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House rejects bill repealing Kansas’ RPS energy mandate

A bipartisan coalition in the House refused to accept a controversial Senate bill Wednesday to repeal a state law mandating utility companies acquire 20 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

Legislation tied to renewable portfolio standards strikes an array of diverse political interests ranging from Gov. Sam Brownback’s consistent advocacy for Kansas wind farms, lawmakers intent on expanding employment with alternative energy companies as well as legislators and lobbying groups opposed to government mandates and regulation of the energy sector.

Critics of Kansas’ RPS provisions adopted in 2009 expressed frustration construction of a coal-fired plant in Holcomb has yet to proceed. The Republican-led Legislature and Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson agreed to include removal of a key regulatory stumbling block to that southwest Kansas plant expansion in the same bill establishing the RPS.

Conflicting statements were offered during House debate on the law’s influence on wind farms and the coal industry, influence on consumer electric rates and impact on management of regulated utility companies.

“It certainly got windy in here,” said Rep. Randy Garber, the Sabetha Republican who made the motion to concur with the Senate. “I support removing this RPS mandate. I support choice – free choice.”

The measure to repeal standards in Kansas in House Bill 2014 was approved Tuesday by the Senate on a vote of 25-15. However, the House followed lengthy debate by voting 44-77 against acceptance of the Senate’s position.