Archive for Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Lawmaker calls power co.’s offer improper

Deal would net KSU $2.5M if coal plants OK’d by Legislature

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

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Do you think it is appropriate for Sunflower Electric Power Corp. to tie a $2.5 million donation for research at K-State to passage of its plans to build two power plants?

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— After a three-hour debate, House Speaker Melvin Neufeld addressed his colleagues to tell them why they should vote for a bill allowing construction of two coal-burning power plants.

He said the bill, which the House later advanced, was a serious start in Kansas toward formulating an energy policy.

And Neufeld, R-Ingalls, noted the plant's developers, Sunflower Electric Power Corp., have entered into a memorandum of understanding to pay $2.5 million to Kansas State University over 10 years for energy research if the plants get built.

If Sunflower Electric doesn't get state permits to build by June 1, there's no deal with KSU, according to the memorandum of understanding, which was distributed to all House members for their perusal.

State Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said it was inappropriate to make that deal while a major debate was pending on Sunflower Electric's bill.

"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,' " said Davis, who opposed the bill.

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 weren'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.

Officials with KSU could not be reached for comment.


KsTwister 10 years, 3 months ago

Corporate blackmail at it's finest. Throw the bums out.

Phillbert 10 years, 3 months ago

Sunflower and its backers sound more and more like used car salesmen every day. First it was their ads of smiling children in fields of wind farms, never once mentioning the word "coal," and now it is bribes and quid pro quos -- sorry, "incentives."

"So what do I have to do to get you into this coal plant today?"

And is it just me or is K-State a cheap date? $250K is nothing. It's less than the coal backers have spent on misleading ads, phony grassroots groups and KC-based legal mercenaries.

Though maybe if they throw in the undercoating and a pair of fuzzy dice, the Legislature will go for it.

Phil Wilke 10 years, 3 months ago

Phillbert, I agree with you, but the figure quoted in the article is $2.5M

Jerry Stubbs 10 years, 3 months ago

People feel that unrelated issues should stand on their own. Just good plain common sense. Too bad our political system is often completely the opposite.

I don't understand how a utility would have the excess funds to contribute anyway. If they do we are paying too much for their product.

jayhawklawrence 10 years, 3 months ago

Although I have voted for Republicans often in the past, sometimes foolishly I admit, both sides lose credibility when they always vote along party lines. This is another one of those issues where party loyalty trumps responsible leadership.

But in this case I see a positive outcome. Most Americans are now seeing the reality of our current political leadership. You cannot hide the truth forever. It is like a field where all of its nutrients are depleted and crops no longer grow there.

That is the current Republican party in Kansas. The fact that a little man like Neufeld has the power to con our legislators in such a manner as this shows how low the bar of respectability has fallen.

tir 10 years, 3 months ago

Smells like a rotten bit of bait... on a hook. If the Legislature bites, as it looks like they will, western Kansas could be overrun with pollution-spewing coal-fired power plants, because the bills the Legislature is currently passing have absolutely NO CO2 limits attached, and Kansas could easily become a magnet for more dirty plants that other states won't tolerate being built within their borders. The proffered $250,000 per year for 10 years is nothing compared to the environmental damage two new coal-fired plants could cause. The power company would scoff if the Legislature offered them $250,000 a year for ten years to go away and leave Kansas alone. They should be ashamed for making such an insulting offer, and Neufeld and his cronies should be ashamed for trying to sell out our state to the polluters for a few jobs and some chump change.

Baille 10 years, 3 months ago

Western Kansas will soon be a wasteland due to years of mismanagement of their resources. Once the water is gone, what will be left?

Land for coal burning electrical plants, I suppose. Such a waste.

Phillbert 10 years, 3 months ago

Yes, I should have been more clear - $250K per year, for 10 years. Sure bet a lot of research will get done with that amount of money every year, especially after inflation.

(Thank you beobachter for the assist)

rdave13 10 years, 3 months ago

Improper or illegal? It's like being a witness to someone picking their nose in public. Wonder how much money Sunflower has put into the supporting legislator's polictical action campaign accounts? Same thing.........

georgeofwesternkansas 10 years, 3 months ago

Or it might be a company that is serious about devloping micro alge technology into transportation grade bio fuel.

This $2.5M is chump change compaired to what westar has spent on their last CEO. Oh, but I guess thats fine since he was a KU grad. All the while Lawrence uses power from the #7 poluting plant in the USA.

georgeofwesternkansas 10 years, 3 months ago

Over the past 10 years Sunflower has donated $250 per year to each ligislator. The people of Western Kansas are the driver in this case. We have had enough of eastern kansas taking everything and returning nothing. We used to have the finest schools in the nation, now our money goes to support magnet schools in KC, Topeka, and Wichita while we struggle to have an advanced math class.

