Kansas House rejects tax on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants

One day after the House advanced an unprecedented tax on carbon dioxide emissions, the proposal failed 51-74.

State Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, a supporter of the proposal, said it would have provided an incentive to clean up coal-fired power plants.

But opponents said the measure was a thinly disguised attempt to punish those who have been opposed to permitting two coal-burning plants in western Kansas.

The way the carbon tax amendment was written it would have applied only to power plants in eastern Kansas, they said.

“There is a way to make Kansas greener without punishing ratepayers in certain parts of the state,” said state Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence.

Several other legislators rejected the proposal, saying such a sweeping policy decision needed to be considered in public hearings and committee meetings before being sprung on the full House.

The amendment by state Rep. Clay Aurand, R-Courtland, called for a tax of $37 per ton of CO2 emissions at power plants that are in excess of 110 percent of the statewide average per megawatt hour. Revenue collected would then be used as a tax credit for the utility with the lowest carbon dioxide emissions.

The measure came up as the Legislature wrestles over the proposed two 700-megawatt units near Holcomb.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ administration has rejected the plants because of concerns about the project’s annual emission of 11 million tons of CO2 and its affect on climate change.

Lawmakers approved a bill that would allow the plants, but Sebelius vetoed the measure.

Here is how area House members voted on Senate Bill 471, which included a House amendment to impose a tax on carbon dioxide emissions:

Voting against the proposal: Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence; Paul Davis, D-Lawrence; Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City; and Ann Mah, D-Topeka.

Voting for the proposal: Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence; Lee Tafanelli, R-Ozawkie; and Kenny Wilk, R-Lansing.