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Three Strikes Against Kansas Coal Plants: Sebelius Vetos Again
TOPEKA, Kansas, May 16, 2008 (ENS) - As the Kansas Legislative session closes, Governor Kathleen Sebelius has for a third time vetoed a bill that would have allowed a coal generating station in western Kansas to expand by adding two new coal-fired units. It would also have raised electricity rates across the state for the benefit of a single company.

"Throughout this entire Session," the governor said, "the legislature has failed to craft a comprehensive energy policy for our state. Here, nearing the end, their one statewide policy is to raise the electric bill of every Kansan."

Last October, Secretary of Kansas Department of Health and Environment Rob Bremby denied a permit to regional wholesale power supplier Sunflower Electric Power Corporation to build the two new 700 megawatt power plants at its Holcomb Generating Station because they would produce too much carbon dioxide, a gas scientists link to climate change.

Proponents of the power plant expansion such as Kansas House Speaker Melvin Neufeld claim Sebelius and her administration acted outside their authority by rejecting Sunflower's plans with its out-of-state partners for the power plants at Holcomb.

The governor's veto message for HB 2412 is the same as the one she delivered on April 17 in her second veto of substantially the same measure.

Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius confers with Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty at a meeting of the National Governors Assn. Both governors are attempting to prepare their states to deal with climate change. (Photo courtesy NGA)
"Legislators who promote the expansion of coal-fired plants in Kansas have again made a strategic decision with HB 2412," the governor said. "Rather than working toward a compromise solution, legislative leaders recklessly chose to jeopardize important initiatives for businesses and communities across our state by combining them with energy legislation I have previously vetoed twice."

In addition, this third bill passed by the Republican-controlled legislature contains economic provisions as well as directives regarding the coal-fired power plants - that is, the same billl legislates on two separate subjects - an unconstitutional action in Kansas, as the governor pointed out.

"Their action has raised concerns, voiced by key legislative proponents of the coal measures, that this bill violates Article 2, Section 16, of the Kansas Constitution, which prohibits two subjects in a bill," Governor Sebelius said.

"I take these concerns very seriously in determining whether a bill that comes to my desk meets a minimum threshold of constitutionality," she said, adding, "Like every member of the Kansas Legislature, I am sworn to uphold the Kansas Constitution, and cannot support a measure that blatantly contradicts our founding document."

Still the governor indicates there are economic, tax, and transportation provisions in the bill that she can support and in future legislative sessions she will work with the legislature, businesses and communities to pass these measures.

The biggest loss, she says, is the truck-rail intermodal facility for the town of Gardner, Kansas that was contained in the bill she vetoed today.

The intermodal facility would generate some 2,000 truck trips per day at start-up and accept trains as quickly as safe train operations will allow. Gardner is right on the busiest Intermodal route in the nation, carrying millions of truck trailers and containers through the Kansas City area by train instead of on the local freeways.

"That is a tremendous amount of traffic relief for area freeways, such as I-35, not to mention the reduction in environmental emissions and fuel because trains are three times as fuel efficient as trucks," the City of Gardner says on its website.

A small fraction of those trains would stop at this potential facility and load and unload shipments for customers in the Kansas City region.

"Under my direction," Governor Sebelius said today, "various state agencies including the Kansas Department of Transportation, Kansas Department of Commerce and the Kansas Development Finance Authority have been working over the past several months with local officials and legislators to promote the development of the proposed intermodal facility in Gardner.

"I am disappointed legislative leaders chose to impede their hard work by inserting this funding mechanism only within this bill. I remain supportive of this project and encourage the county commissioners to continue discussion with local and state officials to ensure this project moves forward," she said.

Once again, the governor said, "this maneuver has done nothing to address the issues at hand - developing comprehensive energy policy, providing base-load energy power for Western Kansas, implementing carbon mitigation strategies and capitalizing on our incredible assets for additional wind power."

This bill suggested legislative intrusion in the business of power companies by mandating Sunflower offer electricity generated at the new plants to utilities across the state, without any assurances in regard to price, availability or transmission lines.

Having the Legislature dictate the business decisions of private companies establishes another questionable precedent that could hinder the recruitment of other businesses to our state. Clearly Kansas can do better.

She particularly wants to keep legislative involvement in the utility business to a minimum, saying, "Putting the regulatory permitting process into the hands of a legislature whose membership changes every two years would set a dangerous precedent."

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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