Kansans support decision to nix coal plants, want focus on wind energy

? Kansans support the state’s recent rejection of coal-fired power plants by a 2-1 margin, according to new poll results.

“This is a crucial moment in our history,” Nancy Jackson, spokeswoman for the Climate and Energy Project of The Land Institute, which commissioned the poll, said Thursday. The poll also found that three out of four Kansans want the state to increase its commitment to wind-powered energy.

Supporters of the plants proposed by Sunflower Electric Power Corp. dismissed the poll.

Sunflower spokesman Steve Miller noted that the Salina-based Land Institute opposed the two 700-megawatt plants.

“It is not surprising,” Miller said, that the institute focusing on renewable energy and agriculture “would commission a poll for publicity purposes.”

Bob Kreutzer, who leads a group of Kansas businesses supporting construction of the plants in western Kansas, said the poll failed to ask more meaningful questions.

“Had they asked, ‘Are you willing to pay twice what you’re paying now for electricity?’ it might have been a little different,” Kreutzer said.

On Oct. 18, Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Roderick Bremby rejected the plants near Holcomb, citing concerns about carbon dioxide emissions and global warming. Most scientists believe increased CO2 emissions are causing climate change.

The poll, done in November by Cooper & Secrest Associates of Alexandria, Va., showed that 62 percent of Kansans support Bremby’s decision and 31 percent oppose it. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.

“That is a pretty healthy endorsement of this decision,” said pollster Allen Secrest during a teleconference with Jackson and reporters across the state. And, he said, support of Bremby’s decision was high among Democrats and Republicans.

More than 1,000 people were surveyed, including an over-sample in the 1st Congressional District, which would have been the site of the plants.

Even in the 1st Congressional District, KDHE’s decision was supported 51 percent to 40 percent with 9 percent unsure.

The largest margin of support was in the 3rd Congressional District, which includes east Lawrence, at 70 percent. The second District, which includes west Lawrence, and fourth District, which includes Wichita, both were at 62 percent support.

Sunflower and its co-developers have appealed the KDHE decision to the Kansas Supreme Court, and state legislative leaders have vowed to try to overturn Bremby’s ruling in the legislative session that starts Jan. 14.

Kreutzer of Garden City said he was one of the western Kansans actually polled over the telephone by Cooper and Secrest.

He said the poll seemed slanted against the plants because the questions failed to provide information about what he said were inconsistencies in state energy policy.

But Secrest and Jackson said the questions were balanced.

“We went some distance out of our way to articulate both sides,” Secrest said.

Jackson said much of the polling was done to help guide strategies of the institute so it would have been foolish to skew the questions.

Jackson and Secrest did not reveal all of the poll results, but Jackson said the survey indicated that concern about the environment is among the top issues in the state.