A bill designed to weaken Kansas’ clean energy law is moving quickly through the state legislature this week — an effort led by corporate-backed, pro-fossil fuel groups that have fought to kill renewable energy laws around the country. If this sounds like déjà vu, that’s because it is.
On Friday, the Kansas House of Representatives will vote on a bill that would weaken the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which requires that utility companies get 20 percent of their power from renewable energy sources by 2020, the Wichita Eagle reported. The bill would keep the current 10 percent requirement and allow the requirement to increase as scheduled to 15 percent in 2016. However, the RPS would sunset in 2021 instead of increasing to 20 percent as scheduled.
In March, a bipartisan group of Kansas state representatives rejected an RPS repeal bill that the Senate approved.
And in 2013, both the Kansas Senate and House rejected legislative efforts to roll back and delay the RPS.
Repeal and weakening efforts over the years have been backed by powerful interests, including the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) — all of which are funded by petrochemical billionaires Charles and David Koch.
Furthermore, the ALEC connections to Kansas politicians are strong. Both the Kansas state Senate’s president, Susan Wagle (R), and the speaker of the state House, Ray Merrick (R), are members of the ALEC board. And, 46 other Kansas elected officials have ALEC ties.
This year, AFP also launched a media blitz in Kansas, running TV and radio ads that attempted to tie the renewable energy standard to former governor Kathleen Sebelius, despite the fact that it was signed into law by her successor. The ads also attribute electricity rate hikes to the standards, which prompted former Senate President Dave Kerr, (R) to call them “provably false.”
The Lawrence Journal-World notes that “a report by the Kansas Corporation Commission shows that the impact of the renewable energy standards is about one-fifth of one cent of the average 9.9 cents per kilowatt hour electricity cost.”
It’s not a surprise Koch-funded groups continue to attack the successful and popular Kansas RPS law. Both Charles and David Koch are Kansas natives, and the state is home to Koch Industries, the brothers’ Wichita-based energy conglomerate.
As the Kansas legislature prepares for its latest vote to weaken the state’s clean energy law, ALEC is holding its spring Task Force Summit in Kansas City, Missouri on Friday. The task force’s gathering at the Kansas City Marriott Downtown will discuss the drafting of new legislation for state lawmakers across the country.
Last year, the Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force adopted the “Electricity Freedom Act” that gave guidance to state legislators for repealing or weakening RPS laws. The task force has also adopted model legislation that attacks net metering policies and the forthcoming EPA greenhouse gas emission standards for existing power plants.
On Friday, the last day of the legislative session, the Kansas House of Representatives voted 63–60 to defeat the bill that would have weakened the state’s renewable energy standard. “Extraordinary pressure was placed on legislators — committee assignments, campaign contributions and electoral opposition promised or threatened — yet a solid, bipartisan majority in the House stood steadfast in support of renewable energy,” Rabbi Moti Rieber, Director of Kansas Interfaith Power and Light, wrote in an email to ThinkProgress. “The Koch apparatus has been defeated in its own backyard for the third consecutive year.”