven by alternative sources of energy. Moreover, two recent studies, one by a distinguished professor of economics at Yale (William Nordhaus) and Roger Pielke Jr., a climate researcher and science policy expert at Colorado University, have just recently published peer reviewed papers published in Science (13 July, 2007) and Global Environmental Change (vol 17, pp 302-310, 2007) respectively, showing that The Stern Report on Climate change, the bible of the climate catastrophizers, vastly overstates the predicted economic damage due to "global warming". Take a look for yourself-don't listen to the "facts" you are fed by the media.

http://nordhaus.econ.yale.edu/biosketch.htm http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/about_us/meet_us/roger_pielke/index.html

Part of Sebelius supposed justification for her decision (through her appointee) is the "damage" that would be done to our farm economy by "global warmiing" if we continue to produce CO2. Yet Sebelius is apparently a strong supporter of producing ethanol from corn. This process produces huge amounts of CO2, uses a great amount of scarce water, and produces liittle if any net energy.

To repeat, it ain't got nothing to do with Kansas health; it has everything to do will Sebelius' political aspirations.

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yankeelady 6 years, 9 months ago

There have also been coal plants denied in Montana and Texas. Why should we have to keep on with big coal business as usual? Maybe they should concentrate on implementing cleaner technology. Even most of the deniers are coming to recognize that we have a major impact on global climate, and a major problem. One less coal plant is a step in the right direction.

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etsi_truss 6 years, 9 months ago

Sierra Club moves to STOP KCP&L from constructing Iatan II

ABOUT FACE MR. POPE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kansas City, Mo.)--In a groundbreaking agreement that can serve as a model for environmental groups and utilities working together, the Sierra Club, Kansas City Power & Light (KCP&L), and the Concerned Citizens of Platte County (CCPC) have agreed on a set of initiatives to offset carbon dioxide (CO2) and reduce other emissions for the Kansas City-based utility. Under the agreement announced today, KCP&L agrees to pursue offsets for all of the global warming emissions associated with its new plant through significant investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy, and cut pollution from its existing plants in order to improve air quality in the Greater Kansas City metro area. The agreement proposes other investments in clean energy, significant decreases in emissions and resolves four appeals pending between the Sierra Club, CCPC, and KCP&L. Full implementation of the terms of the agreement will necessitate approval from the appropriate authorities, as some of the initiatives in this agreement require either enabling legislative policy or regulatory approval.

"This agreement is a win for our climate, for the environment, and for the residents of the Kansas City area," said Carl Pope, Sierra Club Executive Director. "

http://www.kcpl.com/brochures/ResWire_Winter06.pdf

I guess Sunflower hasn't greased enough palms yet!!!!!!!!!!!

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fetch 6 years, 9 months ago

I think Spizias has a very good point which many people have not considered.

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lounger 6 years, 9 months ago

Some of the smartest words I have ever heard from a Kansas Governor. Good Job Mrs. S.!

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Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 6 years, 9 months ago

Bull! This has nothing to do with the little guy. Sebelius flipped to do a CHerA with the national Democratic Party. Hard to be a national star when you've sold every principle the party has to the highest bidder. Now how to figure out how to keep her from screwing the poor out of health care in Wyandotte County.

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JSpizias 6 years, 8 months ago

Babboy: Nope-I am not a lobbyist. I am a scientist with a graduate degree and extensive training in chemistry and physics. I ran a funded research lab for over 30 years and served as a consultant to the US government evaluating research grant proposals for 8 years. More recently, I have read, and continue to read, the scientific literature regarding climate change, and its possible relationship to CO2 and other greenhouse gases (Did you know that water vapor constitutes ~95% of these "greenhouse" gases?). http://mysite.verizon.net/mhieb/WVFossils/greenhouse_data.html I am concerned at the irrational hyperbole and other predictions of global catastrophe unless we cut drastically (50% or more) our CO2 emissions, and the dire consequences to our health and economy if we pursue this goal. I am also concerned about zealots like the one that wrote the memo below, and others. We do not need a holy war-we have enough of them already.

Marlo

You are so full of cr*p.

You have been proven wrong. The entire world has proven you wrong. You are the last guy on Earth to get it. Take this warning from me, Marlo. It is my intention to destroy your career as a liar. If you produce one more editorial against climate change, I will launch a campaign against your professional integrity. I will call you a liar and charlatan to the Harvard community of which you and I are members. I will call you out as a man who has been bought by Corporate America. Go ahead, guy. Take me on. Mike Michael T. Eckhart President American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE)

RFK Jr. Lashes out at skeptics of global warming: 'This is treason. And we need to start treating them as traitors' (July 8, 2007) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Heku9oTLysg Excerpt: "Get rid of all these rotten politicians that we have in Washington, who are nothing more than corporate toadies," said Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the environmentalist author, president of Waterkeeper Alliance and Robert F. Kennedy's son, who grew hoarse from shouting. "This is treason. And we need to start treating them as traitors.

http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=PressRoom.Facts&ContentRecord_id=A4017645-DE27-43D7-8C37-8FF923FD73F8%20 NUREMBERG-STYLE TRIALS PROPOSED FOR GLOBAL WARMING SKEPTICS (October 11, 2006) Excerpt: Grist Magazine's staff writer David Roberts called for the Nuremberg-style trials for the "bastards" who were members of what he termed the global warming "denial industry."

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