House approves coal-fired power plants by less than veto-proof margin

Sebelius has vowed to veto the bill

How they voted

On a 79-44 vote, the Kansas House approved House Bill 2014, a measure allowing construction of two 700-megawatt power plants. Here is how the area delegation voted.

For the bill:

  • Anthony Brown, R-Eudora
  • Connie O’Brien, R-Tonganoxie
  • Don Navinsky, D-Easton

Against the bill:

  • Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence
  • Tony Brown, D-Baldwin City
  • Marti Crow, D-Leavenworth
  • Paul Davis, D-Lawrence
  • Ann Mah, D-Topeka
  • Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence

Absent: Lee Tafanelli, R-Ozawkie

? For the fourth time, the Kansas House has approved a bill that would allow the construction of two 700-megawatt coal-burning power plants in southwest Kansas.

And for the fourth time, supporters of the project don’t appear to have the required two-thirds majority to overturn a veto by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

The House on Friday approved what is known as the coal bill 79-44, five votes short of the 84 votes that would be needed to overturn a veto in the 125-member House.

Sebelius who vetoed three similar proposals last year, issued a statement, saying, “The vote today indicates that my veto can be sustained, and I am hopeful that legislative efforts can be focused on the critical budget issues that remain to be solved.”

Sebelius says she opposes the project because it would emit annually 11 million tons of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that scientists say causes climate change.

And she said House Bill 2014 would strip the state of important regulatory powers. So-called “green” provisions had been watered down, she said, to make them “olive brown.”

In a joint statement, House Republican leaders defended the measure, saying it represented a comprehensive energy plan “to ensure that the energy needs of our citizens are met while looking toward the future by providing economic development and a renewable energy infrastructure.”

They said Sebelius’ position was “extremist” and hurting the state’s economy.

On the other side of the rotunda, supporters of the project were busy planning another coal run in the Senate.

Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, said, “I don’t see how you can avoid $3.6 billion worth of economic development.”

But Democratic leaders said efforts to force the bill through and try to round up enough votes to override a Sebelius veto were a waste of time.

“I don’t think there will ever be 84 votes,” said House Democratic Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence.

Meanwhile, the coal fight was sacrificing proposals to increase renewable energy along with federal stimulus dollars for those initiatives, Davis said.

But supporters of the project may have hinted at another possible strategy that could depend on President Barack Obama.

If Obama selects Sebelius as his secretary of health and human services that would make Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson the new governor. Some House Democrats, the theory goes, would not be as loyal to Parkinson as they are to Sebelius and would then vote for the coal project.

Asked if the Legislature could override a veto if Sebelius left Kansas, Morris hesitated and then said, “No comment.”