The Kansas Coal Battle


All eyes have been on the Kansas legislature this week as they look to override Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' veto of a bill proposing two coal-fired power plants in the state. The Kansas State Senate did override the veto, but the State House did not achieve an override. Think that's a success? Hold up – there's word that the State House will try again today to override a veto that has the state making a stand for clean energy.

It's been a long road thus far in this skirmish over two proposed coal-fired power plants in the state – all stemming from Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Rod Bremby in Oct. 2007 denying Sunflower Electric's air-quality permit request for two 700-megawatt generators near Holcomb, Kan., "citing concerns that carbon dioxide from the plants would exacerbate climate change and threaten human health."That decision was major – the first time coal-fired power plants had been denied based on the threat of global warming from excessive carbon emissions. Gov. Sebelius backed Bremby's decision, stating in a release that the "decision will not only preserve Kansans' health and uphold our moral obligation to be good stewards of this beautiful land, but will also enhance our prospects for strong and sustainable economic growth throughout our state."

Sebelius came out in favor of clean energy for Kansas rather than continuing to rely on dirty coal. Not happy with the governor's decision, some Kansas legislators decided to take it into their own hands and push for the plants themselves via legislation – which Sebelius then vetoed. This week, the Kansas legislature was back in session, taking on that veto. (A good history of the legislative process is here.)

Our own Stephanie Cole has been in the midst of all the action. Cole is our Kansas Sierra Club Chapter Representative and said the amount of public outcry against coal has been great so far. When the legislature came back into session on Wednesday, several clean energy proponent groups organized a rally – and more than 200 people showed up to "Pack the Capitol."

"It was a broad group of people – students, religious leaders, mothers, environmentalists, labor unions – it was great," said Cole, who has been at the Kansas State House watching the action all week. It's been an unpredictable time, she added, as new compromise bills have been introduced and rejected, then introduced again - including one compromise that Cole called "a chocolate-covered piece of coal." Now with this second chance for a veto override, Cole said the status changes almost every minute.

Cole knows the eyes of many around the U.S. (and perhaps from outside the U.S.) have been watching this process.

"It is in the hands of the state legislature now," she explained. "It's their time to shine, it's up to them. They've not seen a movement like this ever, with the amount of people who are contacting them about clean energy. With that sort of movement I don't see how they could ignore it or turn a blind eye to it. I would like our state leaders to do the right thing here."

Cole is encouraging her fellow Kansans to continue contacting their state legislators in favor of clean energy and no coal. (If you want to keep up with the ever-changing veto override process today, this blog is a great place to start).

Image credit::Sierra Club

Related Content on