Bill would halt new coal-fired plants

TOPEKA, KANSAS - The discussion over global climate change found its way into the Statehouse when more than a dozen people testified on a proposed two-year moratorium on the construction of new coal-fired power plants.

The majority of those who testified were for the short-term ban, but one representative said the potential increased cost to consumers and energy companies' efforts to curb environmental risks would probably doom the bill.

For the first hour of a House Energy and Utilities Committee's meeting, legislators heard from those concerned about coal plants as they referenced scientists who say carbon dioxide, caused by burning coal, is one of the key contributors to global warming.

"We should not wait for everyone to get on board before we do the right thing right now," said Wes Jackson, president of The Land Institute, a group that seeks to develop ecologically stable agricultural systems.

But energy companies said the right thing to do would be to vote against any ban.

Wayne Penrod, executive manager of Sunflower Electric Power Corp., said the plants will meet Environmental Protection Agency requirements for carbon emissions and go beyond EPA mandates for mercury pollutants.

The company says the $8 billion project would create 2,000 temporary jobs during construction and another 400 permanent jobs once completed.

"If you pass this bill, you won't simply delay this project we've been working on for years to bring to Kansas, you will kill it," said Earl Watkins, president of Sunflower.

Rep. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita, said her constituency included many low-income residents and asked if a moratorium would cost ratepayers.

Watkins answered without hesitation: "Yes."

Tom Thompson, with the Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club, said other measures, such as energy efficient home improvements, could be used to meet energy needs.

He said that energy companies aren't thinking broadly enough.

"It is not a 'not in my backyard' issue; it is a 'not on my planet' issue," Thompson said.

The old Supreme Court room in the Statehouse was filled with more than 50 people, many of whom wore stickers reading, "Sustainable energy for Kansas. Now is the time."

The 700-megawatt generators proposed by Sunflower would create enough energy to power 775,000 homes.

They would be built near Sunflower's 360-megawatt plant south of Holcomb.

Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, said the bill probably won't get through the committee.

"Sunflower's presentation on curbing carbon and mercury emissions make a difference to the community as does Westar and Midwest Energy's testimony about higher costs for ratepayers," he said.


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