Lindsey Buscher 10 years, 3 months ago

So if i'm against this and i stick my head in the sand while this debate is going on, do you think that sunflower will slip some $$$ into my back pocket?

absolutelyridiculous 10 years, 3 months ago someone who left w. Kansas very young...the people of western Kansas have done this to themselves. Would I love raising my kids out there? Absolutely, but there is absolutely no jobs worthy staying there for and frankly I'm afraid to drink the darned water. So much cancer due to bad farming practices because everyone has sold out to Monsanto and Cargill. Here they are again...selling out to Sunflower.

Until the good people of western Kansas get a clue and stand up and do the right thing for the land they live off of, it will continue to waste into the desert on the great plains.

rdave13 10 years, 3 months ago for office and get elected. Sunflower may have contributed $250 / yr, but how about it's individual officers and current stakeholders in the plant...

Baille 10 years, 3 months ago

"We have had enough of eastern kansas taking everything and returning nothing. "


Western Kansas gets more tax money than it pays. Without government subsidies and the support of the state, western Kansas could not survive.

Long ago, we abandoned the principles that created and maintained the rural cooperatives and communities. Now we get a first row seat as what once may have been sustainable sinks into decay.

jayhawklawrence 10 years, 3 months ago


May I suggest you enroll in an Environmental Science class or read some textbooks on the subject.

You have been misled and we have all been there before.

Like John Lennon said, "Imagine...."

Baille 10 years, 3 months ago

You have to be liberal to champion environmental causes or take our roles as stewards of the land seriously? When did that happen?

georgeofwesternkansas 10 years, 3 months ago

And all the while Lawrence uses power from the #7 per KWH dirty coal plant in the USA without one complaint.

KUDB99 10 years, 3 months ago

It's not going to matter anyway. If it passes, it's going to get mired in the courts, and once the election occurs, no matter who wins, new CO2 standards will be adopted on the Federal level.

This is all moot, just a bunch of Western Kansans posturing against the East for votes......"dang ole big city folks ain't gonna tell me what to do"....

georgeofwesternkansas 10 years, 3 months ago

Logic here is the issue. In western Kansas we are currently paying 8-10 cents per KWH. The current Sunflower one shaft Holocmb plant is maxed we are using all the power produced. In order for us to generate the extra 150 megawats we need to keep the price below 20 cents per KWH we need to sell power to someone in order to keep the cost at the current level. We tried to build nucelar before coal but you and Jane stopped us from doing that. We have already met the 2010 requirement fron the gov. of being 5% green. We are already investing 250 million to devlope micro alge c02 mitigation. We are using the very latest technology to build these plants. Without this project the cost will go to 20 cents or higher, which kills Western Kansas as we loose any industry, new or exhisting do to high energy cost.

Its easy to say we are evil when you sit there with your 6 cents/KWH coming from a plant that has done more to damage the enviroment than these will ever do.

Maybe you could clean up a couple of your dirty plants to offset this new c02 and help us out. But it is clear that helping us in any way is out of the question.

Baille 10 years, 3 months ago

The Lawrence plant needs to be fixed. No doubt. I agree with that.

I also agree with the thought that Western Kansas should explore the feasibility of secession. I don't see any way that such a move would be financially feasible, but I may well be wrong.

I also think we should start exploring the option of community and/or county consolidation.

As for Neufeldt being a good man, I don't think "good men" threaten other legislators or call legislators' spouses late at night making salacious, unfounded allegations of impropriety in order to get the legislator to change his/her vote. I think scum bags do this. Venal men. Men without scruple or of bad character. But not "good men." Neufeldt did these things. There is a great opinion about it by the Kansas Supreme Court.

Baille 10 years, 3 months ago

Good men don't do what Nuefeldt did. It was a calculated scheme that took place over several hours and went against the good advice of several legislators. Maybe he has repented. Maybe he has changed. But statehouse politics is dirty and ugly and he seems to thrive in the mix.

And I spend quite a bit of money west of Hays. My business often takes me out to the flatlands, and I enjoy some of the recreational opportunities afforded in the southwestern corner.On the other hand, so what? I do not think that should impact the evaluation and consideration of my opinions and arguments. They rise - and sometimes fall - on their own merits.

a_flock_of_jayhawks 10 years, 3 months ago

notnowdear (Anonymous) says:

"From what I hear, the plant within or just outside our little town in one of the worst polluters in the country (think N. Lawrence). Why have you people not taken an interest in getting that particular issue cleaned up, since it is indeed in your back yard? Why do you sit there, practicing environmental ideology and concept for somewhere that you have no interest in moving to or living within, and not not taking real action, not taking real effort on what is obviously needing your attention NOW, for community health reasons, if nothing else?"

