Archive for Saturday, May 17, 2008

Sebelius vetoes third bill allowing coal-fired plants

May 17, 2008


— Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has for the third time vetoed a bill to allow two coal-fired power plants in southwest Kansas and limit the power of the regulator who has blocked their construction.

She also criticized legislators Friday for tying the plants to economic development projects in other parts of the state. Supporters had hoped the tactic would pressure her to let the bill become law or lure enough votes to override a potential veto - neither of which happened.

"Rather than working toward a compromise solution, legislative leaders recklessly chose to jeopardize important initiatives for businesses and communities across our state by combining them with energy legislation I have previously vetoed twice," Sebelius wrote in her veto message.

She also vetoed a companion, "trailer" bill designed to generate additional support for the coal-fired plants. One of its "green" provisions required the secretary of health and environment to propose the state's first limits on carbon dioxide emissions for legislators to review next year.

Secretary Rod Bremby cited the plants' potential CO2 emissions when he rejected an air-quality permit for them in October. He said the state couldn't ignore the dangers of global warming, which many scientists link to man-made greenhouse gases.

Sunflower Electric Power Corp. wants to build the two plants outside Holcomb, in Finney County, and sell 86 percent of the new power to two out-of-state electric cooperatives helping to finance the project. Bremby's decision generated six separate legal challenges, three of which are pending before the Kansas Supreme Court.

"I just don't know how anyone in her position could not view our project as economic development," said Sunflower spokesman Steve Miller. "We'll continue to work every way that we can to promote and make this project become a reality."

Sunflower's project enjoys bipartisan support because many legislators also view it as economic development. Supporters even labeled their latest measure the "Economic Stimulus Act of 2008."

That bill also contained provisions designed to encourage Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway to build a $716 million transportation hub near Gardner in Johnson County and to encourage Hill's Pet Nutrition Inc. to build a new plant in Emporia. In addition, it contained a tax break for telecommunications companies.

House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, a strong supporter of Sunflower's project, said with the national economy slowing, the state needs to do what it can to encourage businesses to expand or come to Kansas.

"With the governor's veto, Kansas has lost billions in opportunities," the Ingalls Republican said in a statement. "This was our opportunity to set Kansas on a strong economic course."

'It's time to move on'

Neufeld didn't say whether Sunflower's allies would try to override Sebelius' latest veto. Legislators have finished their 2008 session except for a brief adjournment session set for May 29. They could take up business then.

Supporters need two-thirds majorities in both chambers to override a veto. They've always had more than enough votes in the Senate but have remained short in the House - and an override attempt must start there.

"It's time to move on," said Stephanie Cole, a spokeswoman for the Sierra Club. "We need to start by putting this project to rest."

Like other environmentalists, Cole has argued that the state should promote energy conservation and develop new wind farms to deal with its rising demands for power.

"We can move forward with a clean energy future that not only will stimulate our economy but will reduce our carbon footprint at the same time," she said.

Sebelius told Sunflower executives in January that she was willing to allow one coal plant if the utility committed to conservation programs and new wind farms. But Sunflower saw the deal as unworkable, noting that any construction relies on its partners for financing.

And Senate Utilities Committee Chairman Jay Emler said nobody on the governor's staff has spoken to him about Sunflower's project since early January.

"I don't think that compromise was ever part of the plan," said Emler, a Lindsborg Republican.

The three bills Sebelius vetoed would have limited the secretary of health and environment's power to impose new air-quality standards without legislative approval.

The measures also would have prevented him from using his emergency power to protect public health and the environment to deny permits. Bremby cited that power in rejecting Sunflower's permit.

"The issue for me has always been whether or not the rule of law will apply in the state of Kansas or whether a politically appointed bureaucrat will be allowed to whimsically change the law," said Emler, who's also an attorney.

In vetoing the latest measure, Sebelius questioned whether it violates the Kansas Constitution's rule against having more than one subject in a single bill. Supporters say no, but Sebelius argued that the bill "blatantly contradicts our founding document."


