Brownback says he hoped coal plant project could move forward

During a visit to Lawrence Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback said he had hoped construction of two coal-fired, 700-megawatt plants near Holcomb could have moved forward.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, vetoed a bill the Legislature passed that would have allowed for construction of the plants.

The issue has been a hot topic in the last two sessions, and Sebelius has now vetoed four bills related to the plants, saying they would be bad environmental policy.

Brownback said the project would “be a big economic driver for the state.” The project would also allow for construction of power lines to the south and into Colorado, he said.

“That lets us plug our wind into it, and one of the biggest problems for our wind energy is getting it to market,” Brownback said. “We’ve got to be able to get it to places and that gave you somebody paying for the power lines that you could hook it into.”

The senator and likely GOP gubernatorial candidate in 2010 made the statement about the coal plant legislation during a visit to the Bowersock Mills and Power Co. on the Kansas River. Brownback, a member of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is gathering information about renewable energy as the Senate considers energy legislation.

Republican Congressman Jerry Moran, who is running for Brownback’s Senate seat in 2010, also criticized Sebelius’ veto.

“I am deeply disappointed the governor vetoed legislation that would have authorized a facility that proposed to use cutting-edge technology to reduce carbon emissions and would have been one of the most environmentally sound and efficient coal-fired plants in the country,” Moran said in a statement. “Failure to allow Sunflower Electric’s proposal to move forward will likely lead to an increase in electricity costs.”

Sebelius, President Barack Obama’s choice to be secretary of Health and Human Services, on Monday said it appeared federal legislation would penalize new carbon emissions.

“I vetoed that legislation because while the rest of the country was trying to reduce greenhouse emissions, Kansas would be creating massive new emissions for power we don’t need,” she said.