Your assertion is completely false. BTW, the EPA is involved in issues with LEC at the moment.

a_flock_of_jayhawks 10 years, 3 months ago

notnowdear (Anonymous) says:

"And you think I am to have confidence in the EPA? LOL"

You stated that nothing is being done.

a_flock_of_jayhawks 10 years, 3 months ago

LEC = Lawrence Energy Center.

Many government agencies refer to it as such.

Baille 10 years, 3 months ago

Western Kansas gets more than it gives. It has been that way for decades.

a_flock_of_jayhawks 10 years, 3 months ago

notnowdear says, "It is not my job, nor worth my efforts and time to convince of some fact that is almost as old as the hills."

  1. It is not a fact
  2. It would be your job to be able to support your assertions. Up to this point, you are failing.
  3. As Baille and logicsound04 correctly point out (and is stated elsewhere, voluminously), western Kansas is an overall beneficiary, as opposed to a donor, if you review a comparison of revenue versus expenditures.

So much for your "facts". Do you even read or understand anything before just making crap up?

Sigmund 10 years, 3 months ago

We need that water so we can grow corn to turn into ethanol so we can drive our cars!

a_flock_of_jayhawks 10 years, 3 months ago

its_getting_warmer (Anonymous) says:

"Flock: I sure am hearing a lot of that "we can work this out together" holding-hands-across the state kinda attitude that you advocate."

As long as people don't go around distorting the facts or putting outright false crap out there. I'll call them on that and I know you would, too.

Still haven't heard anything from anyone here about the RUS tie in this, except what's been reported in the media.

Sigmund 10 years, 3 months ago

Here is a compromise. Put in the new plant and as an offset close down the Lawrence Plant! The new plant will be orders of magnitude and efficient and cleaner than the Lawrence Plant is, and much better for the environment and as a bonus Lawrence Electric rates can double so all the ecomentalists can build windmills outside of Lawrence, everyone's happy!

Sigmund 10 years, 3 months ago

Everyone's eco-friendly as long as the costs are someone elses and it doesn't cost them a dime. Once they have their rates dramatically increased the ecomentalists seem more willing to moderate their hard line positions.

a_flock_of_jayhawks 10 years, 3 months ago

Sigmund (Anonymous) says:

"Everyone's eco-friendly as long as the costs are someone elses and it doesn't cost them a dime."

If you replace "everyone's" with "some people are" in your post, that would be true. As is, it is incorrect and there are plenty of people, myself included, that willingly pay extra for eco-friendly whether it results in a direct, personal financial return or not.

Sigmund 10 years, 3 months ago

a_flock_of_jayhawks (Anonymous) says: "...there are plenty of people, myself included, that willingly pay extra for eco-friendly whether it results in a direct, personal financial return or not."

Everyone has a price, yours is just higher than most. The price of gas doubles (still below the cost in the vast majority of the world) and people scream bloddy murder. Double it again where people have to give up their new LCD HD Sony and they will begin to get lots more moderate. They will stop talking about "zero emission" and start talking "cost/benefit analysis."

A 20% increase in the cost of food and water because we are growing crops for eco-fuel and people wonder. Double the costs of food and water over the next five years and they will begin talking about "environmentally sound methods for tapping into the vast reserves on the North Slope" so we can quit wasting farmland and the aquafer and put it back to its highest and best use, producing food and water human beings not fuel for cars.

Bill Griffith 10 years, 3 months ago

A couple of comments concerning the situation folks who get their power from Sunflower are in. First, some disclosure: I live in eastern Kansas and I am not a fan of coal plants. Citizens in Sunflower's territory pay the highest rates in Kansas. In fact, I believe they are some of the highest rates in the United States, due to the fact that part of Sunflower's system is old, inefficent gas boilers. Sunflower probably needs around 150 MW of new power over the next ten years (depending on how many ethanol plants get put in). So, where can they get it? Well, Sunflower has done virtually no energy efficiency investments through their cooperative system. A reasonable 1% a year investment (Vermont is at 3, CA is about 2 for comparisons) should get them roughly 30 MW of this power and save their customers money. 100 MW of wind at 45% capacity factor would be another 45 MW (75 MW total) and could be integrated into their system without too many (some, but not a whole lot) system headaches. That leaves 75 MW of power that they still will need to obtain from somewhere. Choices would be to purchase it through long term contracts with some other provider and probably have coal as the resource, some large solar array (long shot with Sunflower, but w. Kansas is a viable spot and climate legislation could make it palpable), or possibly a newer gas unit (half the CO2 of a coal plant, but riskier for price fluctuation. Nuclear is not an option due to water constraints, price, and size. My point is that folks on both sides need to understand that Sunflower's system does need an infusion of power. Some of the combination could be less costly than Holcomb II (ee and wind) and some could be more costly (gas or contracts). The latter two will be affected by climate legislation-how much is to be determined within the next 18-24 months. The price of Holcomb II that ratepayers may experience under climate legislation may start out slightly below what they pay now (depending on which cooperative serves them) and after the first or second escalation of the carbon cap, it will be higher than their current rates.