Richard Heckler 10 years, 1 month ago

Kansans should thank their lucky stars that we have a governor that has remained above and beyond the special interest money Sunflower has been offering. Let's not be so stupid to believe this does not exist.If the people of Kansas wise up and support Governor Sebelius then Kansas will move forward economically. It is impossible for me to comprehend why some Kansans want to remain stuck in yesteryear. There is much more out for the entire state. Yes many many more jobs for the entire state that which makes our economy move forward.The only reason Sunflower wants these coal plants is the billions in tax dollar welfare that accompanies the industry. What a waste of money that could be directed at college loans,Vo-Tech student financial assistance and public school educcation. Or developing a energy generation team that promotes economic growth throughout Kansas. NE Kansas residents are willing and able to purchase windpower from western Kansas. NE Kansans want to get rid of that very polluting coal plant that sits outside Lawrence,Kansas.While demonstrating that renewable energy solutions are sustainable both environmentally and economically,the aim is to enact federal and state policies that support renewable energy, reduce barriers to the adoption of renewable technologies, and encourage all energy purchasers to use renewables.Electric utilities continue to invest in conventional coal plants despite the fact that governments are moving to restrict the heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions from such plants. The risks are both environmental and financial(high dollar).Coal is simply no longer a healthy source for generating energy. with new generation that will produce a ton of new economic growth for familiesthroughout western Kansas rather to only the Holcomb area.Rebuilding economies: are thousands of new jobs attached to wind power,solar power, refined hydropower and geo thermal. It's all available now. Why not go for it?

notajayhawk 10 years, 1 month ago

beobachter (Anonymous) says: "godot, hate break it to you, but based on voter approval, apparently most feel she's doing a good job. at least much better than incompetent, bought and paid for legislators."Didn't the same voters elect them?

Bill Griffith 10 years, 1 month ago

What Sunflower will lose is 22 million dollars per year from Tri-State to operate Trii-state's portion of the Holcomb expansion. Finney County will lose the accompanying tax base and job creation. Tri-State will have no place to turn to in order to construct a coal plant between this decision and the RUS lawsuit by Sierra Club and EarthJustice. Sunflower does not have the financial wherewithal to build a plant themselves so they will grudgingly begin doing more with energy efficiency, wind power(both with lower rate increases than new coal plants assuming at least a 20 dollar per ton carbon penalty), and either purchase the small proportion they will still need from the grid or look to replace some of their older, very inefficient gas units. Windpower will increase dramatically in Kansas over the next 5 years as a national renewable portfolio standard is passed (failed by one vote this year) and a cap and trade is passed next year in Congress and signed by whomever is the new President. Thermal solar, while not viable soon in eastern Kansas, is a possibility in western Kansas (new solar thermal plant is being built in Colorado) and would provide baseload and peak demand requirements, but I don't know if that would be culturally acceptable to Sunflower or even Midwest. There are some divisions in this state that are becoming more acute because of this issue. Supporters of the project in western Kansas have become and will remain for some time hostile to eastern Kansas. This will play out in the legislature and possibly other arenas in the future. Conservatives will be reinforced in their opinion that government chicanery is interfering with economic development. Folks who are concerned about climate change will keep scratching their heads why the other side doesn't get it. Not easy divides to bridge since logic will not be selected to gird the span.

Steve Clark 10 years, 1 month ago

Wow, I didn't know it was you Marion who had proposed all that great economic development in western must be hard not getting that accomplished after all that hard work of yours. It is a tough reality to face when we realize that we can't make others, being that they are human, to act in the way we (or Marion) might wish they would.I'd say you have a choice, call people names all weekend, go on a picnic and enjoy life, or start back in on working for something you are passionate about, like the use of coal as a serious strategy for our energy future. Good luck which ever you choose, but I'd suggest the picnic. Calling names isn't polite, there are much better choices for future energy other than coal, and picnics, well, they're fun. And if you are having fun, maybe you can relax and stop the name calling. :)

Godot 10 years, 1 month ago

Sebelius is the worst thing that ever happened to Kansas. She will go down in history as the obstructionist governor, who held Kansans in deep disdain and contempt, so much so that she used her veto to overturn every measure that the majority of Kansans favored. She has done everything she could to show Kansans that only she and her cohorts know what is truly best for Kansas.

BigDog 10 years, 1 month ago

It's easy to say there will be more wind power in the next 5 years because much is already planned for Kansas. Do a little online research and you can find where wind farms exist, where they are being built and where ones are being planned for.The so-called experts on here act like nothing is happening with wind in the state ..... if you notice the date on this attached map May 2007 .... all of these projects on here were before Sebelius talked about wind instead of Sunflower coal plants. I am sure she will take credit for all of these happening though.

lounger 10 years, 1 month ago

Yes! Thanks to our Governor we can breathe easier. She is an Oak on this issue and she has my support for a long time to come. Saying "No" to these filthy, old, Dirty, Polluting plants is a smart Desision. Thanks Kathleen! -Lounger

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