Coal plant bill passes, but veto looms

How they voted

Here is how local legislators on Wednesday voted on the bill that would allow two coal-fired power plants in southwest Kansas. The House approved the conference committee report for House Substitute for Senate Bill 327 by a 75-47 vote.

Voting against the conference committee report:

¢ Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence

¢ Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence

¢ Rep. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City

¢ Rep. Ann Mah, D-Topeka

Voting for the conference committee report:

¢ Rep. Anthony Brown, R-Eudora

¢ Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence

¢ Rep. Lee Tafanelli, R-Ozawkie

? The standoff continues.

For the second time in a little more than two weeks, the House approved a bill allowing construction of two coal-burning power plants in southwest Kansas.

And for the second time, supporters of the plants failed to get enough votes to override a veto from Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

The 75-47 vote for the bill was nine votes short of the two-thirds majority – 84 in the 125 member House – to override.

Sebelius wasted little time hammering the bill.

Less than an hour after the House action, her office issued a statement that said 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 enough votes 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 legislators backing the bill need to 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.

On Feb. 19, the House approved a similar bill, but again fell short of a veto-override majority in a 77-45 vote.

The Senate is expected to easily pass the measure today.

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.

State Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, voted for the measure, even though he voted against the earlier House 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.