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Archive for Thursday, May 8, 2008

Legislature signs off session with coal bill

May 8, 2008

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Lawmakers again push for coal plants

Kansas lawmakers found a temporary success in their latest effort to shovel a couple of coal-fired power plants in to existence on Wednesday. Enlarge video

On the street

Would you prefer that the Legislature pursue nuclear or coal power in Kansas?

Given a choice between the two, I’d go with nuclear. I think it’s cleaner for the now. You can at least sequester the waste, whereas with coal you can’t. Coal-burning plants seem too archaic.

More responses

How they voted

Here is the vote of area lawmakers on HB 2412, which included legislation authorizing the two 700-megawatt coal-fired plants.

Yes: Anthony Brown, R-Eudora; Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence; Lee Tafanelli, R-Ozawkie; and Kenny Wilk, R-Lansing.

No: Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence; Paul Davis, D-Lawrence; Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City; and Ann Mah, D-Topeka.

— The Kansas Legislature on Wednesday sent another coal-fired power plants bill to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius before ending the wrap-up session.

Sebelius has vetoed two bills that would have authorized the two 700-megawatt plants in southwest Kansas.

But on this measure - House Bill 2412 - supporters of the project bundled it with other economic development initiatives that have gained widespread support.

House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, said he believes Sebelius will allow the measure to become law without her signature.

Asked if he would attempt to override a Sebelius veto on the session's ceremonial last day May 29, Neufeld said he wouldn't speculate.

"I'm not going to speculate on an override because I don't believe we need to go there," Neufeld said.

But Neufeld may be counting votes.

The legislation was approved 76-48 in the House, which was eight votes short of the two-thirds majority that would be needed to override a Sebelius veto and was fewer votes than previous coal bills had received. The Senate approved the bill on Tuesday 24-10, with six members absent.

The proposal by Hays-based Sunflower Electric Power Corp. and two out-of-state partners to build the coal-burning units in southwest Kansas has dominated the entire session.

Sebelius has rejected the project, citing concerns about carbon dioxide emissions, and the economic risks of coal power in the face of mounting calls for CO2 regulations. She also has criticized parts of the measures that strip the authority of the secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment in considering air quality permits.

Despite Neufeld's assertions that Sebelius might accept the latest bill, Sebelius seemed dubious. "I continue to have objections to the underlying coal bills," she said.

Bundling backfires

In the House, opponents focused on the fact that the new measure contained several unrelated economic development initiatives, including $41 million in state-backed bonds for a mammoth shipping and distribution center near Gardner.

State Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, an attorney, said the legislation violated a Kansas constitutional requirement that bills contain only one subject matter. "That may fly in this building but not across the street," Davis said, referring to the Kansas Supreme Court.

He said the strategy to lure votes by bundling the plants with other projects was misguided. "I don't believe the end justifies the means," he said.

State Rep. Annie Kuether, D-Topeka, said she resented the attempt to trade projects for coal votes and described the bill as a pig wearing a tiara.

But supporters of the coal plants defended the project, saying the units will be among the cleanest coal-fired plants in the United States and will boost the western Kansas economy.

"It's about jobs. It's about the survival of this state," said state Rep. Bill Otto, R-LeRoy.

Otto criticized Sebelius' opposition based on CO2 emissions, saying that soft drinks emitted CO2. "Carbonated soft drinks should be banned right now if CO2 is an imminent danger," he said.

And state Rep. Mike O'Neal, R-Hutchinson, and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the legislation was constitutional.

Nuclear energy boosted

After sending the coal-fired plants bill to Sebelius' desk, the Legislature approved legislation that supporters said would encourage expansion of nuclear energy in Kansas.

"The world is moving toward nuclear power," state Rep. Don Myers, R-Derby, said.

Senate Bill 586 would require the Kansas Corporation Commission to allow an electric utility to raise its rates to recover prudent expenditures in the development stages of a new nuclear generation facility.

It also would allow the construction costs for a nuclear facility to be included in customer rates before the plant is operating.

Opponents said the bill gave too much to utilities. "We are transferring risks here from the investors to the ratepayers, and I don't think that's a prudent policy," said House Democratic Leader Dennis McKinney of Greensburg.

Kansas has one nuclear power plant: Wolf Creek power plant near Burlington, which would be the most likely location for any expansion of nuclear energy.

Comments

Bill Griffith 5 years, 11 months ago

Hopefully soon we can turn our attention to the second biggest energy story in Kansas this year (decade?). The KCC is proceeding with two dockets to accelerate energy efficiency projects from our utilities which have traditionallly (until KCPL got their act together) been tied for last in the nation. Not nearly as exciting, nor will we get the pithy responses that this issue has-but critically important. KCC staff is tossing around the idea of the utilities investing 2.5% of revenue into proven ee programs. That would put us near the top of the nation. Vermont is nearing 3% and actually had negative electricity growth last year because of their ee work. Hopefully the munis and the cooperatives can get on board in some meaningful way.

