Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sebelius nixes coal plants after money-peddling

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sibelius has vetoed two coal-fired electric plants approved by the GOP dominated state legislature – approved after controversy and lots of corporate cash waved at the Kansas Legislature.

The two proposed plants, to be built by the Sunflower Electric Corporation in the southwest corner of the state, would generate 1,400 megawatts of electricity and produce up to 11 million tons of carbon-dioxide emissions. Because of the large production of greenhouse gases, the state’s secretary of health and the environment, Rod Bremby, withheld approval for the plants.

The bill sent to Sibelius, after politicking and Sunflower fearmongering, stripped such power from Bremby’s office, among other objectionable thiongs. The two plants also would have sent 86 percent of their power out of state.

And, fear wasn’t the only thing that Sunflower “monged,” especially to the Kansas Legislature. First, there was legalized bribery for the state’s university system:
Officials of Sunflower Electric Power Corp., the company that wants to build two coal-fired electrical plants near Holcomb, said they would give $2.5 million to Kansas State University if permits for the plants were approved by June 1. The offer was revealed to members of the Kansas House just before a vote on legislation to allow construction of the plants.

(Only K-State was made the offer because most western Kansans aren’t big on KU.)

Also, plenty of lobbying cash got thrown around, and not just by Sunflower:
A report from the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission on 2007 expenditures by registered lobbyists shows two groups spent more than $500,000 on advertisements in the last four months of the year. Kansans for Affordable Energy, which was funded by coal interests and supports the proposed expansion by Sunflower Electric Corp., spent $101,190 over those months to sway public opinion. Know Your Power Kansas, financed by natural gas interests and an opponent of more coal-fired generating plants, spent $405,736 urging people to contact their legislators in support of clean power.

In her veto message, Sebelius repeated her offer to negotiate. She said she would support one generator if it came with investments in renewables and energy conservation. The bill as written had weaker investments in renewables, as well as the neutering of Bremby.

The Kansas Senate has the numbers to override, but the House does not. Stay tuned.