Coal plant supporters hoping for override

Senate rolls back veto, but House may not go along

? Supporters of two coal-fired power plants on Thursday tried to maneuver around Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ rejection of the $3.6 billion project.

The Senate voted to override Sebelius’ veto of a bill requiring construction of the two 700-megawatt plants in southwest Kansas.

But the Senate also needs the House to get a two-thirds majority to override the veto, and the prospect of that happening is unclear.

After the 32-7 vote to override in the Senate, Sebelius urged House members who voted against the original bill “to work to support my veto.”

She added, “I remain hopeful that discussions about sound, long-term energy policy will still occur with utility companies and legislators before the end of the (legislative) session.”

But House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, a strong supporter of the plants, said he believed he was getting near the 84 votes he needed in the 125-member House to override Sebelius’ veto.

On Thursday, the House gave first-round approval to a similar bill, in a 79-39 vote, and even though that was short of a two-thirds majority, Neufeld said he believed there would be 84 votes for the measure on final passage today. “Unless somebody has lied to me,” Neufeld said. If Neufeld is right, then that would be enough votes to override an expected veto of that bill.

But state Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, sounded doubtful. “Melvin’s been saying he has 84 votes for two months,” he said.

The maneuvering is in response to a decision last year by the Sebelius administration to deny permits for the project, citing concerns over the plants’ projected annual emissions of 11 million tons of carbon dioxide and their effect on climate change.

Sebelius has also said that because of the increasing cost of coal, and possible federal regulation of CO2, the use of coal-fired generation will result in increased electric rates. The measures would also strip the state of authority that was cited to reject the project.

Familiar arguments were made both for and against the plants during debate.

Several House members rejected that CO2 emissions were linked to climate change. Others said the state acted without authority in denying the plants because there are no regulations on carbon dioxide.

And some lawmakers said they resented lawmakers from outside western Kansas trying to deny economic benefits to western Kansas.

In the Senate, the veto override was done without comment. Sen. Roger Pine, R-Lawrence, voted to override, and Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, voted to support the veto.