Archive for Monday, August 3, 2015

Kansans bracing for battle over EPA’s Clean Power Plan

Westar Energy's Lawrence Energy Center is pictured in a November 2007 file photo.

Westar Energy's Lawrence Energy Center is pictured in a November 2007 file photo.

August 3, 2015


— The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its long-awaited Clean Power Plan on Sunday, setting the stage for what could be a pitched battle in Kansas over the federal government's authority to impose such regulations, and possibly over the entire science of climate change.

The new rules say that by 2030, the nation's fossil-burning power plants, such as the coal-fired Lawrence Energy Center, must reduce their carbon emissions by 32 percent from their 2005 levels, a more ambitious goal than originally proposed. It also requires each state to adopt its own plan for achieving that goal.

"We applaud the EPA's moving forward with these rules," said Rabbi Moti Rieber, director of Kansas Interfaith Power and Light, a faith-based group that lobbies the Kansas Legislature on environmental policy. "People of faith from every tradition know that climate change isn't solely a scientific issue, but a moral one."

The White House announced the new rules Sunday, along with state-specific information about the benefits that the Obama administration says will result from the new rules.

In 2013, the White House said, Kansas power plants emitted 33 million metric tons of carbon pollution, equal to the yearly pollution from nearly 7 million automobiles.

In addition to cutting carbon emissions, the administration said, the new guidelines will also cut other forms of pollution such as soot and smog, which it says will produce significant health benefits.

But utility companies are worried that the new standards, which have been in the works for more than a year, could force them to retire old coal-fired power plants before they have time to put new, cleaner generating facilities in place, something they say could threaten the reliability of the entire power grid.

"The rule will impact rates and could impact reliability, but it’s too soon to say how much," said Gina Penzig, spokeswoman for Topeka-based Westar Energy. "We work every day to improve reliability while keeping costs as low as we can."

Penzig noted that Westar has already reduced its carbon emissions by 15 percent from 2005 levels. But Westar, along with Kansas City Power and Light, together recently invested $600 million upgrading the coal-fired La Cygne power plant in Linn County to meet other EPA regulations, money they are now seeking to recover through a rate increase.

Those utilities have argued that they should be allowed to recoup those kinds of costs at La Cygne and elsewhere before they are forced to retire those plants due to new regulations.

And business groups also worry that the rules will drive up the cost of electricity, which could have a significant impact on the manufacturing industry.

"The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected proposals to limit emissions that fail to take into account the cost of compliance," Kansas Chamber president Mike O'Neal said Monday. "This proposal violates that rule by once again failing to account for the exorbitant and prohibitive cost of compliance."

O'Neal was referring to a decision in June when the court, in a 5-4 ruling, struck down EPA limits on mercury and other toxic emissions from power plants, saying the agency must take costs into consideration when making such rules. The state of Michigan filed the challenge, and Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican, joined in that challenge.

"What we need are policies that encourage our manufacturers, not policies that are calculated to punish and penalize," O'Neal said. "We support the viability of our economy, not some notion of what the current president envisions his 'legacy' to be."

Schmidt's office said Monday that it is likely he will join in a challenge of the Clean Power Plan.

"We will be reviewing the plan carefully," his spokeswoman, Jennifer Rapp, said. "However, it appears from the EPA’s own summary that the Obama Administration has failed to accommodate the comments that were offered by the attorney general, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, the Kansas Corporation Commission, and 4.3 million others regarding the EPA’s massive restructuring of state economies through the regulation of the generation and dispatch of energy to consumers and businesses. Legal action is a likely outcome."

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback also criticized the new rules.

“The EPA failed to adequately consider the negative impact this overreaching regulation has on Kansas rate payers, resulting in higher electricity rates and greater uncertainty in grid reliability," Brownback said in a statement released late Monday. "The final rule released today is twice as bad for Kansas as the proposed rule released last summer and requires us to review not only the rule itself but reconsider the state's overall approach to the Clean Power Plan."

