Gov. Sebelius stuck in coal-powered version of Groundhog’s Day

As Yogi Berra said, “It’s d©j  vu all over again,”

The third time should have been a charm.  But in Kansas, up against a massive coal lobby and a partisan Congress, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has had to veto a proposal for new coal-fired power plants in western Kansas for the fourth time.

One news article summarizes that Sebelius and lawmakers “have battled over whether the plants represent practical energy policy and economic development, or whether the plants are an outdated and destructive energy source.”  (For more extensive coverage of the battle, see past Climate Progress posts here, here and here.)

Reflective of this summary, the reasons Sebelius gave for vetoing the coal plants yet again include:

  • Kansans do not yet need the electricity, most of which would be exported to Colorado and other western states.
  • Kansans’ energy demands should be met by the states’ renewable resources, notably wind and energy efficiency, which will create clean energy jobs and promote the economic development of western Kansas for western Kansans.
  • As federal carbon constraints loom in the near-term, it would be short-sighted and ill-informed for Kansas to build new, dirty coal-fired plants.
  • Kansas needs to develop a comprehensive energy policy, and for the reasons above and others, this is not it.

So the legislature in cahoots with the coal lobby is at it again, but it’s important to note that this year’s fight isn’t likely to resemble last time.  A few development will change the game.

First, Governor Sebelius has been nominated (not yet confirmed) as Obama’s head of Health and Human Services.  The Lieutenant Governor Mark Parkinson has stood with Sebelius on her vetoes.

Second and likely more destructive to plant advocates is that the participating Colorado utility (Tri-State, a critical financing partner for the project which was slated to receive most of the energy generated) has announced that it is considering other options.  Due to last year’s vetoes and delays, Tri-State is revisiting its long-term strategy and looking to conservation and renewable energy (which makes sense given Colorado’s renewable electricity standard and the State’s progressive energy policies).

Before Sebelius departs for her HHS post in DC, Kansans should weigh her foresight with Tri-State’s new position and realize that the plants are indeed “outdated and destructive” while renewable options such as wind “represent practical policy policy and economic development.”

No Kansas Governor should have to veto these plants a fifth time.

8 Responses to Gov. Sebelius stuck in coal-powered version of Groundhog’s Day

  1. Sasparilla says:

    Its nice to see some of the states doing a good job on these proposed plants.

    It would be cool to have a way to see how many and where are the currently proposed Coal Plants in the US (and which ones can/need grassroots pressure).

    Is this doable Joe? It would definately help in bringing to bear the grass roots pressure on what is most critical to focus on.

  2. Brewster says:

    Governor Sebelius should get some sort of award…

    It’s difficult to oppose the sort of political pressure she must be under, as the actions of thousands of other politicians around the world prove…

  3. SecularAnimist says:

    What we need is a nationwide moratorium on building new coal-fired power plants that don’t include effective, functioning carbon capture & sequestration (CCS) technology. Since such technology does not exist and is not likely to exist for decades, if ever, that means a de facto moratorium on building any new coal-fired power plants.

    Unfortunately, President Obama and Energy Secretary Chu have publicly stated that this option is off the table. Not only have they endorsed wasting precious resources on “clean coal” research, they have endorsed continuing to build non-CCS coal-fired power plants as long as they are called “CCS ready”, which means nothing and is just a fig leaf for continuing to emit massive amounts of CO2 from burning coal.

  4. Jim Beacon says:

    We should all at least send Governor Sebelius a supporting email and maybe make a note to contribute to her next campaign because she is almost certainly going to be in big political trouble next election. It takes real guts to stand up the way she has, particularly in the hostile political environment she has to contend with.

    Of course, now that the EPA has officially declared excessive CO2 emissions a public health and safety hazard, all that President Obama needs to do is push through a Federal law outlawing the construction of *any* new coal-fired power plant anywhere in the nation unless it can meet tough new emission standards on its opening day. But I guess that is far too simple a solution to actually be implemented.

  5. duane bozarth says:

    Again Gov Sebelius has failed to act on the facts but on prejudice and preconceived notions. There was no basis in law or regulation from the beginning that the plant applications did not meet or exceed and there still is not.

    Exporting power from these facilities will be a great economic benefit to the State of Kansas overall and to western Kansas in particular, an area that despite the Governor’s expressed concerns has continued to be left out of essentially all economic development in her terms as Governor.

    It is also interesting to note that the current rates for electric power in the eastern third of the State where Topeka and the major population centers are currently is roughly one-third of that in the western portion. This disparity is one of the major contributing factors in being able to attract new economic development in that part of the State.

    As for the incessant harping for wind development, that is progressing and will continue to do so, but it cannot supplant need for increased baseload generation to satisfy total grid demands. The Gray County wind farm located near the proposed location has been online now for about eight years. Over that time, according to the EIA monthly generation data, the output of the facility has averaged only about 40% of its installed capacity. During a period of a couple months in midwinter and late summer, average output for those months over the eight years is in the low 20% range owing to the fact that even on the High Plains the wind does _not_ blow all the time. Wind, solar and other nonconventional generation does have a place but until there is an effective large scale storage technology available, it is simply not feasible as a total replacement for baseload generation.

  6. hapa says:

    karl (and joe), why doesn’t anybody talk about the midwestern greenhouse gas accord? kansas is a member.

  7. Col says:

    Another example of:

    1) the Republicans not standing up to their own principles of a government that doesn’t pick technological winners.

    2) narrow and false comparisons dominating debates (yes coal plants generate jobs but how many would be generated in other electricity-use and generation scenarios and what are the negative effects of coal plants on jobs, etc.)

    3) people (esp. Republicans) who are surrounded by bountiful renewable resources not appreciating the potential wealth there

    4) just how hard it is for our democratic system to fight off the perils of the tragedy of the commons — small, but powerful interests dominating the discussion for their narrow and immediate benefit over the large, but dispersed interests which benefit in a broad and long-term way — CONGRATS GOV SIBELIUS!!!

  8. cugel says:

    My greatest respects to Governor Sebelius, and to Lieutenant Governor Parkinson. A two-year stand-off has seen an enormous change in the political and economic climate. This scheme is surely dead in the water.

    Am I right in thinking the Governor faces re-election next year?