TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback declared Monday that a new federal rule for cutting carbon emissions is a "war against middle America," only days after his administration complicated potential efforts to comply by signing off on a new, $2.8 billion coal-fired power plant.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's regulation addresses power plant emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases blamed for climate change. The 645-page rule sets targets for states, giving them some flexibility for meeting them, and the EPA said that by 2030, Kansas would have to cut emissions from power plants from 2012 levels by 23 percent.
The White House said the rule is designed to fight environmental and public health problems associated with global warming, but Brownback, other state officials and representatives of major Kansas utilities worried that it will lead to higher energy costs, damaging the economy. Coal-fired plants provide about 63 percent of the state's electricity.
The EPA's announcement of the rule Monday came only three days after Brownback's secretary of health and environment gave the go-ahead for the new coal-fired power plant proposed by Hays-based Sunflower Electric Power Corp. for a site outside Holcomb in southwest Kansas.
Sunflower spokeswoman Cindy Hertel said the company is reviewing the new EPA rule and can't say how it will affect the Holcomb project. But environmentalists argue that the plant's construction would hamper any serious attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
"It doesn't make any sense for Kansas to focus on yesterday's technology," said Moti Rieber, an Overland Park rabbi and director of Kansas Interfaith Power and Light, a coalition of religious groups on environmental issues.
Sara Belfry, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said the EPA's work on the new emissions rule had no bearing on the timing of the state's decision on the coal-fired plant. She noted that the EPA's rule isn't final and could change.