Kansas has already cut carbon emissions from power plants by 11 percent since 2008, according to the White House. That is largely due to a state law, enacted in 2009, known as a renewable portfolio standard, or RPS, which required electric utilities to produce at least 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020.

Utilities in Kansas actually surpassed that goal last year when wind energy produced 21.7 percent of the state's energy. But Kansas lawmakers repealed the RPS law this year, replacing it with a voluntary standard.

They also passed a law setting up procedures that could make it difficult for Kansas to implement the Clean Power Plan.

The law authorizes the Department of Health and Environment to develop a state plan, in conjunction with the Kansas Corporation Commission, which regulates public utilities in Kansas.

But any plan they develop also must be approved by a special legislative committee that is headed by the chairmen of the House and Senate utilities committees.

Those two chairmen, Rep. Dennis Hedke of Wichita and Sen. Robert Olson of Olathe, have both stated publicly that they do not believe carbon emissions in the atmosphere are a cause of global climate change.


Steve Jacob 2 years, 8 months ago

One thing nobody brings up is where are these plants going to get coal from? Soon will any coal mining companies be left. The problem is coal is still 30% of energy in the US, and we don't have enough natural gas infrastructure in place to make up for the loss of coal yet. And natural gas will get more expensive.

Dave Kruse 2 years, 8 months ago

That's why I have solar. I live very comfortable and receive a check from the electric company each month instead of a bill. I have no use for dangerous natural gas.

Scott Burkhart 2 years, 8 months ago

The U.S. coal fired power plants only contribute to about 5% of the world's air pollution. By reducing U.S. emissions by 30% is about 1.5% of the world's pollution. This measure does nothing but kill jobs, further damage the economy, and make a bunch of liberal morons feel better about themselves. So much garbage about how much this will save in dollars, later on, falls into the same rhetoric that told us Obamacare was going to lessen the cost of healthcare.

Steve Jacob 2 years, 8 months ago

Coal is dying off on it's own. Killed off by natural gas.

Jim Slade 2 years, 8 months ago

Yes because alternative energies taking up the slack for energy production won't create jobs... /sarcasm

We can't control what other nations do, but we can LEAD by example. I realize that must be a foreign concept to you, but leaders do what's right regardless of what others are doing.

Scott Burkhart 2 years, 8 months ago

Do you ever have a lucid, intelligent question, Chris?

Scott Burkhart 2 years, 8 months ago

I wonder how the good rabbi feels about the trafficking of aborted body parts for profit fits into his moral narrative. Liberals, there is no consistency but inconsistency.

Joe Blackford II 2 years, 8 months ago

Oh Scott, yer so Right!

Eeeeew, I just heard on Faux Knews => the Center for Medical Progress is fabricating a series of video interviews with Upton Sinclair concerning the content of "all meat" weenies!

Scott Burkhart 2 years, 8 months ago

I'm sorry, Joe, that you think the trafficking of human body parts is so hilarious. Only a person completely devoid of any moral compassion could come to the defense of something so odious.

Bob Smith 2 years, 8 months ago

Skyrocketing electrical bills brought to you by the dog-eating tyrant.

Barb Gordon 2 years, 8 months ago

Skyrocketing electrical bills brought to you by the caviar-eating fossil fuel tyrants.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 2 years, 8 months ago

Other countries have done it, why can't we? The US has really lost it's innovative spirit. Why don't we have solar panel factories in every state? Why don't we have wind parts factories all over the country. Just call centers for the US. Third world country stuff.

Bob Smith 2 years, 8 months ago

"...Why don't we have solar panel factories in every state?..." American factories can't compete with subsidized foreign factories. Even after getting $500 million from Uncle Sugar, Solyandra couldn't stay afloat.

Ken Hunt 2 years, 8 months ago

Solar City is building the largest solar panel plant in the U.S. in cloudy Buffalo, N.Y. Thousands of jobs will be created.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 8 months ago

The misinformation teams are out and about.

