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Topeka TOPEKA — The Kansas House bucked powerful business interests Wednesday and killed a bill to repeal state renewable energy standards just one day after the Senate had approved the measure.
A coalition of Democrats and Republicans, many from western Kansas, voted against the Senate-approved bill. A motion to concur with the bill failed, 44-77.
The repeal legislation was sought by the Kansas Chamber, Americans for Prosperity and other influential conservative groups that said the standards were anti-free market and resulted in higher electric bills.
Jeff Glendenning, director of the Kansas chapter of AFP, vowed that the fight wasn’t over.
“We will be talking to a lot of the House members over the next week,” Glendening said. “A lot of them have campaigned over the past several years and told their constituents they oppose mandates and support free markets. This is a perfect opportunity to prove it.”
But supporters of the renewable standards say they have boosted the economy by bringing wind development, jobs and investment to struggling rural areas. They pointed to a state study that said the additional wind capacity had an insignificant impact on electric rates.
State Rep. Russ Jennings, R-Lakin, said those seeking repeal were “nothing more than folks who want to exercise political power. This is about wanting to have a win for the sake of having a win without considering the potential benefit all this has.”
The bill would have repealed the Renewable Portfolio Standard, which required major utility companies to have the capacity to generate 10 percent of their energy through a renewable source by 2011. It also called for the companies to generate 15 percent of their energy through a renewable source by 2016 and 20 percent by 2020. Utilities have said they are on track to meet the standard.
The Lawrence delegation in both the House and Senate voted against repealing the RPS.
On Tuesday evening, Republicans in the Senate approved the bill on a 25-15 vote.
The RPS was the result of a controversial deal brokered in 2009 by then-Gov. Mark Parkinson.
In return for passage of the RPS, Parkinson vowed to help clear the way for Sunflower Electric Power Corp. to get a permit for an 895-megawatt, coal-fired plant in western Kansas.
Sunflower got its permit from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, but that plant has not been built yet. Supporters of the plant, however, say they believe it may be built soon.
State Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, was in the House to listen to the debate Wednesday.
“I think representatives were making very good arguments and a lot of different arguments about how this made good sense for their districts,” Francisco said.
She said the issue could always be revived, but she added: “It would be hard at this point to know what would make a difference to change the minds of many of those legislators.”
AFP’s Glendening countered: “I still think a lot of them are unfamiliar with the issue. That will change over the next few days.”