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Kansas House appears to save green energy rule

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 2, 2014 at 8:43 pm •  Published: May 2, 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A close vote Friday in the Kansas House appeared to save a state requirement that utilities rely on wind and other renewable resources to generate some of their electricity, despite a monthslong push by conservative groups to repeal it.

House members voted 63-60 to block debates in either chamber on a bill repealing the mandate for utilities to have renewable resources cover 20 percent of their peak generating capacities by 2020. The proposal emerged Thursday evening from a meeting of House and Senate negotiators on energy issues.

Critics of the renewable-energy mandate include the Kansas Chamber of Commerce — influential among GOP members of the Republican-dominated Legislature — and the small-government, anti-tax group Americans for Prosperity. Also, the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, which counts dozens of Kansas legislators as members, has drafted model repeal legislation.

But some GOP legislators from rural areas consider wind energy an important part of the state's economy and helped environmentalists stymie repeal proposals in the House. Though the margin Friday was narrow, environmentalists like Moti Rieber, an Overland Park rabbi, believed they could hold off more attempts to repeal the green-energy mandate.

"I think they're annoyed by this," said Rieber, the director of Kansas Interfaith Power and Light, a coalition of religious groups on environmental issues. "There's a certain impatience with the fact that this is coming up again and again and again."

The House vote Friday was on bypassing the Legislature's general rule that all negotiators for the two chambers must sign off on the final version of legislation for it to be considered. Democrats negotiating on energy issues had refused because they didn't want to repeal the renewable-energy requirement. Because that rule was not bypassed, debate on the measure was blocked.

Critics of the mandate talked immediately after the House vote of reconvening energy negotiators and trying to draft a new proposal. But legislative leaders also wanted to finish the year's business Friday.

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