Pine, Francisco split on coal-plant vote

? Lawrence’s state senators on Monday split over a committee-approved bill that would allow two coal-burning power plants and restrict the state from preventing even more plants.

Roger Pine, a Republican, voted for the bill, while Marci Francisco, a Democrat, was against it.

The measure was endorsed by the Senate Utilities Committee, 6-2, and is headed for a full Senate vote later this week.

The bill would allow construction of two 700-megawatt coal-fired plants that had been rejected by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ administration because of concerns about global warming carbon dioxide emissions.

The bill also would limit the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s ability to deny permits for other coal-burning plants.

And the committee removed earlier provisions that would have established guidelines to limit CO2 emissions.

“This allows coal plants to be built whether or not they meet any limits,” said Francisco in explaining her vote against the legislation, which was folded into an unrelated measure, House Bill 2066.

Francisco said she had wanted both the Senate and House committees to take more time studying issues surrounding energy policy. “The process that has gone on so far, with regard to these bills, I don’t think is going to get us there,” she said.

But Pine said he liked the bill. “I do not believe that we can supply the needs of our citizenry without having some coal-fired plants in the future,” he said.

He said he had confidence in Hays-based Sunflower Electric Power Corp. to build the plants and invest in renewable energy and new technologies to offset CO2.

He said his support of the project may run counter to some in Lawrence who oppose the plants, which would be built in southwestern Kansas. The Lawrence City Commission has officially come out against the proposal.

“In my mind, if the folks in Garden City had told the city of Lawrence what they should do, and the shoe was on the other foot, they might not have been as impressed,” Pine said.