Monday, March 24, 2008

KS Governor Stops New Coal Plants & Appoints Energy Advisory Group

Mar 21: Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius vetoed a bill that would have allowed 11 million tons of greenhouse gases to be produced from two new coal-fired power plants [See WIMS 10/19/07]. The Governor then signed Executive Order 08-03, which establishes the Kansas Energy and Environmental Policy Advisory Group. Governor Sebelius, said that with Federal regulation of greenhouse gases on the horizon, she was taking a proactive step to bring together business leaders, energy experts and scientists to recommend ways Kansas can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. She said, “We know that greenhouse gases contribute to climate change. As an agricultural state, Kansas is particularly vulnerable. Therefore, reducing pollutants benefits our state not only in the short term -- but also for generations of Kansans to come.”

On October 18, 2007, Roderick Bremby, Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), announced that he had denied the air quality permit for two proposed 700-megawatt generators at the Sunflower Electric Power Corporation plant near Holcomb, KS. Bremby said, “After careful consideration of my responsibility to protect the public health and environment from actual, threatened or potential harm from air pollution, I have decided to deny the Sunflower Electric Power Corporation application for an air quality permit.” A State bill, House Substitute for SB 327, that would have allowed what the Governor said would be "the massive new coal-fired power plants," subsequently found its way to her desk.

In her veto announcement the Governor said the, "bill goes well beyond this specific project by stripping emergency powers from the KDHE Secretary and prohibiting the consideration of any standards beyond the Clean Air Act. It not only mandates 11 million tons of new carbon for power we don’t need, but invites other coal plants to be sited in Kansas while eliminating any requirements to mitigate their environmental and health risks for our citizens. I am encouraged that the legislature made a modest attempt to address some of our alternative energy assets, but this bill fails to promote our wind assets and sends the wrong signal to potential investors for transmission lines and additional wind power. . . My offer of a compromise energy proposal, with additional base load power for Western Kansas, combined with mitigation strategies and additional wind power is once again extended, and I am hopeful that some serious consideration can now occur. . ."

She said in the spirit of reaching a true compromise with utility company officials the State had made the following offer which they would support: Build one new plant similar in size to the Sand Sage permit previously approved (660 MW); Kansas base load power needs must receive top priority; Plant must be able to implement carbon sequestration technology; Commitment for 20% wind power (132 MW); Commitment for 100 MW of energy efficiency; and Net metering allowed in the Sunflower service area. She said the framework of the proposal seeks to find a middle ground between all parties concerned and allows for the construction of one power plant that is reasonable and sensible in terms of scope and size.

The Governor said the newly appointed Energy and Environmental Advisory Group will develop recommendations to the Governor involving opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as a recommended timetable for implementation. Other issues to be examined by this group include a study of the impact electrical production has on community economic development and the opportunities to diversify Kansas’ energy portfolio.

She said the process will be facilitated by the Center for Climate Strategies (CCS). Their work is supported by the Energy Foundation and the Sandler Family Supporting Foundation, which includes the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. CCS has developed climate action plans in: Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, Colorado, Washington, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Vermont. State plans are underway in South Carolina, Florida, Arkansas, Michigan, Maryland, and Alaska.

Access a release from Governor Sebelius with further details (
click here). Access the Executive Order (click here). Access links to extensive information and background on the KDHE decision (click here). Access links to various media reports on the Governor's action (click here). Access various blog posts on the Governor's action (click here). [*Air, *Energy, *Climate]