Leader: Coal ruling hurts economy

Firms putting off growth, CEO of Kansas chamber says

January 9, 2008


Local officials and lawmakers meet

Do no harm. That's the advice local leaders gave to state lawmakers on Tuesday as they prepare to head back to Topeka for the upcoming legislative session. Enlarge video

Amy Blankenbiller isn't saying that coal-fired power plants are great. Or that regulating CO2 emissions is necessary. Or that wind power is the answer to the world's problems.

The new president and chief executive officer of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce simply maintains that the state - by rejecting a company's plans for a new coal-fired energy center in Holcomb - is costing itself plenty when it comes to attracting new businesses, spurring expansions of existing ones and otherwise generating job growth and economic activity at a time when lawmakers and others could use some.

"The negative fallout from that has led many businesses to second-guess expansion, second-guess investment, and are waiting to see : how the state is going to stabilize the regulatory environment before they make ongoing growth decisions," said Blankenbiller, during a visit to Lawrence. "That's a huge concern."

Of particular concern to Blankenbiller, who started work at the chamber in July, is consistency. She said that while the state - citing environmental concerns - rejected Sunflower Electric Corp.'s efforts to build coal-fired electric plants near Holcomb, the state soon granted permission for someone else to build an ethanol plant.

"Consistent regulatory policies" are being sought by the chamber, an organization that plans to lobby legislators on this and other matters.

Among them:

¢ Taxes. The chamber wants corporate and individual income taxes reduced, along with simplification of the state's system for tax credits. The chamber wants retailers to be reimbursed for costs of complying with the state's system for collecting and sending in sales-tax revenues.

¢ Health care. While the issue slipped to No. 2 on the chamber's survey of 300 business CEOs in the state - taxes topped the list for the first time - the organization seeks to focus on finding incentives for businesses to provide coverage for employees.

¢ Immigration. The chamber plans to oppose legislation that would seek to boost penalties for firms who might unknowingly hire illegal workers.

Blankenbiller comes to the chamber job after working for 20 years in Washington, D.C., where she started in government - including a stint as a congressional liaison at the Environmental Protection Agency for the first President Bush - and went on to become a lobbyist. She grew up in Lawrence, graduated from KU, and is the daughter of Max Lucas and the late Jane Lucas.


Jerry Stubbs 10 years, 5 months ago

I wonder specifically what other businesses have already "second-guessed expansion, second-guessed investment" because of this coal plant decision? Westar announced a big wind power expansion that was somewhat scaled back but not for this reason.

I hope the Kansas Chamber of Commerce didn't inherit some ex-lobbyist that thinks an ethanol plant is equivalent to a coal-fired power plant just because they both contain the word "plant". Signs of a true spin-doctor.

Lucky 10 years, 5 months ago

Has anyone figured out what the difference in Kansas job creation would be between building the proposed coal plants and the wind farms?

deskboy04 10 years, 5 months ago

I am shocked that businesses want to pay less in taxes.

dirkleisure 10 years, 5 months ago

Exactly. She cannot name a single instance.

That is why she speaks in generalities.

Note that she says "The negative fallout from that has led many businesses to second-guess expansion, second-guess investment..."

OK, let's define "many." Is "many," in the big picture of Kansas industry, 100? Is "many" going to be defined as 10? To me, 10 would be "a few."

When she says this, she is making it up. Period. She is making up an argument to win over public opinion.

marcdeveraux 10 years, 5 months ago

looks like blankenbiller wants to bring D.C. type of politics to kansas,promise more services by cutting taxes. Who thinks that will work?her idea that immigration can be controlled is silly. the only way to slow the flow of people north is to force the catholic church to change it s idea on birth control. all the money spent on border control,cops,fences,radar,etc.,will not help till the birth rate is slowed.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 5 months ago

The population of Kansas would be delighted to have a greener healthier lifestyle to include green collar employment that does pay well. Wind energy will have a greater positive long term impact across western Kansas. Western Kansas is considered a gold mine for wind energy.

The economic impact will not be restricted to Holcomb but to many farm families throughout western Kansas who wish to participate. Royalties such that oil and natural gas produce will come from wind energy. This could benefit way more than the 160 employees in the Holcomb area. Wind energy could produce economic growth for many western Kansas communities.

Perhaps Kansas could attract wind energy firms that manufacture and distribute wind energy materials.

leftIsRight 10 years, 5 months ago

Would have been nice if at least one concrete instance was cited of how/where other businesses have scaled back their plans due to the coal plant decision (Westar's scaled back wind project has nothing to do with that decision). Its hard to say if the Chamber is attempting to spread unsubstantiated FUD, or if the omission is LJW reporting...

Richard Heckler 10 years, 5 months ago

Why do legislators not recognize that wind energy,new improved hydro electric systems,solar energy,biomass etc etc is also economic growth?

Do they not understand the number of new dollars for more people that becomes available by introducing new technology is substantial?

Shouldn't legislators instead focus their energy on how to bring alternative energy firms to Kansas thus new employment?

SettingTheRecordStraight 10 years, 5 months ago

I think the broader point is that our state's ruling puts a big "Not Welcome" sign out for prospective businesses to see. We cannot set arbitrary CO2 emissions standards and then expect new business to feel like our government will treat them fairly.

dirkleisure 10 years, 5 months ago


Again, you are making an argument, but you have no proof that is actually occurring.

