Legislative committee approves another bill allowing coal-burning plants

In a room packed with lobbyists, a House-Senate conference committee on Thursday teed up another bill aimed at building two 700-megawatt coal-burning electric power plants.

House Bill 2014 likely will pass with large majorities in the House and Senate next week, and then be vetoed again by the governor, which would set up another override showdown.

The battle has been going on for two years.

Sunflower Electric Power Corp. and a Colorado company have proposed building the plants near Holcomb in southwest Kansas.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has rejected the project, citing its climate-changing carbon dioxide emissions, and the fact that 85 percent of power generated by the plants would go out of state.

The Legislature has approved several bills to overturn Sebelius, but she has vetoed the measures, and lawmakers have fallen several votes short in the House of the two-thirds majority needed to override her veto.

This time, House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, says he is optimistic that he can muster the votes necessary to override a veto.

Meanwhile, advocates on both sides of the project have been competing for public opinion.

A poll released in February for the Great Plains Alliance for Clean Energy showed that 64 percent of Kansans preferred that the state expand renewable energy and energy efficiency over building new coal-burning plants. The poll of 1,200 registered voters was conducted Jan. 29 to Feb. 2.

The Kansas Chamber of Commerce released a poll this week that said 51 percent of Kansans favor “the building of a new electrical power plant that uses coal in Kansas” while 26 percent oppose it, and 23 percent were undecided. The poll of 600 registered voters was conducted last week.