Two Bills Try to Fool Kansas

One legislative bill, and one William Wehrum.

Disguised as a compromise, a handful of legislators have quickly thrown together a bill (in secret — read essentially written by coal advocates) that would overturn Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Roderick Bremby’s earlier decision to reject the expansion of the Holcomb coal-fired power plant. If passed, the bill would allow construction of the plant to proceed ‘under regulation’ but regulation so weak it would open Kansas to a flood of coal plants.

In her statement against the proposed legislation, Gov. Sebelius replied:

All the coal plants that have been denied permits or withdrawn applications in other states would be knocking at our door. Why wouldn’t they? Given the lack of zoning requirements in many of our counties, these plants could be sited anywhere. Kansas would be the coal capital of the country.

Which explains why attorney Bill Wehrum is right there by the bill’s side, testifying in favor of the legislation based on his EPA experience with the Clean Air Act – experience he’s only ever used to pollute.

In 2006, President Bush nominated Mr. Wehrum to be Assistant Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. There were several objections, including one by Senator Joseph Lieberman (see his statement here). After a failed attempt, Bush retried in 2007 and was blocked by Senator Boxer until he eventually withdrew Wehrum’s nomination.

Yet Wehrum was the Clean Air Act expert called in to testify?! That Wehrum testified should have been a red flag. His testimony is equally disturbing.

Wehrum argued against the permit’s denial, saying that the Secretary cannot exercise his authority during the permitting process of future plants (rather, his regulatory powers only extend to existing sources, in emergency situations). He brushed over the legal interpretation of the dispute by Kansas’ Attorney General.

Before Bremby’s decision, he was advised by the legal opinion of KS AG Paul Morrison. With federal regulation of carbon dioxide most likely on the near horizon, Bremby can’t stall the permit until regulation, but he can stop it in its tracks.

Morrison concluded that the disputed legislative section’s intent does in fact,

include denying an air quality permit application on the basis of the anticipated emissions of a particular pollutant or modifying a proposed permit to address such pollutant.

A second red flag – Wehrum champions industry interests over the health and well-being of Kansans and en route, scoffs the local legal opinion.

Kansans should not welcome William Wehrum, nor the two coal-fired power plants he’s there to defend. Today and tomorrow, as legislators hear from oponents of the bill, they will no doubt hear more factual testimonies on the dirty compromises that should trick no one.

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