Topeka Gov. Mark Parkinson on Friday signed into law the renewable energy bill he wanted in exchange for his blessing of an 895-megawatt coal-burning power plant.
“Prior to this year, Kansas was falling behind many other states in the production of cleaner energy,” Parkinson said. “With this legislation, we are no longer at the back of the line.”
The bill will require that by 2020, utilities provide 20 percent of their power through renewable sources, such as wind. Supporters of the legislation say it also encourages conservation and will make it easier for consumers to use wind and solar power for their own needs.
But environmentalists said the so-called green provisions were too high a price to pay. To get the bill through the Legislature, Parkinson had to agree to allow construction of the plant in southwestern Kansas that will emit nearly 6.7 million tons of carbon dioxide annually.
“The governor’s coal plant deal appears to be an act of political expediency in the face of political extortion,” said Scott Allegrucci, director of the Great Plains Alliance for Clean Energy.
Parkinson negotiated the deal in secret with Sunflower Electric Power Corp. immediately after becoming governor last month. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who fought Sunflower’s earlier attempts to build two 700-megawatt coal-fired plants, left office to serve as President Barack Obama’s secretary of health and human resources.