Bill Griffith 10 years, 3 months ago

A comment on Sunflower contributions to legislators. While it is sometimes true that contributions can influence lawmakers (unfortunate, but part of the human condition), Neufeld and Holmes have run unopposed for several terms. Therefore, contributions probably have little to do with their stance. I believe both men believe in the correctness of their position and do not feel the need of outside influence on this matter. Senator Morris, on the other hand, could face an opponent in next year's Republican primary and may be watching over his shoulder if he does not carry Sunflower's water. I could be dead wrong on Mr. Morris, but he has more to lose than Holmes and Neufeld. Dennis McKinney, the House Minority Leader believes in Holcomb II, but he is also looking to run for governor or possibly Jerry Moran's spot someday. I don't know if Sunflower donated to Mr. McKinney, but I do not think it influenced him. I am of the belief that values have been more of an influence in this fight than campaign contributions.

Sigmund 10 years, 3 months ago

What is the difference between Sunflower contributing to KSU contingent upon voting approval and Barack Obama contributing $800,000 to the campaigns of "Super Delegates" if they vote for him? One goes to a State University and the other goes to pockets of politicians. I don't know which bothers you more, but I do know which one I find most disgusting.

notajayhawk 10 years, 3 months ago

I'd like to have more details about the grant - what specifically is it for? (I apologize if this has been mentioned and I missed it.)

If it's to study ways of reducing emissions in the proposed new coal plants, for example, then I see nothing wrong with tying the grant to approval. After all, if the plants aren't going to be built, why invest in ways to make non-existent plants cleaner?

That was what this story was about, wasn't it? The appropriateness of the grant? Skimming down through the stories I kinda' lost track...

Bill Griffith 10 years, 3 months ago

IGW and others, let me clear up what I mean by a 1% investment in ee. This is basically 1% of revenues annually. So if Westar has 350 million in revenue and they invested 1% in energy efficiency, they will be working with 3.5 million per year-much more than they do at the moment. Again, the KCC docket(s) on energy efficiency will do much this year to determine what about 80% of the citizens of Kansas should expect as far as energy efficiency offerings from their utilities. As a personal note, I hope Midwest and Sunflower get involved in this process working its way through the KCC along with the investor owned utilities who must take part in it to a greater extent. Midwest (out of Hays) has had a good reputation with ee offerings to customers in the past, but could be left in the dust comparatively speaking if the big boys ramp up to 1% or more per year.

Bill Griffith 10 years, 3 months ago

IGW and others, I believe folks in e. Kansas will be posting about energy costs before LEC and Jeffrey come off line. Climate legislation will be a proverbial punch in the nose to areas that have much of their electricity provided by coal power (Kansas coal use is over 70% of our power). The best way to insulate (pun intended) against these shocks will be to make homes and businesses as energy efficient as possible. Rates will go up, but your actual bills could go down.

snowWI 10 years, 3 months ago

belexus73, Great posts, and excellent information.

a_flock_of_jayhawks 10 years, 3 months ago

notnowdear says, "I said property taxes. Maybe in your eyes, all taxes are the same or you don't pay much in property taxes. "


"It is a fact. You are just too lazy to dig deep enough to find it."

You should really get your facts straight. If you want to talk about tax comparisons within the state, review this first:

"Yet you think you have a say."

When the pollutants have a direct impact on others, they should have a say. I suspect that you would be a bit peeved if someone was trashing your property and then had the nerve to tell you that you don't have a say.

"gtet out of your Lawrence bubble and experience Kansas."

Hmmm. Speaking only for myself here, but I have been through most of Kansas (beautiful place, friendly people, for the most part), practically every state in the US and all but 2 of the continents of the world.

"Live in W. Kansas. Vacation there."

Well, if you are so intent on establishing a major pollutant source there, it's probably not going to make my list of homes or vacation destinations anytime soon.

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