Statehouse Live: Kansas officials express unhappiness with EPA over greenhouse gas rule

? A state environmental regulator on Wednesday criticized the federal EPA over the implementation of a new greenhouse gas rule.

Tom Gross, with the Bureau of Air for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said it was difficult to get information from EPA, and the federal agency changed major deadlines several times over the so-called “tailoring rule.”

“The whole process was incredibly frustrating,” Gross told the House Energy and Utilities Committee. “We told them a few words we can’t repeat,” he said.

Under the new greenhouse gas rule, new or expanding facilities must demonstrate the use of best available control technologies and energy efficiencies to minimize greenhouse gas increases.

Gross said he admired a letter that the attorney general of Texas wrote to EPA in which Texas vowed to fight the agency over the greenhouse gas rules. Gross said he didn’t think it was going to do Texas any good to battle the EPA in court.

“We do that in our own way pretty much every single day,” he said, referring to enforcement actions and permit timelines.

In December, KDHE issued a permit for a controversial 895-megawatt coal-fired plant in southwestern Kansas. EPA has said it will review whether the proposal complies with the law, and environmentalists have filed a lawsuit challenging the permit, alleging it fails to control hazardous pollutants, and the permitting process was improperly influenced by supporters of the project. KDHE has said the permit meets all state and federal requirements.

Rep. Joe Seiwert, R-Pretty Prairie, a member of the House energy committee, said it seemed that while EPA wants to reduce coal-burning electric power facilities, it has no plan on replacing that capacity or knowledge about how expensive electricity will get.

Other committee members also expressed frustration with the EPA.

“I’ve heard this referred to federal blackmail,” said committee vice chair Forrest Knox, R-Altoona. “Is that what it is, or federal extortion?”

Gross said of EPA: “It would sure seem like they have a serious agenda against coal-fired power plants.”

A spokesman for the EPA Region 7 office in Kansas City, Kan., released a statement that said the office worked closely with KDHE “to establish the framework for the Clean Air Act permitting programs to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

“EPA will continue to provide guidance and act as a resource for the states as we work together to make the various required permitting decisions for greenhouse gas emissions.”