Additionally, the Chamber is not making a "broader point." They are stating something very specific. They are saying there are "many" specific incidences of businesses altering plans in Kansas.

STRS, you are making an argument that has no basis in reality. You are also choosing to ignore all the other states who are taking a much more aggressive stance on this issue than Kansas.

Is your argument that the "Not Welcome" sign is up in Florida? In California? In Colorado? In Nevada? Are these economies you don't want Kansas to emulate? Are these states whose population growth is unwelcome for Kansas?

You have no proof, no examples, no statistics, no basis whatsoever to make that statement. All you have is the statement itself. You have words.

Yet on the other side, the argument against increasing CO2 emissions in Kansas has mountains of supporting evidence, and the argument that restricting the growth of CO2 emissions does not have a harmful effect on business has support in dozens of other states.

The Kansas Chamber is interested in one thing - its own existence. They are not interested in the least in creating an economic climate in Kansas that is equal to that in states like California and Florida.

SettingTheRecordStraight 10 years, 5 months ago


The Earth Liberation Front/Sierra Club types just don't get it.

dirkleisure 10 years, 5 months ago

SettingTheRecordStraight (Anonymous) says:


The Earth Liberation Front/Sierra Club types just don't get it.

And that is the difference between a discussion and an argument. STRS believes an argument has just been won.

Look! A belittling statement! An attempt to discount someone with a differing position! A refusal to respond to direct questions! A willful ignorance of facts and figures!

All talk. Seriously, what are you doing, playing the "liberal" card? That's cute. You're like a cute little puppy.

KLATTU 10 years, 5 months ago

"The Earth Liberation Front/Sierra Club types just don't get it."

So are the burn it all-pave it all-anything for a buck-who cares what we leave our children crowd morons or what? Here we are in red state central, darn near the buckle of the bible belt, and you are suggesting big money energy got beat by some eco-liberals?

Wrong. Regular old Kansans weighed the advantages and disadvantages of putting more highly polluting, 19th century energy technology in our state, and decided that that the cons outweighed the pros.

Heck, maybe if big money energy would let more of those record setting profits trickle down we'd let them in. But as long as they are going to take all the money (except what they pay off the local politicians with) back to their swank mansions in some other state (that also aren't allowing new coal burning plants to be built), and leaving the pollution and waste (coal waste was recently proven to be as or more radioactive than nuclear waste) for our children to live with we aren't buying it.

dirkleisure 10 years, 5 months ago

STRS, all the states I mentioned have put a moratorium on coal fired plants and pledged substantial decreases in CO2 emissions.

So, no, it doesn't contradict. It contradicts the argument that CO2 caps and coal moratoriums are the equivalent of having a "Not Welcome" sign hanging up. That hasn't happened in many other states. It is a myth.

toefungus 10 years, 5 months ago

So, the Chamber opposes clean air, but support dirty labor practices? Hiring illegals should send the CEO and all managers to jail along with the illegal workers and the company assets seized and sold like drug dealers. Well, at least the Kansas Chamber is telling us what they support upfront, unlike our own Chamber of Commerce.

Frank Smith 10 years, 5 months ago

The Kansas Chamber is entirely a creature of Charles and David Koch, a surrogate of the energy industry. Anything they say or do is probably vetted by Koch interests. Why should anyone pay any attention to them?

toefungus 10 years, 5 months ago

So, basically it is one special interest vs another.

devobrun 10 years, 5 months ago

Yep, toefungus, it's politics. 100%. The quality of science involved in this whole argument is far less than that used by the vandals against the romans, 1500 years ago. We've replaced the clubs and arrows with press releases, but the intent is political power either way.

The same people who hate Microsoft for their operating system love climate models. These folks put down MS for mis-allocation of resources into bells and whistles for windows vista instead of secure bug-free software. Meanwhile they swallow a program from the climate modelers without hesitation.

Take a look at one of the model web sites: If you are a software guy or a manager, or just a person with some experience trying to get a damn computer program to run on yer machine, you know how flaky a program can be. The more complicated the software, the more likely it will fail. CCSM is a massive program. It is able to sing "Yankee Doodle" if you tweak it right.

What a joke this whole AGW/ACC thing has become!

KsTwister 10 years, 5 months ago

Another ridiculous oversight on the part of the citizens of the State. This gal just wants big business and FAST money. Who cares after that is her viewpoint.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years, 5 months ago

"Yep, toefungus, it's politics. 100%."

You're right devo, and it's people like you playing it.

dirkleisure 10 years, 5 months ago

r_t, I have a proposal to build the world's foremost Women's Health Clinic in Garden City. A $2 Billion investment, hundreds of high paying medical jobs, hundreds of millions of dollars of research grants on an annual basis.

The clinic will be a world renowned location for women's reproductive health. It will be the safest location on the planet for women to receive an abortion. It will also be a cutting edge fertility clinic. It will also be a cutting edge stem cell research clinic.

$2 billion. High paying jobs, hundreds of millions in new revenues pouring in every year. Doctors, researchers, medical staff, jobs that pay tens of thousands a year more than jobs at a coal plant.

You in?

hornhunter 10 years, 5 months ago

Dirk, How about a Vasectomy Clinic, to prevent folks like you from reproducing? That would save all in Ks. millions.

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