Lawmaker calls power co.’s offer improper

Deal would net KSU $2.5M if coal plants OK'd by Legislature

? After a three-hour debate, House Speaker Melvin Neufeld addressed his colleagues to tell them why they should vote for a bill allowing construction of two coal-burning power plants.

He said the bill, which the House later advanced, was a serious start in Kansas toward formulating an energy policy.

And Neufeld, R-Ingalls, noted the plant’s developers, Sunflower Electric Power Corp., have entered into a memorandum of understanding to pay $2.5 million to Kansas State University over 10 years for energy research if the plants get built.

If Sunflower Electric doesn’t get state permits to build by June 1, there’s no deal with KSU, according to the memorandum of understanding, which was distributed to all House members for their perusal.

State Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said it was inappropriate to make that deal while a major debate was pending on Sunflower Electric’s bill.

“I think it’s in poor taste to dangle a contribution to a state university in front of the state Legislature on the eve of a debate on a major bill like this, and then to also say, ‘If you don’t pass the bill I want, we are not going to make this contribution,’ ” said Davis, who opposed the bill.

But Steve Miller, a spokesman for Sunflower Electric, said there was nothing inappropriate about the memorandum of understanding.

Miller said if legislation allowing the plants to be built weren’t passed, then Sunflower would not have the money to invest in the bioenergy center.

“If we don’t have a deal, we can’t proceed. It’s that simple,” he said.

Officials with KSU could not be reached for comment.