House OKs coal plant bill; governor reiterates veto threat

? The Kansas House on Wednesday approved a bill allowing the construction of two coal-fired power plants, but failed to get enough votes to override a promised veto by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

The 75-47 vote for the bill was nine votes short of the 84 needed to override.

One of Sebelius’ main objections is that the bill would strip the power of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment in the process of deciding whether to permit a plant.

“Due to the Legislature’s decision to keep that language in this bill, it’s really not a question of if she’ll veto, but when,” Sebelius’ spokeswoman Nicole Corcoran said.

But House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, who supports construction of the two 700-megawatt plants, said he would start working with House members to get votes needed for an override.

“We’ll kind of look at the list and see what people want,” Neufeld, R-Ingalls, said.

“There’s probably 12 or 13, at least, I know that have things they want. Some are budget, some are other things. Some want bills run, some want bills not run. That’s how this place works,” Neufeld said.

State Rep. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, voted against the bill, and said those backing the bill should negotiate with Sebelius “and have a discussion on how to move this forward.”

Holland said Neufeld and others should look at a long-term energy policy instead of trying to defeat Sebelius on the issue.

The Senate is expected to vote on the measure Thursday.

Last year, Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Roderick Bremby refused to issue permits for the $3.6 billion plants, citing the project’s annual emission of 11 million tons of carbon dioxide and its effect on climate change.

The bill approved by the House would allow Sunflower Electric Power Corp. and two out-of-state partners to build the plants outside Holcomb.

Of the Lawrence delegation, state Reps. Barbara Ballard and Paul Davis, both Democrats, voted against the measure.

State Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, voted for it, even though he voted against an earlier version. Sloan said he now supported the bill because it included creation of a 15-member commission to study a variety of issues related to electric service, and a number of “green” provisions.

The bill requires utilities to produce 20 percent of their power from renewable resources by 2020, and it would establish a procedure to encourage solar power.

“Our state has a much greener future (with the bill) than without it,” Sloan said.