An organization helping the state develop a plan to reduce carbon emissions is being criticized for what opponents say are its ties to "alarmist" environmentalist groups.
Conservatives and business groups said they're afraid the Center for Climate Strategies may try to enforce an extreme agenda through work with the Kansas Energy and Environmental Policy advisory group.
People who have worked with the center in Arkansas and Michigan said the center stayed within the bounds of an adviser, providing the starting point for discussions. A Minnesota businessman who worked on a similar project in his state, however, said he believed the center manipulated the process toward its own ends.
In any event, members of the Kansas policy advisory group say the makeup of its 25-member panel, including business leaders, legislative members, academics and representatives of the energy sector, should counteract any influence from the center.
Kansas in one of a dozen states working on plans for dealing with greenhouse gas emissions, which many scientists believe contribute to global climate change. The Pew Center on Global Climate Change says 26 states already have plans.
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius set up the advisory panel to recommend ways to reduce emissions following one of her three vetoes of measures to allow two coal-fired power plants near Holcomb. Sebelius' top regulator shot down those plants last year because of what he considered excessive release of carbon dioxide.
That decision incited stiff debate in the Legislature with some lawmakers questioning during debates whether global warming truly exists.
Sebelius asked the Center for Climate Strategies to advise the panel, but the state is not paying for it, the governor's office said.
The fee is coming from groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and foundations including the Energy Foundation, which focuses on renewable energy and efficient energy expansion, and the Sandler Family Supporting Foundation, which has contributed to several environmental organizations.
"This organization is funded mainly by groups who approach our country's energy and environmental issues with an alarmist point of view, raising real concerns about whether those predetermined biases affect their findings," said House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, who strongly supported the Holcomb power plants.
Neufeld believes the governor's advisory panel is unnecessary and the Legislature's 11-member special energy committee should develop the state's emission's plan.
Senate President Stephen Morris, R-Hugoton, said he also had concerns about the center but added that the panel and the legislative committee could complement each other.
"We as a Legislature will have to make those policy decisions, so it makes sense to have legislators involved" with their own committee, Morris said.
The Harrisburg, Pa.-based Center for Climate Strategies released a statement saying, "The Center for Climate Strategies' track record of policy neutrality in state after state speaks for itself."
According to the group's Web site, it has cooperated with more than 20 states.