Koch Industries has become a financial kingpin of climate science denial and clean energy opposition.

This private, out-of-sight corporation is now a partner to Exxon Mobil, the American Petroleum Institute and other donors that support organizations and front-groups opposing progressive clean energy and climate policy.

In fact, Koch has out-spent Exxon Mobil in funding these groups in recent years. From 2005 to 2008, Exxon Mobil spent $8.9 million while the Koch Industries-controlled foundations contributed $24.9 million in funding to organizations of the climate denial machine.

This report, “Koch Industries: Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine” documents roughly 40 climate denial and opposition organizations receiving Koch foundation grants in recent years, including:


--- Union of Concerned Scientists

Richard Heckler 2 years, 8 months ago

Human made pollution brings on global warming which brings on Climate Change. Makes sense and lots of it…. I'd say.

While global warming has been a concern for many many many many many many many decades some things seem to be certain:

  1. Never before has there been billions upon billions upon billions of humans polluting planet earth

  2. Never before has there been billions upon billions of gasoline burning vehicles spewing pollution into the atmosphere

  3. Never before has there been billions of homes demanding energy from polluting sources

  4. Never before has there been billions of buildings demanding energy from polluting sources

  5. Never before has there been billions of polluting energy generating sources

  6. Never before has there been billions upon billions upon billions upon billions upon billions of humans supporting the clearing of the rainforest for food products not knowing the long term impact of removing massive numbers of trees and medicinal plants.

  7. Never before has planet earth been expected to absorb tons and tons and tons and tons of pollution with human beings having no idea what the impact might be.

  8. Never before has there been billions upon billions upon billions upon billions upon billions upon billions upon billions of human beings believing THEIR pollution is having zero impact ....... can we say ignorance is bliss.

  9. Never before has there been billions upon billions upon billions upon billions upon billions of humans applying millions of gallons and or pounds of toxic chemicals to the landscapes.

  10. Air and water pollution are man made driven by ignorance that nature is invincible. All of us have been ignorant of this until some decided to learn that there may be a connection to the human wasteful lifestyles.

Just thinking .....

Richard Heckler 2 years, 8 months ago

Cleaner sources of energy will fund way more jobs than the polluters ever will and propel new industries into more parts of the country that support the clean energy industry.

The fact of the matter is we rate payers cannot afford climate change nor the ill effects pollution exacts on the human body. After all how many rate payers want to shell out yet more money on healthcare?

frank regnier 2 years, 8 months ago

We owe it to our grand children to fight for a cleaner planet!

Doug Larson 2 years, 8 months ago

The world population is currently 7,357,525,526....FYI. To be accurate you can watch the population clock here:

Bob Reinsch 2 years, 8 months ago

Why is always fossil fuels? You never see the EPA get up on their high horse and try to force cuts on emissions from wind power, solar, or tide power. It's almost like they think those types of energy are good for the environment. Just wait until they've got to put up with the noise of a solar power plant next to their houses.

Ken Lassman 2 years, 8 months ago

So that's what that horrendous noise was; I couldn't see where it was coming from due to the incredible amount of sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, mercury and particulates billowing off those panels! That's to say nothing of the noise of the trains pulling up to the wind farm, unloading fossil wind from Wyoming trains that stretched as far as the eye could see....

Barb Gordon 2 years, 8 months ago

You should see the wind mining programs over in Wyoming. They'll blow the tops right off of those mountains. Well, eventually...

Ken Lassman 2 years, 8 months ago

Actually, that's the Appalachian wind mines that blow the tops off of their mountains. They don't have to do that In Wyoming--that's why they call it Big Sky country.

