Archive for Saturday, March 8, 2008

Local lawmakers split on coal-plant bill

March 8, 2008


A legislative battle over a coal-burning power project 300 miles away has split the Douglas County delegation and is sure to spill over into this year's elections.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, turned up the heat Friday with a news release criticizing state Sen. Roger Pine and state Reps. Anthony Brown and Tom Sloan, all Republicans, for voting for a bill that essentially would require state approval of the two 700-megawatt units near Holcomb.

"It's apparent that some members of the Douglas County delegation aren't listening to their constituents," said Hensley, whose district includes a portion of Douglas County. "There isn't a community in the state that has been more vocal about protecting the environment than Lawrence. It's unfortunate that the people of Douglas County can't boast that 100 percent of their legislators stood strong."

This week, the House and Senate approved the bill, but Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has promised to veto it, citing environmental concerns about the Holcomb project's 11 million tons of annual carbon dioxide emissions, while most of the electrical power produced will be used by out of state customers. Lawrence City Commission and numerous local residents have opposed the project because of concerns about C02 contributing to climate change.

But the Republicans shot back, saying their votes for the bill were environmentally sound.

"I'm disappointed that Senator Hensley views that anyone that voted in favor of the Holcomb project is not supportive of the environment," Pine said.

Sloan said of Hensley, "He's trying to fire up the Lawrence community to put more pressure on me to vote as he and the governor wish. My response to the people of Lawrence and the governor is that I remain committed to having the most responsible bill passed that addresses regional energy needs and addresses environmental public health concerns."

Brown, of Eudora, said he voted for the bill because the plants will provide jobs to western Kansas and it didn't seem fair for an eastern Kansas legislator to oppose economic development in another part of the state.

For the record, Douglas County Democrats have voted against bills allowing the two plants. That includes state Sen. Marci Francisco, state Reps. Barbara Ballard and Paul Davis, all of Lawrence, state Reps. Tom Holland of Baldwin City, Ann Mah, whose Topeka district also includes a part of Douglas County, and Hensley.

Pine said he supported the Holcomb project because the units would be the cleanest coal-burning plants in the state and use the latest technology. In addition, he said, the plants' accompanying transmission lines would accelerate development and sale of wind energy.

He said coal-fired plants must be part of a plan to provide needed electric power to Kansas and the nation.

Sloan - who received a personal note from the governor expressing her disappointment in his vote - said he has worked on the bill to make it "greener." Last month, he voted against an earlier version of the bill after the House stripped out his provision for a commission to study transmission, climate change and other electrical generation issues.

A conference committee, however, placed a study commission back in the bill that has been approved by both the House and Senate and supported by Sloan.

Sloan said the bill will provide for a "greener future" because it also includes provisions requiring utilities invest in renewable resources and encourage solar energy.

Hensley disagreed.

"Nothing could be further from the truth. I fail to see how allowing for the construction of the largest coal plant in the state that would emit more than 11 million tons of CO2 makes Kansas a greener state."


bluerapids 10 years, 3 months ago

Republicans are mislieading us on the coal bill. 1. It would include "Net Metering" in name only for Solar. 2. Sloan's new energy commission would have the "usual suspects" on it the same ones on the Kansas Transmission Authority. (Emler & Holmes) 3. The promised Algae Reactor to mitigate 40% of the CO2 is not in the bill (It is completely too small and unproven. 4. Neufeld is ready to make deals for votes. Think Ebay in Topeka. 5. Morris, Emler, and Neufeld, our legislative leaders have all stated publicy that they do not believe global warming is taking place and have not read up about it.
6. A November poll of our state showed that Kansans are against the coal plants 2 to 1 and for wind energy 3 to 1. 7. A current on-line poll by the Wichita Eagle was at 91 % against the Coal Plants as of 6 PM Friday evening. 8. The Green things added to the bill are for public relations only. This Coal Plant bill is very bad for Kansas for many more than the reasons listed above. An intangilble is the damage to our state's image and the number of green jobs that will not becoming to our way.

