Archive for Tuesday, February 19, 2008

House advances bill to allow coal plants

Plan fails to gain enough votes to withstand veto

February 19, 2008


Coal plant approval halfway through House

A bill allowing two coal-fired power plants in southwest Kansas wins first-round approval in the House. Enlarge video

— The Kansas House on Monday gave preliminary approval to a bill allowing two coal-burning power plants but failed to muster enough votes to make it veto-proof.

"We'll just have to see what's needed to make it work," said House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls. A final vote is scheduled for today.

Last year, Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Roderick Bremby rejected the two 700-megawatt plants in western Kansas, citing concerns about the project's 11 million tons per year of carbon dioxide emissions and global warming.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has supported Bremby's decision and has been highly critical of House and Senate bills that essentially would force issuance of the permits - and strip Bremby, a Sebelius appointee, of the authority he used to reject the project.

If Sebelius were to veto the House bill, it would have to be overturned with a two-thirds vote - 84 of 125 votes.

On Monday, the House advanced the bill 73-45.

How they voted

Locally, state Reps. Barbara Ballard and Paul Davis, both of Lawrence, and Tom Holland, of Baldwin City, all Democrats, opposed the bill.

State Rep. Lee Tafanelli, R-Ozawkie, voted for it, and Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, refused to vote and wouldn't say how he would vote today.

"We'll see what happens," Sloan said.

Early in the debate, the House removed from the bill a provision of Sloan's that would have set up the Kansas Energy, Science and Technology Commission to study climate change issues and make policy recommendations.

"It's an effort to have a balanced and publicly accepted discourse on where our energy policies should be," Sloan said. But others argued that it duplicates other state panels, and Sloan's proposal was stripped.


Much of the House debate centered on whether the Kansas economy would be hurt if KDHE could take into account climate change when considering permits for power plants.

"We might as well put up a big billboard that says closed for business," said Rep. Dick Kelsey, R-Goddard.

But Holland said that while he believes coal-generated power must be part of Kansas' energy mix, the two proposed plants made little financial sense because of potential federal regulations on CO2 emissions and increased construction costs.

"This will end up depressing and not reinvigorating the western Kansas economy," Holland said of the proposal.

Several speakers questioned that carbon dioxide emissions were contributing to global warming.

"This is not settled science," said Rep. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona.

But the House bill would require utilities to use renewable resources, such as wind. They'd have to generate 5 percent of their power from renewable resources by 2012 and 10 percent by 2020. The Senate has approved its own bill, which contains no CO2 standards.

One amendment to the House bill would prohibit Bremby from exercising his authority to deny permits based on general health concerns.

Rep. Josh Svaty, D-Ellsworth, urged the House to reject the amendment, saying it was the Kansas Supreme Court's responsibility to determine whether Bremby exceeded his authority. Bremby's decision has been appealed by Sunflower and is before the state Supreme Court.

But Rep. Bill Otto, R-Leroy, said it was legislators' responsibility to stand up for citizens.

"We are the ones elected by the people. Not the judges, not the bureaucrats," he said.

The amendment was approved.

'Political decision'

State Rep. Carl Holmes, R-Liberal, said rejection of Sunflower Electric's permits was unfair because the company had complied with all existing state laws. Neither state nor federal law restricts CO2 emissions.

"Sunflower went through all the hoops and hurdles and then got to the last one, and the rules were changed," Holmes said, adding Bremby's call "was a political decision."

But Bremby said his decision was based on his authority under the law to protect the health of people and the environment.

When he issued his order, Bremby said, "I believe it would be irresponsible to ignore emerging information about the contribution of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to climate change and the potential harm to our environment and health if we do nothing."


Jerry Stubbs 10 years, 3 months ago

I wonder if the water the plants use will come from Kansas or Colorado? This plant is being planned today, but if it is built it could operate for many years.

An article from CNN here:


"Most types of power plants use water for cooling - a lot of water. About 40% of the freshwater used in the U.S. - or 136 billion gallons a day - is used for power generation, nearly as much as is used for crop irrigation, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. A typical nuclear or coal energy plant could use 30-40 million gallons of water a day."

If there are limits in the future imposed on coal use and/or water use, these plants will be drawing from Kansas resources.

Colorado will be getting the benefit, Kansas will be stuck.

