Archive for Thursday, April 10, 2008

Governor vetoes 2nd try to save coal plant

Legislature approves bill prior to ending regular session; lawmakers return April 30 for wrap up

April 10, 2008

— Gov. Kathleen Sebelius on Friday vowed to veto a second bill approved by the Legislature that would allow the construction of two 700-megawatt coal-fired plants.

"I am disappointed that again, we have the same elements in a bill that I cannot accept, and will not support," Sebelius said in a prepared statement.

Asked about the prospect of another veto, Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, said, "We'll deal with that when it happens."

Lawmakers approved the bill before they ended the regular legislative session to take a three-week break. The Legislature will reconvene April 30 for a wrap-up session.

Last year, Kansas Health and Environment Secretary Roderick Bremby denied the coal-fired plants, citing concerns with its annual emission of 11 million tons of carbon dioxide and its effect on global warming.

Since then supporters of the $3.6 billion project have been trying to overturn the decision in the Legislature and strip Bremby of key regulatory authority.

The new bill was approved Friday in the House, 83-41, and then in the Senate, 32-7.

The House vote was viewed as something of a test. Despite keeping the roll open for nearly an hour, House leaders fell one vote short of the two-thirds majority of 84 votes that would be needed to overturn a veto.

Last month, Sebelius vetoed a similar bill and while the Senate was able to override it, House leaders have been several votes short.

The standoff over the coal-fired plants has loomed over the entire legislative session that started in January.

Under the proposed project, Hays-based Sunflower Electric Power Corp. and out-of-state partners would build the plants near Holcomb. More than 85 percent of the power would be used by customers in Colorado and other states.

Supporters of the plants say they will be among the cleanest burning coal-fired units in the country, boost the local economy and provide the transmission lines needed to develop more wind energy.

State Sen. Roger Pine, R-Lawrence, said the plants would be needed to handle the state's future power needs. "I really don't want a brownout in Kansas," Pine said.

Environmentalists, however, say the project should be rejected.

"Endorsing this bill leaves Kansas wed to an obsolete energy technology that will pollute our air, deplete our water resources and prevent clean energy jobs in western Kansas," the Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club said.

Sebelius has offered to support a 660-megawatt unit and environmental commitments to renewable resources, but Sunflower Power has rejected that offer.

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