Ken Lassman 2 years, 8 months ago

The new Clean Power Plan extends the deadline for compliance by two years, giving utilities more time to recoup their investments like Westar's LaCygne coal fired upgrade. The problem with waiting longer to transition to low carbon futures is that the longer we wait, the more carbon we emit and the more dire are the consequences:

We're already emitting 36GtCO2 now instead of 2020

We're already emitting 36GtCO2 now instead of 2020 by Ken Lassman

The graph shows the reductions needed to give us a 67% chance of keeping global temps below the catastrophic 2 degrees Celsius level. Note that due to the lingering of emitted CO2 in the atmosphere, if we wait until 2020 to peak our emissions, we have to reduce the amount emitted by 9%/year, stopping all emissions by 2040 to have a chance of avoiding catastrophic changes, compared to "only" 3.7% if we'd started reducing overall emissions by 2011. And lest you think that we've already started reducing emissions, humanity is already emitting 36GtCO2, close to what it wasn't supposed to emit until 2020 in the "last chance" scenario" depicted in the graph. Yes, I realize that much of the emissions is outside of the US, but if we don't show leadership, then others won't follow. The China commitments will vaporize if we don't show such commitment ourselves and if we develop the efficiencies and renewables, the world will be our marketplace.

Finally, if we just snub our noses at the economics, wait until the decades long droughts begin, along with the 10 degree rises in summer temps that are predicted for Kansas by 2100 if we continue to plod along, business as usual. Talk about false economic analysis....

Marc Wilborn 2 years, 8 months ago

"The administration’s plan will force the utility industry to shift toward cleaner-burning energy sources for decades to come as the EPA sets the first-ever limits on greenhouse gases from power plants, requiring a 32% cut in emissions by 2030 from 2005 levels.

The target is ambitious, requiring deeper cuts than the 30% proposed in a draft rule released last year. It also seeks to prevent a further shift from coal to natural gas in electricity generation. Over the last few years, utilities have been shifting to natural gas, which produces 50% less carbon emissions than coal but still more than zero-emitting sources like wind and nuclear power. That shift has been helped along by the domestic boom in gas production since 2008."

WSJ article

Question - What the biggest employment driver in the weak economic recovery after 2008?

Answer - Hydraulic fracking. Like it or not, the energy sector provides a lot of good jobs. Watch out below.

Barb Gordon 2 years, 8 months ago

Like it or not, you just illustrated the point that shifting to a different energy source creates jobs.

Perhaps this time we pick one that doesn't cause earthquakes or flaming tap water?

Marc Wilborn 2 years, 8 months ago

LoL! It will take decades to rotate from a fossil fuel industry to one driven by alternatives. What will people do while we wait? To think that the economy can shift that easily is somewhat simple. Why overreach and jump the natural gas spin energy step and go all the way to alternatives? Using less polluting energy is not the question but how you shift an economy that is already limping into an entirely new energy field.

Ken Lassman 2 years, 8 months ago

What will people do? Energy efficiency improvements in housing, manufacturing, retail, distribution and other business sectors are by far the best ways to reduce energy consumption, and is always cheaper than finding and putting new energy online. In fact, energy conservation and efficiencies can eliminate the need for new energy production increases and make it possible to retire fossil fuel electricity, replacing it with renewables. In fact, this process has been driving most of the transformation of the energy sector so far and could continue to do so into the forseeable future if we make a strong commitment to energy conservation/efficiencies. We haven't even done a very good job of tooling up in this arena yet--what if we really got serious about it?

Oh, and that other thing: jobs. Lots and lots of them.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 2 years, 8 months ago

32% is about one third. That is not shifting all the way. Remember 100% would be all the way. Other countries with slower economies are doing this, why can't we? A coal worker that gets laid off can learn to install solar panels or work in a factory making them. A much better job anyway.

What is your solution, Marc? What is the conservative solution? Just use up all the earth's resources, then shift? Do you have children or grandchildren? Don't you want them to have a good quality of life? Do you really want to pollute and use up the earth's resources, and let them suffer for it? That would be pretty narcissistic.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 2 years, 8 months ago

And just think! Instead of sending men into dark caves to mine coal and get lung diseases, they could be installing solar panels everywhere. How could this be bad for them?

