Topeka — Federal environmental officials on Thursday urged Kansas to adopt greenhouse gas regulations, but some state legislators balked at the idea.
State Rep. Carl Holmes, R-Liberal and chair of the House Energy and Utilities Committee, told EPA Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks that the regulations will cause manufacturing plants and jobs to move overseas where there are no restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions. “Is that the intent of this administration?” he asked during a House-Senate committee meeting on energy and environmental policy.
Brooks responded that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and President Barack Obama are committed to growing the American economy. He said opponents of regulations often argue that the rules will hurt the economy but that the U.S. economy has grown like "gangbusters" during the past 40 years of environmental regulation under the Clean Air Act.
"A case can be made that when we take care of people's health and when we take care of our natural resources, everybody benefits," Brooks said.
States are being told by the EPA to adjust their rules to accommodate federal greenhouse gas measures that require large carbon dioxide emitters, such as coal-fired electric power plants, to utilize "best available control technologies" to reduce emissions. If a state doesn't incorporate the rules, the EPA will take over that state's permitting process.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is currently working on plans to implement the federal rule.
But Texas officials have written a letter to the EPA saying they will challenge the new regulations.
Holmes asked Brooks what would happen if Kansas sent him a similar letter. Brooks said he hadn't seen the letter but added, “I'm glad Texas is not in Region 7.” Region 7 covers Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa.
In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Clean Air Act gives the EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gasses, which most scientists say are causing climate change. In May, the EPA issued its new rules that will require consideration of greenhouse gas emission in permits for large industrial facilities that emit 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year, which is the equivalent to the energy use of 9,000 homes or 18,000 vehicles.
This could affect a proposal by Sunflower Electric Power Corp. to build an 895-megawatt coal-fired plant in southwest Kansas if it is not permitted by Jan. 2.
Chris Cardinal, a spokesman for the Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club, said the new EPA rule will help reduce climate change, which if left unchecked will produce dire consequences for the state.
Kansas University researchers have projected that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase, the state will experience higher temperatures, which will stress crops and livestock.
“Continued inaction to slow global warming is irresponsible, as there is a shared responsibility to protect the environment, the public health, and vulnerable, at-risk communities,” Cardinal said.