Kan. lawmakers reject lessening green energy rules

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 28, 2013 at 8:32 pm •  Published: February 28, 2013
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At the urging of Sen. Forrest Knox, an Altoona Republican, senators included a provision in their bill requiring the Kansas Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities, to study the cost to consumers of imposing the standards.

Kansas utilities have acknowledged that they're already close to generating 15 percent of their power from renewable resources, and several wind farms have been constructed in recent years.

The state's largest retail electric company, Topeka-based Westar Energy Inc., is not taking a public position on changing the standards.

But the American Legislative Exchange Council, a Washington-based group that promotes free-market policies and brings corporate leaders and conservative state lawmakers together, has drafted model "Electricity Freedom" legislation for repealing such renewable energy standards.

House Speaker Ray Merrick, a Stilwell Republican, and Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, serve on the group's national board.

In committee hearings, much of the public support for backing off the standards has come from conservative think tanks such as the Kansas Policy Institute, based in Wichita, and the Heartland Institute of Chicago.

The idea of revising the standards also has the backing of Koch Industries Inc., the multibillion-dollar Wichita-based firm with oil, natural gas and energy products interests, though spokeswoman Melissa Cohlmia said Thursday that legislation "was not a high priority" and noted that the company hasn't testified publicly on it.

"Overregulation, subsidies, and cronyism distort the marketplace and result in higher energy prices for every American," Cohlmia said in an email statement. "We don't think government should be picking winners and losers in the marketplace based on the industries or products it chooses to subsidize."

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The House's bill on energy standards is HB 2241. The Senate's measure is SB 82.

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Online:

Text and Senate vote on SB 82: http://bit.ly/13rRnli

Text and House action in HB 2241: http://bit.ly/15UIbFv

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Follow John Hanna on Twitter at www.twitter.com/apjdhanna



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