The very nature of a compromise is that neither side is entirely happy with the results.
That is the case with the surprising compromise Gov. Mark Parkinson announced Monday with Sunflower Electric Power Corp. to allow the construction of one coal-fired electric power plant near Holcomb.
The timing of the announcement, only a week after Kathleen Sebelius left the governor’s office to join President Obama’s Cabinet, was particularly surprising. An agreement coming so soon after Sebelius’ departure is an indication of how much of a political standoff this issue had become. Sebelius had attempted to negotiate an agreement about a year ago to allow the construction of one coal-fired plant, but to no avail. Whether it was a matter of substance or personalities, Parkinson obviously had a different experience.
The agreement will allow the construction of one 895-megawatt coal-burning plant instead of two 700-megawatt plants and will require Sunflower to step up its development of wind energy and construction of transmission lines that can help move wind energy produced by Sunflower and other developers.
Parkinson has made the agreement contingent on passage of comprehensive energy legislation that includes renewable portfolio standards, net metering and other provisions that are essential to the state becoming a player in the alternative energy industry. It also includes a new restriction on the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s use of CO2 levels as justification to deny a permit to build power plants. The legislation will require KDHE to rely on federal clean air standards in its decision-making process. That is a significant issue now, but it may not be for long if, as expected, federal CO2 standards are set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
It’s a tradeoff. Sunflower officials are elated because they will be allowed to build what they say will be one of the cleanest coal-fired plants anywhere. Assuming they can meet the financial and regulatory requirements to start construction, they have an obligation to the people of Kansas to do just that.
Alternative energy proponents also have reason to be pleased that the state now can move forward on additional wind power and transmission lines, as well as finally having regulations in place to help the state attract additional power developers and manufacturers of alternative energy equipment.
No one got everything they wanted, but the state now will be able move this troublesome issue off the legislative agenda and push ahead on efforts to take advantage of alternative energy opportunities.