Ever since the Kansas Department of Health and Environment denied air quality permits for two 700-megawatt coal-burning power generators near Holcomb, KS, in October, the coal industry has fought back with everything it can muster.
In November, it published newspaper ads comparing Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Vladimir Putin, and Hugo Chavez.
Now Big Coal is trying bribery. Sunflower Electric, a leading Kansas power company, has offered millions to Kansas State University for energy research — that is, if the legislature approves its bid for new coal plants first. Speaker Melvin Neufeld (R) emphasized the large cash gift yesterday as he urged his colleagues to approve the plants:
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) said such a bribery scheme was “in poor taste.”
Apparently, the coal industry is willing to pull out all the stops to ensure a victory in a year that has, so far, brought nothing but bad news for the industry. Big Coal has been forced to pay massively expensive settlements for polluting rivers, has suffered the loss of government funding for a new carbon-capturing plant, and has faced a skeptical Wall Street, as big banks indicate that coal is no longer a healthy or wise investment.