Last October, the Kansas Department of Health denied air quality permits to a proposed coal plant expansion near Holcomb, KS, because of the danger greenhouse gas emissions pose to the climate. Ever since, coal’s proponents have waged an aggressive, fear-centered campaign against Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ (D) administration.
Today, Sebelius issued a long-expected veto of the legislature’s plan to not only approve the plant but also strip the Department of Health of its regulatory capacity. From her veto statement:
This decision not only preserves Kansans’ health and upholds our moral obligation to be good stewards of this beautiful land, but will also enhance our prospects for strong and sustainable economic growth throughout our state. Instead of building two new coal plants, which would produce 11 million new tons of carbon dioxide each year, I support pursuing other, more promising energy and economic development alternatives.
Big Coal’s allies had pulled out all the stops to pressure Sebelius into approving the drastic bill. Following the air permit denial, Peabody Energy, one of the largest coal companies in the world, funded newspaper ads comparing the governor to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Vladmir Putin, and Hugo Chavez. When that failed, Sunflower Electric — the company making the bid for the new plants — offered a quid pro quo to Kansas State University, promising millions of dollars to fund energy research if the coal plants were approved.
Just this week, coal’s allies in the state legislature insisted that the state “lost a chance to win a $10 billion [oil] refinery because of the recent rejection” of the coal project. As a spokeswoman for Sebelius pointed out that the company’s first choice has been South Dakota “since June 2007 — which was well before the Sunflower decision.”
UPDATE: ClimateProgress points out that Sebelius has offered compromise legislation that would allow for a coal plant to be built with carbon sequestration technology.
UPDATE: WarmingLaw contrasts the record of Kansas Secretary of Health and the Environment, Roderick Bremby, who made the landmark decision, to that of United States Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen L. Johnson.