Cille King 2 years, 8 months ago

Kansas has the 2nd best wind resource in the nation. We should take advantage of that for our economic security. Much better than import coal from Wyoming.

Bob Smith 2 years, 8 months ago

"...."People of faith from every tradition know that climate change isn't solely a scientific issue, but a moral one..." The global warming/cooling/climate disruption/climate change movement is becoming more and more like a fundamentalist religion every day. Woe to the nonbelievers! They shall be darned to the pits of heck.

Jim Slade 2 years, 8 months ago

They're damning everyone else with them as well.

Ken Lassman 2 years, 8 months ago

All too true. Denialism won't change outcomes, they'll make them worse. Check out the National Climate Assessment if you want to see the difference between a lower emissions future, where folks actually change their ways ASAP, vs. doing nothing different, and you'll see what I mean.

Bob Smith 2 years, 8 months ago

Are you one of the high priests of the new religion? You sure do talk as if you are.

Ken Lassman 2 years, 8 months ago

No, Bob, I'm just an informed citizen trying to keep abreast of a very important topic that affects us all, and willing to share what I've found out. I won't venture to ask what you are, but I invite you to share what you have found of value that could contribute to this discussion.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 2 years, 8 months ago

We follow the religion that doesn't want to destroy the planet for our future generations in the name of your religion - GREED, all hail the almighty PROFIT.

Chris Golledge 2 years, 8 months ago

Maybe you could show us where Fourier went wrong?

Calvin Anders 2 years, 8 months ago

Kansans have elected a governor and congress who would rather poison it's citizens than raise an eyebrow of their wealthy fossil fuel industrial complex backers. The thing that I'm beginning to find fascinating is how rigidly and formally Brownie follows the big money party line. It's almost like some new form of political theater. He never strays from the talking points. He never tries to even give the faintest indication that he might think for himself on any issue.

Bob Reinsch 2 years, 8 months ago

People talk about this myth of "clean coal", and reduced emissions, but rarely does the issue of water come into the conversation. How much water does a coal-burning plant go through in a month? Maybe we ought to take that into consideration while we continue to tap the aquifer, draining it of life giving water.

Ken Hunt 2 years, 8 months ago

Rocky Mountain Power will not fight this issue. Coal is many coal companies will declare bankruptcy this year? U.S. Department of Defense calls climate change a threat to our nation.

There are more jobs provided by solar than coal already in the U.S.

Bob Smith 2 years, 8 months ago

Cult checklist: "...The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law. ‪ Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished..."

Ken Lassman 2 years, 8 months ago

Yep, we have an unquestioning commitment to scientifically verifiable observations and analyses, and strongly discourage and even punish those who falsify their data, don't go through the vetting processes of their fellow professionals who are committed to the same standards. So what's your problem?

Barb Gordon 2 years, 8 months ago

Your lack of introspection is ironic, Bob. Excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment, indeed.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 8 months ago

Food, Farming and Climate Change: It’s Bigger than Everything Else by Ryan Zinn

Facing down climate change is both a challenge and an opportunity. Recreating a political economy that fosters and safeguards small-scale farmers is critical to addressing not only climate change but hunger and inequality as well. There are no policy “silver bullets” per se, but reforming the trade, subsidy and financial sectors is a good start.

While we cannot buy our way out of the climate crisis with market alternatives alone, harnessing consumers’ purchasing power does make a difference. Committed fair trade brands, partnering with small-scale family farmers, are leading the transition to a just and climate-friendly economy — and purchasing from these brands deepens the impact of fair trade on local communities.

Last, but not least, taking small, yet impactful steps at home can have huge positive benefits. Simple actions, like home composting and gardening, can not only reduce one’s carbon footprint and feed one’s family, but can also directly connect one with the global movement of small-scale farmers addressing global climate change.

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