Jerry Stubbs 10 years, 3 months ago

Here's an opinion poll from the Wichita area, they are strongly opposed to the coal fired plant.

click on the button to view results.

Republicans that ignore public opinion will soon be looking for another job

ENGWOOD 10 years, 3 months ago

Hey mooney "Here's an opinion poll from the Wichita area, they are strongly opposed to the coal fired plant."

And we in Western Kansas are pleased that Boeing lost the tanker deal so we don't have to suffer the pollutants that they would surely put in the air.

sinedie 10 years, 3 months ago

Hensley seems more interested in making people mad than educating them about both sides of this important issue. Maybe it's time for him to go, too.

toefungus 10 years, 3 months ago

Republicans that vote for this bill are true Republicans, believing in limited government and the free market. Limited government does not mean no regulation, but Bremby has decided to be his own legislature and vote for a ban when the law does not provide for that. The Governor enforces laws passed by the legislature, not the other way around.

tgif81 10 years, 3 months ago

It's getting Warmer's, comparison is cute but it appears that she/he's so full of it that maybe she/he's should change the user name to It's getting deeper. To say that it's probable that Senator Hensley's top priority is the population base of his district, which doesn't happen to be Lawrence, would be an obvious observation. However, not as obvious as my observation of It's getting warmer's apparent lack of knowledge in making this cute little wisecrack. To start with, well over two-thirds of Senator Hensley's former, and current, interns and staff, have and still do reside in LAWRENCE. Some of the more notable members of this crew include, Representative Paul Davis, D-LAWRENCE, and LAWRENCE School Board Member Craig Grant. Maybe the It's getting warmer should ask them how "supportive" they feel Senator Hensley has been to Lawrence. Furthermore, in the 2007 Legislative session and interim alone, Senator Hensley was one of the KU Med Center's strongest defenders against a smear campaign led by Kansas House Speaker Melvin Nuefeld. Senator Hensley helped de-rail this attempt to discredit the effectiveness of the KU Med Center. His insistence of particular language in a non-partisan legislative audit helped shine light on the truth and vindicate the KU Med center as one of the nation's most reputable medical institutions in this country. This year, Senator Hensley has already committed to support the KU School of Pharmacy's expansion. Maybe It's getting warmer should ask the University of Kansas administration how "supportive" they feel Senator Hensley has been to Lawrence. As if that isn't enough, in 2002, when legislative leaders wanted to punish Lawrence for its liberal views and dilute its voice by splitting the city into separate congressional districts, Senator Hensley joined a number of local entities like the LAWRENCE Chamber of Commerce to stand strong against this type of political persecution. Senator Hensley's current Chief of Staff, with his blessing, even intervened in federal court to ask that the court rule that Lawrence remain whole. Maybe It's getting warmer should ask the people involved in the redistricting battle of 2002 how "supportive" they feel Senator Hensley has been to Lawrence. In closing, I applaud It's getting warmer's apparent interest in the political process but may I offer some advice: Do a little research next time before taking a slap at someone. Sarcasm is much more cute and effective when you know what you are talking about.

Logan5 10 years, 3 months ago


You'd be more green if you would just burn some of that stuff you're used to shoveling on this blog.

PerAspera 10 years, 3 months ago

As much as the legislators might try, this may be even out of their hands by the changing economy. I found this on another blog: Looks like Wall Street is finally seeing the hidden costs of coal:

Natural-gas and renewable power projects have leapt ahead of coal in the development pipeline, according to Global Energy Decisions, a Boulder, Colo., energy information supplier. Gas and renewables each show more than 70,000 megawatts under development compared with about 66,000 megawatts in the coal-power pipeline.

This year could diminish coal's future prospects even more. Wall Street investment banks last month said they will now evaluate the cost of carbon emissions before approving power plants, raising the bar much higher for new coal projects, analysts say.

"What you're seeing is a de facto moratorium on coal power right now," says Robert Linden, a senior oil and gas analyst at Pace Global in New York. "You turn off the money spigot, you've turned off those plants."