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Corey Williams 5 years, 11 months ago

"The Kansas democrat party is very clear on the subject of economic devlopment, send it to states that want it, Kansas is not interested."Because there are companies beating down the door to western Kansas, if only they had 15% of 1400 megawatts? And it's actually "democratic" party. Unless you're a repub.

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logrithmic 5 years, 11 months ago

Good God. Three strikes and you're out!

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autie 5 years, 11 months ago

I went back and read the Article 2. 16 has that nice little part at the end that states it is to be construed liberally..I guess that means they can argue that as their point..but Seb. will veto the bill anyway.

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dirkleisure 5 years, 11 months ago

"Autie: Like it or not, the Kansas Constitution (Article 2, §16) prohibits enactment of bills with multiple subjects. The argument that everything somehow relates to EcoDevo, including abrogation of specific State administrative authority in the area of public health and safety, won't fly."My favorite is Rep. O'Neal's insistence that the title of the bill is broad enough.If that were true, the Legislature would really only have to pass a single bill every year. As long as the bill was titled, "Acts of the Legislature for 2008," it would pass constitutional muster.

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autie 5 years, 11 months ago

UhClem..I was curious on the Constitutional question. thanks. If that is indeed the case, my feeling is the bill doesn't meet constitutional muster so it must be struck down. No to coal plants..and I'm glad to here JoCo will move forward with their project. Also, I don't understand something. I'm thinking that many of the legislators are lawyers or have a strong working knowledge of basic legal procedure..how could they have ever voted for a bill that is so clearly in violation of the State constitution..one of those "how we worded it: things?

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Orwell 5 years, 11 months ago

He's doing what his contributors asked him to do and whatever he can do on his own to preserve confrontational, zero-sum politics as usual in Kansas. He's made no effort at all to negotiate and compromise on a win-win solution that would meet our utility needs.Autie: Like it or not, the Kansas Constitution (Article 2, §16) prohibits enactment of bills with multiple subjects. The argument that everything somehow relates to EcoDevo, including abrogation of specific State administrative authority in the area of public health and safety, won't fly.JoCo is set to go with the Gardner TrainTruck-orama with or without State underwriting. A veto of this bill won't even slow it down.

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autie 5 years, 11 months ago

It might be a boon for a bit, while the construction dollars flow into the region. But once that is over, Finney county would have maybe a couple of hundred jobs. How significant would that be to the local economy? What they would have is a great big pollution machine with all the real benefit going to Colorado and Texas plus pulling millions of gallons of water out of the aquifer that the region can't sustain now. That in itself makes no sense whatsoever.

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beobachter 5 years, 11 months ago

george, he is only doing what sunflower is paying him to do, voters be damned.

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BrianR 5 years, 11 months ago

"he is only doing what the voters have asked him to do."That is pathetic.

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georgeofwesternkansas 5 years, 11 months ago

Everyone keeps giving Melvin a hard time over this issue, but I can assure you he is only doing what the voters have asked him to do.

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Multidisciplinary 5 years, 11 months ago

To bad the 804 at KU doesn't do wind turbines. They could just run out and put some up.Of course, it would cost the state a bunch, but then 804 could receive another major donation, and not use any of it to pay for them, rather than the state.(Like with the Greensburg project)(grumble grumble)

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autie 5 years, 11 months ago

Big wild guess here. The gov will wait until the eleventh hour to veto. I'm guessing the Republicans power play will fail and the Gardner freight depot will have to wait all because of Melvin's bull butter politics.

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georgeofwesternkansas 5 years, 11 months ago

Is the gov going to veto?? The article does not say.

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jafs 5 years, 11 months ago

Why not combine economic development with solar, wind, and other alternative, less polluting forms of energy creation?

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georgeofwesternkansas 5 years, 11 months ago

"Opponents said the bill gave too much to utilities. "We are transferring risks here from the investors to the ratepayers, and I don't think that's a prudent policy," said House Democratic Leader Dennis McKinney of Greensburg."No coal, no nucelar. The Kansas democrat party is very clear on the subject of economic devlopment, send it to states that want it, Kansas is not interested.

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BrianR 5 years, 11 months ago

We're fast-tracking ourselves into becoming a third world country. Thank you Kansas Legislature. I still want to know how to cleanly convert my car and house to coal since the Kansas Legislature insists that it is the wave of the future. I also want tax credits for converting to coal so put on your legislator pants and work on that too.

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autie 5 years, 11 months ago

Violation of the State constitution? Can someone tell us where that blurb is in the document? If that is true, how does this happen? How do all those legislators violate our own law of the land? Interesting.

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Jerry Stubbs 5 years, 11 months ago

Good gosh, CO2 is emitted from soft drinks so we should ban soft drinks. Otto, your (lack) of brains is showing.

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