Archive for Saturday, March 22, 2008

Gov. vetoes coal plant bill

Sebelius, Legislature may be headed for showdown over ‘policy issue’

March 22, 2008


Gov. Sebelius vetoes coal plant bill

As expected, Governor Kathleen Sebelius vetoes a bill that would allow two coal-fired power plants in southwest Kansas. Enlarge video

Related document

Statement from the Office of the Governor ( .PDF )

— Fight or compromise?

After Gov. Kathleen Sebelius vetoed legislation Friday that would authorize the construction of two coal-fired power plants, legislative leaders vowed to try to push for votes to override the veto.

That could set the stage for a dramatic showdown between the Legislature and Sebelius over the issue that has dominated the legislative session and attracted national attention in the debate over climate change and the effect of carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired electric generation plants.

"I strongly disagree with the governor on this very important public policy issue," said Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton.

Sebelius made good on her promise Friday to strike down the legislation, saying the bill would harm the environment, jeopardize Kansans' health and lead to higher electric rates for customers. Along with the veto, Sebelius signed an executive order establishing an advisory panel of business leaders, energy experts and scientists to find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Kansas.

"Instead of building two new coal plants, which would produce 11 million tons of carbon dioxide each year, I support pursuing other, more promising energy and economic development alternatives," Sebelius said.

Support for plants

Supporters of the two 700-megawatt units in southwestern Kansas decried Sebelius' position, saying the project would be the cleanest coal-fired facility in the state, comply with all existing regulations and benefit the economy.

"Not allowing clean coal technology to be part of Kansas' energy future will result in a devastating increase in the average Kansan's electric bill," Morris said.

Hays-based Sunflower Electric Power Corp. and two out-of-state companies proposed building the $3.6 billion plants near Holcomb. Under the proposal, about 85 percent of the power would be sold to customers outside of Kansas.

Last October, Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Roderick Bremby denied permits for the project, citing concerns about carbon dioxide emissions and their effect on climate change.

Legislators approved a bill that would essentially require that the permits for the plants be given and strip Bremby of much of his environmental authority.

Counting override votes

After the veto Friday, Morris and House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, said they would try to get the two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate that would be needed to override Sebelius' action. But neither said when they would try the overrides.

The legislation - House substitute for Senate Bill 327 - passed with more than a two-thirds majority in the 40-member Senate, 31-7, but fell short of the 84 votes needed in the 125-member House when it was adopted, 75-47.

State Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, voted against the bill and said the time is now for supporters of the plants to negotiate with Sebelius.

"We've squandered a lot of time trying to tie it to an issue of just these two coal plants instead of talking about where we need to go in terms of a statewide energy program," Francisco said.

But state Sen. Roger Pine, R-Lawrence, who has voted for the bill, said legislative leaders should conduct an override vote.

"I think that the Legislature has truly tried to come up with something that while, yes, it includes a coal-fired plant, it also includes some of the things that we need to do to have an energy policy in place, and have wind and other forms of renewables," Pine said.

House Democratic Leader Dennis McKinney of Greensburg also has voted for the bill but believes another piece of proposed legislation will be forthcoming that will include more "green things."

Francisco said an override attempt also opens up the legislative process to more arm-twisting and deal-making that may not be in the state's best interest.

"I would be concerned there would be an even greater attempt to limit other initiatives from going forward again over this single bill that addresses only 200 megawatts of energy for Kansas," she said.

In the past, Sebelius has offered to support one 660-megawatt coal-fired unit and a commitment from Sunflower Energy to increase wind power and make other environmental concessions. She said the deal is still there.

"I am hopeful that some serious consideration can now occur," she said.

Sunflower officials have refused the offer, saying it wasn't economically feasible.

Sierra Club statement regarding Governor Sebelius' decision to veto SB 327

The Sierra Club is pleased with Governor Sebelius' decision to veto energy bill 327 today. Kansas is in a unique position to demonstrate leadership in addressing climate change.

From a statewide poll that demonstrated support for Secretary Bremby's decision to deny Sunflower an air quality permit, to the hundreds of people who participated in Clean Energy Day this month, it's clear Kansans want clean energy and our state leaders should honor this wish by upholding the Governor's veto. The Governor's decision will allow Kansas to prepare for expected federal carbon regulations while protecting the environment, health and economy of Kansas. While other states are moving away from outdated energy technology and making efforts to reduce their carbon emissions, it would be unfair of Kansas to counteract their efforts by adding two coal plants that would collectively emit 11 million tons of carbon dioxide per year.

Statement from the Holcomb Station Expansion Project

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius today vetoed comprehensive energy legislation overwhelmingly approved by the Kansas Legislature.

Senate Bill 327 has broad support from Kansas business and industry, agriculture, labor, and most importantly, Kansas citizens who agree that sound energy policies are necessary.

"I am certainly disappointed by the Governor's veto," Earl Watkins, Sunflower's president and CEO said. "This compromise bill was the result of many months of hard work by Democrats and Republicans in both the House and the Senate. The legislation protects our environment, supports renewable energy and energy efficiency programs, and restores confidence in government."

"If not overturned, this veto will unnecessarily raise electric rates for Kansas families and punish our Kansas workers and industries," Watkins said. "We are experiencing significant growth on the Sunflower system, and we must add new coal generation to support our existing natural gas and wind generation assets."