When the banks are skittish about the hidden costs of coal, that means things aren't looking too good for it. And the Feds are getting into the act, too:

In another big victory in the fight against the coal rush, the feds apparently suspended a major loan program that provided rural electric cooperatives with subsidized loans to construct new coal-fired power plants.

An official with the US Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS), which manages the loan program, cited the uncertainties of climate change and rising construction costs as the reasons for the programs suspension.

dirkleisure 10 years, 3 months ago

I read recently a group of physicians were proposing to build a $1.2 billion world class research center on women's reproductive health. All of the funding for the project was from private sources.

The center would have been located right here in Kansas! Hundreds of high paying medical research jobs, researching such things as stem cells and at the same time providing reproductive care for women from across the globe.

Unfortunately, despite the obvious economic development benefits, government officials in Kansas have seen fit to stand in the way of this development. Something about stem cells and abortion and their beliefs.

These same officials are on record as supporting the coal fired plants in Holcomb.

tgif81 10 years, 3 months ago

IG Warmer;

Hit a nerve? Nah. I've never done much in the way of posting or blogging. It's a cold Saturday morning. I guess I'm bored. I've to say it is kind of fun though.

Staff? Well, you're showing a little less naivety, but still::

The coal issue is mainly three-fold, Philosophy, region, and pure political gamesmanship, with a sliding scale of combination of the three. McKinney's stance is almost purely guided by region. He is in a region that is looking to create jobs, as quickly as possible. Throw in the tornado and he has to do what he has to do. You can't begrudge him.

Sloan and Pine are in a region that cares deeply about the environment. If either of them truely cared both about Economic Development and clean energy they would have held out for a better compromise.

On top of that, Sloan insults our intelligence by saying this bill will make Kansas greener. Tom knows better than that. I like Tom but he really let us down on this one. This leads me to believe that he either playing games or allowing himself to be used as a pawn in someone else's game. Knowing what I know about him, and the respect I have for him, leads me to hope that the later is the case.

Pine, well, he's just being loyal to another man that is acting purely on a regional basis, Senate President Morris. But it doesn't show a lot of sense.

Thanks for the debate.

tgif81 10 years, 3 months ago

P.S. IG Warmer

I spotted Hensley supporting the Hawks at the last 2 Basketball games.

Steve Clark 10 years, 3 months ago

...appreciate tgif's approach to the comments on this site...many are not so thoughtful or focused on the actual issues. thx.

sinedie 10 years, 3 months ago


I appreciate your comments. I am intrigued by your statement that they should have held out for a better compromise. Out of curiosity, how would you define "better compromise" and also what do you think they could have done to obtain it (other than vote no on this one)?

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 10 years, 3 months ago

I miss Anthony Hensley a lot. He used to be my state Senator. Then they moved everything around and I lost him. He never failed to respond to a letter, and he was easy to sit down and talk to. I'm a republican, but I think a lot of Anthony Hensley. Labels are not what's important, it's the person behind the label that matters. Senator Hensley is a fine man. I feel the same about Tom Sloan, as well. I am lucky to still have him around. Thank you, Lynn

Richard Heckler 10 years, 3 months ago

Per Aspera provided an excellent point. Wall Street was also the power that shut down Nuclear Power construction for the same reason Oklahoma ratepayers spoke out strongly against the Black Fox nuclear power plant. Ratepayers in Oklahoma won and Black Fox the bad fox was not constructed. The most toxic and most expensive power plants are promoted by industry executives and politicians.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 3 months ago

Renewable Energy Basics

No single solution can meet our society's future energy needs. The answer lies instead in a family of diverse energy technologies that share a common thread: they do not deplete our natural resources or destroy our environment.

Renewable energy technologies tap into natural cycles and systems, turning the ever-present energy around us into usable forms. The movement of wind and water, the heat and light of the sun, heat in the ground, the carbohydrates in plants-all are natural energy sources that can supply our needs in a sustainable way. Because they are homegrown, renewables can also increase our energy security and create local jobs.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 3 months ago

Before the 1980s, the only widely used renewable electricity technology was hydropower. Hydropower is still the most significant source of renewable energy, producing 20 percent of the world's electricity and 10 percent of that of the United States. The 1973 oil crisis awoke the country to its vulnerability through dependence on foreign oil. Subsequent changes in federal policy spurred the development of renewable technologies other than hydro.

