New coal-plant bill emerges in Senate

? A new bill allowing two coal-fired power plants in southwest Kansas emerged Wednesday in the Senate, and legislators prepared for another round of debate on energy policy.

The Senate bill, like a House bill drafted last week, would permit Sunflower Electric Power Corp. to build the two plants outside Holcomb, in Finney County. It also would strip power from the secretary of health and environment, who has blocked that $3.6 billion project since October.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius vetoed a similar measure last month. Supporters of Sunflower’s project are hoping to find enough votes to override her veto but also are working on alternatives if they can’t.

Their problem is in the House, where they still appear short of the two-thirds majority necessary to override a veto, although legislators described the situation as fluid.

The Senate Utilities Committee endorsed its chamber’s new bill on a 7-1 vote, setting up a debate by the chamber, scheduled for today.

The House also expects to consider its bill today.

And Senate President Steve Morris, a Hugoton Republican who supports Sunflower’s project, said his chamber could attempt Friday to override the governor’s veto.

The House’s debate on its bill will tell its leaders whether a bill can pass with the elusive two-thirds majority. Senate passage of its bill would give the House another measure with which to work. Overriding the veto in the Senate would clear the way for a House vote within 30 days.