Kansas’ Coal, Coal Heart

The showdown in Kansas over two proposed coal-fired power plants continues to escalate such that any gamer or game theorist could be entertained for days on end.

After Secretary Rod Bremby rejected the coal plants’ permits, Governor Kathleen Sebelius has twice vetoed legislation attempting to leapfrog Sec. Bremby’s decision. A few weeks ago, the Kansas legislature came one vote short of overriding Sebelius’ veto. And the battle rages on.

The Kansas legislature is likely to try to override again. If they manage, Kansas Lieutenant Governor Mark Parkinson has begun to discuss the Administration’s willingness to take legal action.

The past few months Gov. Sebelius has been clear about her terms of acceptance for legislation. Accompanying her veto, she offered a compromise:

* 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* Net metering allowed in the Sunflower service area

Now Sunflower Electric has responded with an ultimatum — they build two 600MW plants (rather than 700MW) and ‘accelerate development of renewable energy sources.’ The legislature still strips the Secretary of the ability to reject permits, and in exchange, Sebelius does not veto. If she does, they’ll override.


What a pathetically disguised political maneuver. Only 200MW was compromised — 15 percent. Did you know only 15 percent of the electricity was intended for Kansas in the first place? (So just out of curiosity — whose 15 percent was that? Colorado’s or Kansas’? I know, I know, that’s totally false logic…)

According to Sunflower Electric, accommodating the Governor’s request and building one 600MW plant would be economically unfeasible. Okay. But isn’t it the Governor’s job to put forth and pursue smart energy policy for the state, and not tailor to industry’s business interests? (Create conditions for a thriving market, yes. Act against the health and energy interests of the state for the sake for an all-too-powerful energy company, no.) And with rising construction costs, two new plants may also be too expensive!

That minimum 100MW of efficiency that Sebelius put on the table is looking pretty good — job creation to build, retrofit and install technologies; lower energy bills; a new investment sector; and quick results. Skip the coal plants, ‘accelerate development of renewable energy sources’ and meet the 132MW the Governor proposes in her compromise, and you have an efficient, affordable, modern and innovative set of the 200MW meant for Kansans in the first place.

No need to be coal-hearted here, Kansas.

— Kari Manlove