Current levels of renewables development represent only a tiny fraction of what could be developed. Many regions of the world and the United States are rich in renewable resources. Winds in the United States contain energy equivalent to 40 times the amount of energy the nation uses. The total sunlight falling on the country is equivalent to 500 times America's energy demand. And accessible geothermal energy adds up to 15,000 times national demand. [2] Of course, there are limits to how much of this potential can be used, because of competing land uses, competing costs from other energy sources, and limits to the transmission system needed to bring energy to end users.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 3 months ago

he Future of Geothermal Energy U.S. DOE Geothermal Technologies Program Geothermal Energy Association

Geothermal energy has the potential to play a significant role in moving the United States (and other regions of the world) toward a cleaner, more sustainable energy system. It is one of the few renewable energy technologies that-like fossil fuels-can supply continuous, base load power. The costs for electricity from geothermal facilities are also declining. Some geothermal facilities have realized at least 50 percent reductions in the price of electricity since 1980. New facilities can produce electricity for between 4.5 and 7.3 cents per kilowatt-hour, making it competitive with new conventional fossil fuel-fired power plants.[10]

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the geothermal resource base in the United States to be between 95,000 and 150,000 MW, of which about 22,000 MW have been identified as suitable for electric power generation.[11] Unfortunately, only a fraction of this resource is currently utilized, with an installed capacity of 2,800 MW (worldwide capacity is approximately 8,000 MW).[12] But thanks to declining costs and state and federal support, geothermal development is likely to increase. Over the next decade, new geothermal projects are expected to come online to increase U.S. capacity to between 8,000 and 15,000 MW. As hot dry rock technologies improve and become competitive, even more of the largely untapped geothermal resource could be developed. In addition to electric power generation, which is focused primarily in the western United States, there is a bright future for the direct use of geothermal resources as a heating source for homes and businesses everywhere.

Bill Griffith 10 years, 3 months ago

As a fan of political races, it seems I will be able to sit back and observe energetic challenges to Senator Pine and Representative Sloan, unless I miss my guess. This issue has drawn clear lines for voters to inspect and make decisions on. I am mildly envious as I fear my own particular area will have more mundane races. Per Aspera is dead-on in his synopsis of coal's challenges in getting more plants built in the current climate(no pun intended). Those who have followed energy threads here have seen recent posts along these lines. Merrill brings up hot dry rock technology and that does bear closer inspection as the nuts and bolts of it improves. Again, our energy pie chart of the future will have many more slices than it does now and I encourage people to look at energy development in that manner rather than the "if we can't have coal we are forced to have nuclear power" mantra that is reflexive in folks who have not taken a really close look at what is going on.

eb 10 years, 3 months ago

There is no truth to the coal bill making Kansas a greener state. What Bremby said they would do is monitor CO2 emissions and not let them exceed certain limits. CO2 is not the only pollutant that would come out of coal plants, and why do we keep adding CO2 to our environment while simultaneously destroying the world's forests which act as CO2 sinks? A major outcome of CO2 emissions into the environment is global warming. Sure this project may seem like it will not have that much impact on the environment, but if this passes in Kansas, similar bills and promises to control emissions in other places will surely follow suit. Come on people, there is technology in the making that is not as detrimental to the environment-just be patient and wait 5 years.

toefungus 10 years, 3 months ago

Reproductive health? We need to reduce fertility to reduce the need for energy. If there are fewer humans, there is a need for less power. No humans, no power needed, perfectly clean air.

jafs 10 years, 3 months ago

Having corresponded with Mr. Sloan about this issue, I think he is sincere in his belief that the only way to get any renewable energy provisions passed is by allowing the coal plants as well.

The even more disturbing part of this bill is the removal of the ability of KDHE to do it's job, namely protecting the health and environment of Kansans.

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