Topeka The Kansas Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday turned up the political heat for a bill to allow the construction of two 700-megawatt coal-burning power plants with the release of a poll that indicates significant support for the proposal.
“In all categories you see the support outweighs the opposition to the coal plant,” said Amy Blankenbiller, president and chief executive officer of the Chamber.
Fifty-one percent favor “the building of a new electrical power plant that uses coal in Kansas,” according to the poll. Twenty-six percent oppose it, and 23 percent were undecided, according to the poll of 600 registered voters that was conducted last week.
The proposed construction of the plants has been at the center of a fierce fight for two years. The Legislature has approved bills to build the plants in southwest Kansas, but Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has vetoed the measures, citing concerns about climate-changing carbon dioxide emissions.
The Kansas Senate has voted to override Sebelius’ vetoes, but the House has fallen several votes short of the necessary two-thirds majority to override.
The latest version of the bill is in a House-Senate conference committee. House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, said he was confident that the House would approve that bill next week and “when the time arrives” there would be enough votes to override another expected veto.
Supporters of the project said the poll results confirmed what they hear statewide about the proposed plants. They said the project would produce jobs and be among the cleanest burning coal plants in the country. And they noted the poll showed the No. 1 concern in Kansas is the economy.
“People want to do this,” Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, said. “The needs are there. Three-point-six billion dollars in economic development in this economy, I don’t know how anyone could ignore that.”
The poll showed widespread support of the project regardless of political affiliation or region.
Opponents of the project have said Kansas needs to focus on its natural attributes for development of wind energy.
In response to the poll, Tom Thompson, a lobbyist for the Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club, said most Kansans want to do something about global warming and focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency.
But O’Neal said wind energy cannot meet society’s future power needs.
“That’s not a doable, possible scenario in our lifetime and probably not in our children’s lifetime,” O’Neal said.