On the street
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.
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.
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.
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.