Archive for Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Foes see coal plant supporters trying another ‘Hail Mary’

May 14, 2008

— Will there be another "Hail Mary" attempt to get approval of the coal-burning plants project in southwest Kansas?

Opponents and supporters of the project said Tuesday it's possible.

"It's not totally, totally over yet," Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson said.

"The pro-coal forces seem to come from the Hillary Clinton school of never give up," Parkinson said.

Here's the situation: Legislators twice approved bills that would allow the construction of the two 700-megawatt, coal-fired units near Holcomb.

And twice Gov. Kathleen Sebelius vetoed the measures, citing concerns with climate-changing carbon dioxide emissions and provisions that strip the state of air quality permit authority. The Senate easily overturned her vetoes, which requires a two-thirds majority.

But the House has fallen short of an override, needing 84 votes in the 125-member chamber.

Upon ending the 90-day legislative session, supporters of the plants again approved the project, this time bundling it into one bill with other popular economic initiatives.

Sebelius is expected to veto this one, too.

If she does, supporters of the plants would still have one more opportunity to override.

The session officially ends May 29, which is usually a ceremonial conclusion known as "Sine Die," the Latin phrase for "without another day." While often a brief meeting where few lawmakers even show up, there have been times the Legislature has conducted business on Sine Die.

And that's a possibility here.

Steve Miller, a spokesman for Hays-based Sunflower Electric Power Corp., the project's developers, noted that large majorities of House members at one time or another have voted for the coal-burning plants.

He said it was possible, "if we get all (of the supporters) to show up, we could override." But Miller also said he didn't know how the session would end.

Assuming Sebelius vetoes the bill, Parkinson said, another veto override attempt is possible. But, he added, "it would take an enormous effort to get 84 members of the House back here for an override."

Especially, he said, because the last bill that includes the plants actually received fewer votes - 76 - than previous coal bills.

But even if the Legislature is finished with the issue, the battle will continue.

Sunflower has filed an administrative appeal of the original permit denial by Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Roderick Bremby. In addition, Sunflower and one of its partners, Tri-State Generation and Transmission of Westminster, Colo., each has filed lawsuits against the decision. And Finney County commissioners have appealed the KDHE decision in court.

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