The Senate Utilities Committee on Monday endorsed a stripped-down version of an energy bill that would allow two-coal power plants in western Kansas but remove proposed rules on carbon dioxide emissions.
The committee’s 6-2 vote sends the measure to the Senate floor for debate.
Committee members said the CO2 rules – and a proposed carbon tax for non-complying utilities – would have prevented the bill’s passage. In its new form, it appears almost certain that Gov. Kathleen Sebelius will veto the bill.
The bill would permit Sunflower Electric Power Corp. to build two plants outside Holcomb, in Finney County. Since October, the $3.6 billion project has been blocked by Sebelius’ top environmental regulator.
The committee’s reworking of the bill is the second blow to those who backed the more comprehensive bill.
On Friday, the House Energy and Utilities Committee was planning to take action on the bill when the chairman, Rep. Carl Dean Holmes, a Liberal Republican, informed the panel that he had been ordered not to work the bill and abruptly adjourned the committee.
House Speaker Melvin Neufeld said it was obvious there weren’t enough votes to move the bill, especially a two-thirds majority needed to overcome the anticipated veto from Sebelius.
The Ingalls Republican said legislators would be meeting with interested parties to discuss what type of bill can get enough votes to pass.
As introduced in the Senate and House committees, the measure would have imposed the state’s first rules on carbon dioxide emissions, which many scientists have linked to global warming. Those rules would apply to new power plants and utilities failing to comply would face a tax of $3 for each ton of excess emissions.
Environmentalists oppose the coal-fired plants, arguing the new CO2 rules would be far too weak and the carbon tax far too low to encourage utilities to lower their emissions. Meanwhile, some legislators and anti-tax groups oppose imposing any carbon tax, viewing it as radical policy that will hurt the economy.
The original measure was drafted by the Republican chairmen and top Democrats on the House and Senate utilities committee.
For new coal-fired power plants, the CO2 allowed would be less than the emissions of any existing Kansas plant in pounds per megawatt hour. The amount allowed would drop 20 percent after a new plant has been in operation a year.
But utilities would have been able to ‘offset’ – lower their emissions on paper – if they’ve invested in a wind farm since 2000 or in technology to capture and store CO2 emissions, or if they develop conservation or beautification programs.
Sebelius and environmentalists argue the rules are so generous that Sunflower’s new plants would be treated as if they produced zero CO2 emissions, even though their projected output is 11 million tons a year – still less per megawatt hour than any existing Kansas plant.
Copyright 2007 Associated Press.
AFX News Limited
11 February 2008
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