Gov. Kathleen Sebelius formed a group Monday to promote wind power, but two key legislators were skeptical it would make a valuable contribution to energy policy.
Sebelius said the new Kansas Wind Working Group will educate Kansans about new technology and the economics of wind power, and she predicted its work will encourage the development of new wind farms. She appointed Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson as chairman and named 33 others, including environmentalists and utility officials.
“Opportunities for increased wind energy within this state are plentiful, affordable and obtainable,” Sebelius said in a statement.
But the Democratic governor’s announcement received a cool response from two prominent Republicans, House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, of Ingalls, and Rep. Carl Dean Holmes, of Liberal, chairman of the House Energy and Utilities Committee.
“We need to actually do serious study on total energy needs and resources for the future,” Neufeld said.
Neufeld and Holmes strongly support a proposal from Sunflower Electric Power Corp. to build two coal-fired power plants outside Holcomb in Finney County. They argue that such plants are necessary to meet the state’s growing, around-the-clock need for electricity.
Sebelius and Parkinson disagree, arguing that aggressive conservation programs and new wind farms will be sufficient. In October, Rod Bremby, Sebelius’ secretary of health and environment, rejected a construction permit for Sunflower’s $3.6 billion project, citing the coal plants’ potential carbon dioxide emissions.
“By opening the dialogue between advocacy groups, utility companies and communities, across our state, we can form a shared vision on how best to move forward with new wind projects,” Parkinson said in a statement.
Parkinson also is co-chairman of the 35-member Kansas Energy Council, which advises Sebelius and legislators on energy policy.
But even some of the Energy Council’s members have said recently that its large size has made it ineffective, and environmentalists have criticized it for refusing to take a position on global warming.
Parkinson discounted the idea that the new wind power group would face similar perceived problems because of its size.
“This is a complex issue that requires many folks working together, and we appreciate the willingness of key leaders on this issue to come together to help our state reach its potential,” he said.
Holmes noted, however, that Sebelius formed a group in 2004 to study the potential construction of wind turbines in the Flint Hills – and later worked to limit their numbers in that scenic area.
By John Hanna
7 January 2008
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