Earnie Lehman, Midwest Energy's president and general manager, agreed that failure of the bill will have a negative effect throughout the state.

"The governor's veto fails to meet our customers' need for reliable, efficient, and cost-effective around-the-clock energy," said Lehman. "Midwest Energy's leadership in securing wind energy and expanding energy efficiency and conservation programs is simply not enough to meet our consumers' energy needs."

"Quick action by Kansas legislators will allow us to keep existing businesses, attract new ones, and grow the economy while ensuring our environment is protected," said Brian Moline, chairman of the Alliance for Sound Energy Policy. "This bill offers Kansas, for the first time, real progress on alternative energy -a renewable portfolio standard for our state's utilities, support for energy efficiency programs, and net metering. It is regrettable the Governor has passed up the opportunity to enact these reforms."


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years, 2 months ago

Sebelius was wrong at the time, warmer. You still are.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 2 months ago

Stick to your guns Gov. Sebelius!!!

It appears as though our Sen. Pine is a one issue senator. There must be far more important issues on the table that need more than quick consideration.

Neither Kansas nor Colorado is in any danger of running out of electricity. This matter could be discussed next session. There is no foundation for any more discussion on the matter at the present time. Governor Sebelius made the correct decison for Kansas ratepayers....that is the bottom line.

Hey legislators don't ask for an extension because you wasted so much time on one truly non Kansas issue. Allowing the coal power special interest to occupy the session was not a wise nor prudent decision.

Coal Plants cost big time bucks to construct which is not in the interest of ratepayers. Any legislator that has received campaign money from these coal power people should abstain from voting.

KsTwister 10 years, 2 months ago

Most probably did not read the article in the KCStar about the price of coal to come. Smart move Governor!

Bill Griffith 10 years, 2 months ago

It looks like the legislature has 23 working days to attempt to push through another bill that would give Sunflower what they desire. Of course the tricky situation is attempting to woo 4-6 of the no votes without losing any of the yes votes that the leadership currently has. I am sure the governor's allies are nervous about the margins, but Neufeld and Morris have to be scratching their head trying to figure out who they can cajole to switch sides. Also, IGW, I think most of us are aware that the governor did a 180 on this issue from her statements from the time of the 2006 Kansas Energy Conference that you posted and a year later when she either showed her ability to learn and be flexible or to confirm that she is a hypocrite-depending on one's personsal view. If I am not mistaken, this issue should be a key driving force in several races next fall. Early on I would say it would affect races with Sloan, Pine, Kuether, Vicki Schmidt, Horst, and possibly Roger Reitz.
I would disagree with Earl Watkins on his statement that this bill would be great for energy efficiency. It is not, and Sunflower needs to actually do something significant for their members in this area. They should be embarassed-check out what Tri-State is doing for starters.

Bill Griffith 10 years, 2 months ago

Hmmm....I am willing to wager one of my teenagers. What would you ante up? I am interpreting your remarks to mean two races and I assume you are interpreting my remarks to mean at least five. Correct me if I am wrong here. Next we would have to have to define "key driving force". May have to do this privately as not to take up space here. I might be game for this.

hornhunter 10 years, 2 months ago

Thanks cool

No more youtube cllps

here is wind turbine grid efficiencies for you (cool) maybe Lawrence and Topeka would like to volunter to go black when this happens?

ENGWOOD 10 years, 2 months ago

When you Eco. Hippies have to get a second job to pay your Electric bill be sure to send a "THANK YOU" to Obomma"s MAMA !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Just remember who put you there.

hornhunter 10 years, 2 months ago

Why don't you logic, educate all of us on where the power comes from when any of Kansas power plants go off line?
Is Kansas on its own little power island. Why don't you pull your head out of youra$$hat, because power lines don't end at state borders. Lets all get educated at www.logicsound04.dumda$$

Bill Griffith 10 years, 2 months ago

When any type of power plant goes off of line, the utility must often purchase the power on the open market. The power it purchases is in the forms of electrons and those can be produced by renewable or nonrenewable sources. All types of power do go off of line for various reasons.
Engwood, the price of electricity will go up no matter who is President due to climate change legislation, spiraling coal and natural gas costs, and the value of the dollar. The best way to insulate one's self against this rate increase that will happen is to invest in energy efficiency in homes and businesses. Your rates can and will go up but your actual bill can go down or stay the same due to using less energy.

rdave13 10 years, 2 months ago

When you Eco. Hippies have to get a second job to pay your Electric bill be sure to send a "thank you" to Obomma"s MAMA !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Just remember who put you there

Don't know if I am a "Eco. Hippie, but I will remember Pine, Morris and Sunflower's other legislative lap dogs who focused an entire legilative session on this issue, in lieu of health care, education financing and other issues that impact many more Kansas residents than those receiving 15% of the power from this plant.

OnlyTheOne 10 years, 2 months ago

Well I see Roger's on my do-not-reelect-list. If Colorado wants that power let 'em build the plants there.

Doug Fisher 10 years, 2 months ago

it's funny how the right-wingers will do anything to get their way. you can be sure when kansas gets the next republican governor, they will build these plants.

kansanjayhawk 10 years, 1 month ago

Just another reactionary liberal-- promoting her liberal agenda-- the "moderate governor" becomes the true liberal Democrat she really has always been.

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