Lawrence legislator upset over deal between KSU-Sunflower plant developers

? State Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said Monday an incentive offered by Sunflower Electric Power Corp. and announced during debate on a bill sought by the company “kind of smells.”

Sunflower Electric has been lobbying for a bill that would allow it to build two coal-fired power plants in southwest Kansas.

Near the end of debate in the House on a bill that would allow the plants, House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, told lawmakers about a memorandum of understanding between Sunflower Electric and Kansas State University.

Under the proposal, Neufeld said, Sunflower Electric will commit to KSU at least $250,000 a year for 10 years for research on bioscience, energy and conservation.

But there’s a catch.

If the Kansas Department of Health and Environment doesn’t approve Sunflower Electric’s permit to build the plants by June 1, the deal is off.

“We will lose that financing,” Neufeld said.

Davis, who opposed the bill, said the offer was inappropriate.

“I think it’s in poor taste to dangle a contribution to a state university in front of the state Legislature on the eve of a debate on a major bill like this, and then to also say, ‘If you don’t pass the bill I want, we are not going to make this contribution,'” Davis said.

But Steve Miller, a spokesman for Sunflower Electric, said there was nothing inappropriate about the memorandum of understanding.

Miller said if legislation allowing the plants to be built isn’t passed, then Sunflower would not have the money to invest in the bioenergy center.

“If we don’t have a deal, we can’t proceed. It’s that simple,” he said.