Via the Lawrence Journal-World:
TOPEKA — A Kansas Senate committee plans on advancing a bill next week that would delay, and possibly even prevent, implementing new federal clean air regulations aimed at reducing carbon emissions from power plants.
The main question is which bill the committee will advance.
The Senate Utilities Committee heard testimony this week on two bills dealing with the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed new Clean Power Plan, which is scheduled to take effect in June.
Those rules will require states to adopt plans for cutting carbon emissions from power plants by 30 percent from their 2005 levels by 2030. Those plans are to include steps for replacing fossil fuel generating capacity with renewable energy, as well as efficiency measures to reduce demand for electricity.
State and industry officials have expressed concerns about the proposed rules because they give states only one year to develop and submit their plans and they call for such steep reductions that they could force utilities to retire some coal- or gas-fired plants before those utilities have time to build renewable generating capacity to replace them.
In public comments to the EPA, the Kansas Corporation Commission estimated the rules would cost Kansas consumers between $5 billion and $15 billion.
On Tuesday, the committee heard testimony on Senate Bill 151, which is supported by the Kansas Corporation Commission.
It would require the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to notify the KCC before it enters into any agreements with utilities establishing carbon dioxide emission standards. It would also require the KCC to conduct investigations to determine the lowest-cost options for acquiring power from other sources and to ensure that the recommended options maintain the reliability of the state’s power grid.
On Thursday, the committee heard testimony on another bill, SB 170, authored by Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political group founded with support from the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.
That bill would prohibit both the KCC and KDHE from even drafting a state plan before all of the litigation surrounding the rules has been resolved. It would also require legislative approval for any such plan, and it would cap any rate increases related to greenhouse gas regulations to 1.5 percent.
Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, who serves on the committee, said either bill would put the state at risk of having the EPA impose its own rules on Kansas by blocking state agencies from responding to the EPA rules in a timely manner.
“Everything in these two bills delays that and makes it harder,” Francisco said.
Rodger Wood, a lobbyist for Americans for Prosperity, said Kansas consumers have a lot at stake in the new rules.
“Both the cost and the reliability issues are going to impact every Kansas resident and every Kansas business that relies on electricity,” Woods said.
Officials from the state’s two largest utility companies, Westar Energy and Kansas City Power and Light, gave neutral testimony on the bills. But they warned that any delay in the adoption of a state plan could prompt the EPA to impose its own emissions reduction plan on the state.
“We feel like if we’re given enough time, we can do a pretty good job of complying with this,” said Brad Loveless, executive director of environmental services at Westar.
Meanwhile, a number of environmental groups are opposing the bill, saying it would only delay responding to a much more important issue, global climate change.
“The Clean Power Plan is based on the fact — the fact — that the earth is getting warmer due to human activities,” said Rabbi Moti Rieber of the group Kansans for Clean Energy.
Committee chairman Sen. Rob Olson, R-Olathe, said he plans for the panel will consider amendments and vote on sending one of the bills to the floor of the Senate on Tuesday.
- On February 24, 2015