SettingTheRecordStraight 10 years, 3 months ago

Build the plants AND finish the South Lawrence Trafficway through the Baker/Haskell/Haskell/Baker swamp.

a_flock_of_jayhawks 10 years, 3 months ago

SettingTheRecordStraight (Anonymous) says:

"Build the plants AND finish the South Lawrence Trafficway through the Baker/Haskell/Haskell/Baker swamp."

Classic. Making the long road to ruin a bit shorter all in one swipe. Sing along now..."me me me me me".

'But Rep. Bill Otto, R-Leroy, said it was legislators' responsibility to stand up for citizens.

"We are the ones elected by the people. Not the judges, not the bureaucrats," he said.'

Right, Bill. The citizens. Not corporate Kansas, who, in this instance, could give a hoot about the citizens.

The newest development - the KSU "carrot", should get people's attention. If their proposals were so wonderful to begin with, why do they feel the need to dangle a carrot out there? Just 'cause they're being good neighbors? Come on, folks, wake up and see this for what it really is.

Lindsey Buscher 10 years, 3 months ago

STRS, why stop there? Let's also build a K10-I70 connector right through town to a brand spankin' new industrial park on the sod farms in N. Lawrence. I really hope that Senator Pine can make a killing off that deal. I have never known a farmer who didn't want to destroy farmland and make a huge profit off of it.

a_flock_of_jayhawks 10 years, 3 months ago

IGW, I'd like to hear your take on the KSU carrot.

BTW, concentrate on the matter at hand, the plant expansion. That is what is currently on the table. To view it in a comprehensive way would be, well, what opponents are suggesting.

georgeofwesternkansas 10 years, 3 months ago

All the while Lawrence continues to use power from the #7 per KWH dirty power plant in the USA, without one complaint from them.

The story is the same, Lawrence always blames everyone for their problems including their dirty air.

a_flock_of_jayhawks 10 years, 3 months ago

IGW says,

"Flock, Sunflower and its members are member-owned cooperatives. It is your plant and your energy company, which is 'corporate.'"

OK, enough with the condescending comments, IGW. I think I know a bit about RUS companies, possibly a bit more than you do.

Which brings us to the RUS issue. Care to shed some light on how that works, IGW, especially in the Holcomb context?

a_flock_of_jayhawks 10 years, 3 months ago

georgeofwesternkansas (Anonymous) says:

"without one complaint from them."

George, that is flat out false. Continuing to spew that garbage doesn't change that fact.

a_flock_of_jayhawks 10 years, 3 months ago

Mr_Values says, " Don't like a coal plant in western Kansas? Let me suggest that you move to Oregon or China."

Oh, so that's how that works, eh? How thoughtful of you/them.

We'll remember that approach when the shoe is on the other foot. I'm sure we can suggest some new locations for your relocation as well.

Values, indeed!

georgeofwesternkansas 10 years, 3 months ago

Logic is "Sure" that Sunflower is passing money under the table. Even with a valid argument this statement exposes him/her as the radical looking for a cause Lawrence dweller they are.

I bet the 3rd grade was the seven hardest years of his/her life.

Lindsey Buscher 10 years, 3 months ago

You show me one non-republican Lawrence citizen who wouldn't vote for destroying that sick-ass coal plant and replacing it with wind and i'll introduce you to my friends, the Easter Bunny, Santa Clause, and Jesus.

Lindsey Buscher 10 years, 3 months ago

George, stop wasting your time, you have no audience here. Plenty of Lawrencians are for the right and for the left and many are conscious of the folks in western kansas. we ALL need to start the trend moving away from dirty coal.

but let me get this straight, you want coal plants out there to be more like Lawrence, don't you? is that it? you are a closet lawrencian, aren't you? i suspected that every single person in western kansas wanted to emulate us, now i have confirmation.

snowWI 10 years, 3 months ago

"East of the Flint Hills = 11 coal fired plants"

Show me evidence that E Kansas has that many coal plants. The only way that 11 could be close to being right is if you are couting individual units within an entire coal plant complex. We have: Jeffrey Energy Center Lawrence Energy Center LaCygne Power Plant Topeka Power Plant KCK Power Plant

Jerry Stubbs 10 years, 3 months ago

The Kansas legislature is voting on 2 new powerplants.

Old powerplants aren't being voted on, at least right now.

Read what people are doing in other places about power:

All around the world people are realizing the problem with building more power plants and are taking some big steps to stop.

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