[Cross-posted at Red, Green, and Blue]
When President Obama tapped Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius for Secretary of Health and Human Services, there may have been some tightening in the chests of those fighting an expansion of the Holcomb Station coal-fired power plant - an expansion Sebelius has fought hard against.
In 2007, Kansas become the central battleground in the fight against coal and regulating carbon dioxide when state Health and Environmental Secretary Roderick Bremby made the landmark decision to deny an air permit for the expansion at Holcomb, ruling that carbon dioxide needed to be regulated as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.
But the principle beneficiaries of the expansion immediately launched a multi-venue political campaign to challenge the decision. Sunflower Electric of Kansas, Tri-State G&T of Colorado, and Golden Spread Electric Cooperative poured money into lawsuits, public relations campaigns, and got legislation introduced into the House and Senate that would override Bremby and Sebellius. Gov. Sebelius vetoed all three coal bills last year and coal supporters never mustered enough votes for an override. To date, the decision sticks.
The folks at the Kansas-based Climate & Energy Policy Project assure us that Sebellius' replacement, Lt. Governor Mark Parkinson "is in no way shape or form any weaker than Sebelius on clean energy policy." But looking long term, some are worried. Elizabeth Black at The Cutting Edge writes:
"It doesn’t help that he [Parkinson] announced a few weeks ago that he intends to leave public office to return to the private sector as soon as his term is over. And with the coal issue heating up again, those plants—financed by out of state utilities for out of state customers—could get built, ironically in a part of the state where the wind blows even harder than the politicians, making it ideal for vast wind farms."
Although the bills rising in the state legislature, may look a little greener than those previous attempts to push Holcomb through, Gov. Sebelius calls them "olive green." At the Huffington Post, Simran Sethi writes:
"Though discussions of renewable energy have been included, most fail to take advantage of the state's renewable resources and instead contain measures that would allow for the expansion of coal, including Sunflower's proposed plants in Holcomb."
The critical question is not whether Sebelius' replacement (or Sebelius' replacement's replacement) will block legislation that would usher in the Holcomb Station expansion—an expansion where some 86 percent of the electricity generated by the plants will be shipped to Colorado and Texas—the question is whether the point will be made moot by an Obama administration that has promised to rule carbon dioxide as a pollutant.
Image: CC licensed by flickr user wsilver