Kansas Government Renews Call for Greenhouse Gas Reductions

TOPEKA, Kansas, February 13, 2008 (ENS) – Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Rod Bremby today repeated his call to industry and stakeholders to engage in discussions to establish goals for voluntary reductions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions in Kansas.

”Despite repeated invitations, no one has contacted us to begin the public process of addressing climate change in Kansas,” said Bremby. ”We need to work side–by–side to develop a state policy addressing greenhouse gas emissions to better position Kansas when the inevitable federal legislation is enacted.”

It is almost certain that a federal cap and trade system will be enacted within the next three years that would create a price for carbon dioxide emissions similar to those being implemented in Europe, said Bremby. Industry experts believe the cost would likely be $20 to $30 a ton.

”We are choosing not to ignore the impending federal legislation,” Bremby said. ”We want to work with industry to develop strategies today to mitigate those future regulations.”

One tool that will be used when considering energy policy options will be the state’s first detailed inventory of carbon dioxide pollution emitted in Kansas.

KDHE has hired the Center for Climate Strategies to inventory greenhouse gas emissions for Kansas for the period of 1990 through 2025.

Center for Climate Strategies is a nonprofit service organization that works directly with public officials and agencies to identify, design and implement policies that address climate mitigation, clean energy and economic development opportunities. It is estimated that the inventory will be completed by the end of April.

The Kansas State Senate is currently debating a bill that would allow expansion of a coal–fired power plant at Holcomb in western Kansas. Bremby denied the facility an air quality permit in October 2007 because it would emit too much carbon dioxide, CO2.

This coal fired power plant at
Holcomb, Kansas wants to expand
but needs an air permit. (Photo
courtesy Sunflower Electric Coop)

Bremby said it was in his capacity as the protector of state residents’ health to reject the permit because of dangers posed by the greenhouse gas.

Critics of the decision said the secretary did not have the authority to deny the permit based on a greenhouse gas that the federal government does not regulate.

The current bill would provide that the head of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment cannot limit emissions beyond what the federal government regulates.

The bill as originally drafted would have had provisions to limit CO2 emissions and would have enacted a carbon tax for exceeding those limits. The bill also had increased energy efficiency standards for new school buildings.

But critics said the carbon tax would prevent businesses from moving to Kansas. School groups said the cost of increasing their buildings’ efficiency would be too great.

So, the CO2 limits, the tax and the efficiency standards were removed in committees of the Senate and the House. What remains is only approval for construction of the coal plant’s addition and a net metering program that allows energy customers a chance to sell back to utilities the excess energy produced by solar panels.

The bill is expected to pass the Senate. But the bill’s supporters need enough votes to override a likely veto by Governor Kathleen Sebelius.

Governor Sebelius said January 31, ”I do not support the section of the bill that prohibits the Secretary from taking action where the federal government has failed to act. Even though the United States Supreme Court told the EPA that it was obligated to regulate carbon dioxide, the EPA has refused to take action. Prohibiting our state agencies from filling voids resulting from federal inaction unnecessarily places our citizens at risk.”

”I do not support the sections of the bill that strip the Secretary of the Kansas Department of Environment of his critical authority to insist that coal plants meet more stringent standards than those established by the federal agencies to protect the health and environment of Kansans,” the governor said.

”The proposed energy package does nothing to encourage the further development of commercial wind power in our state or enhance transmission development. Nor does it further our voluntary renewable portfolio standard that I announced last year,” said Sebelius. ”Both of these features are needed to support alternative energy expansion in Kansas and make use of our abundant natural resources.”

”As I suggested in my State of the State,” the governor said, ”we need to join the 36 states that have begun or completed development of a comprehensive climate change action plan.

”Protecting the health and environment of Kansans is a responsibility we all share,” said Bremby today. ”It is our hope to partner with interested stakeholders to ensure that responsibility.”

View This Story On Eco–mmunity Map.