In a rather stunning development, Governor Kathleen Sebelius vetoed a bill passed by the Kansas Legislature to allow two coal fired-power plants to receive their air emissions permits in a move to overturn the Kansas environmental agency to hold them back in response to the greenhouse gases they would emit. The veto in effect is a current ban on coal-fired power plants in Kansas. This development shines a spotlight on the need to develop a coherent and effective climate change and energy policy for the United States. Carbon capture and storage or sequestration will be a necessary part of those policies.
After vetoing the bill that would have allowed 11 million tons of greenhouse gases to be produced from two new coal-fired power plants, the governor signed Executive Order 08-03, which establishes the Kansas Energy and Environmental Policy Advisory Group.
"We know that greenhouse gases contribute to climate change,” Sebelius stated. “As an agricultural state, Kansas is particularly vulnerable. Therefore, reducing pollutants benefits our state not only in the short term – but also for generations of Kansans to come.”
Sebelius has named Jack Pelton, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Cessna Aircraft Company, to lead this group.
"I am so pleased that one of our most prominent business leaders has agreed to serve as chair,” Sebelius said. “Jack understands the balance between continuing to grow our economy and making sure that we protect our environment and maximize our natural assets for future generations. The Advisory Group will explore opportunities in all sectors of our economy to accomplish the goal of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions; and, at the same time, continue to take advantage of the economic prosperity provided by job growth throughout Kansas."
In her State of the State Address this past January, Sebelius discussed the need for
The process will be facilitated by the Center for Climate Strategies (CCS). Their work is supported by the Energy Foundation and the Sandler Family Supporting Foundation, which includes the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. CCS has developed climate action plans in: Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, Colorado, Washington, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Vermont. State plans are underway in South Carolina, Florida, Arkansas, Michigan, Maryland, and Alaska.
The veto decision places increasing pressure on state legislatures and the federal government to develop a coherent and national climate change and greenhouse gas management plan that incorporate an energy policy and strategy the US has lacked for decades. It is clear that climate change policy and energy policy are inextricably intertwined, requiring policy decisions in the near future as Congress and the current President have failed to take on these issues.
One of the other key issues not discussed is the reality that coal-fired power plants must capture and store or sequester the carbon underground. The capture phase presents some challenges but could be implemented with existing technologies. Cost is the primary concern and utilities cannot justify the expense unless legislation requires the investment. The transportation and storage or sequestration below ground is an old technology used to enhance oil and gas recovery. Thus, to begin requiring new coal-fired power plants to capture the carbon dioxide from these plants and to inject it underground is a step that is critical to using a low cost source of energy in a manner that protects the environment. By capturing the gases emitted from coal-fired power plants, other pollutants like sulfur dioxide and mercury would also removed from the emissions of the plants that would otherwise be released to the atmosphere.
This veto and effective prohibition of coal-fired power plants demonstrates it is clearly time for the sake of the utility industry and the public that we have a coherent energy and climate change policy for the United States. Hopefully, we will see consistent and dedicated work in Congress this year and leadership by a newly-elected president in 2009, whomever that party may be.