Alyssa Scott
KU Statehouse Wire Service
TOPEKA – The process Kansas uses to form its state energy plan could change with the implementation of House Bill 2233.
In the House Energy and Environment Committee hearing Wednesday, the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) testified in favor of the bill while the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) testified against it.
In order to eliminate pollution from power plants, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a Clean Power Plan in June 2014. While the plan will not be finalized until August 2015, it gives states one year to submit a State Implementation Plan indicating their compliance with the EPA’s goals and regulations. If a state fails to submit an energy plan within the deadline, the EPA will issue a Federal Implementation Plan instead.
KDHE’s Tom Gross said the process outlined in HB 2233 for developing a plan would make it difficult for Kansas to meet the one-year deadline.
“We have 365 days to get a plan submitted to the EPA and the KCC has a 300-day window in the middle of it, and we have a 60-day public comment period and then a hearing and response to comments,” Gross said. “With that, we’re in the negative. We’re in the red and we have zero days to prepare a plan.”
This 300-day window outlined in the bill allows the KCC to review the KDHE’s draft of the state energy plan, and the KCC must give approval before anything is submitted to the EPA.
Rep. Annie Kuether (D- Topeka) said her main concern with HB 2233 is that the KCC has too much control in the process.
“I’m really concerned with what I deem is pretty much an overreach and getting in the middle of what KDHE needs to do when they feel free and how they feel free to do it,” Kuether said. “You’re giving KCC a little more power and oversight of another agency, which is not their purview, and I think it’s a bad balance.”
KCC Commissioner Pat Apple said the bill provides a clear path for how Kansas should move forward.
“If we’re trying to come up with a state implementation plan that’s going to meld the next 50 years of energy policy, wouldn’t we be better off to have… (the best) information as we can as far as cost and reliability?” Apple said. “House Bill 2233 does that. We think that it’s the right thing to do for Kansas.”
Opponents and proponents of the bill present at the hearing agreed that missing the one-year deadline and having a Federal Implementation Plan in place would be detrimental to the state. Dorothy Barnett, who spoke on behalf of Kansans for Clean Energy, said missing the deadline is one of the reasons she is opposed to the bill.
“We are concerned that by adding this level of legislation we are going to subject Kansas to a Federal Implementation Plan and limit our ability to work on a state level,” Barnett said. “Stakeholders are nearly unanimous in their desire to avoid a Federal Implementation Plan.”
Committee Chair Rep. Dennis Hedke (R-Wichita) said although the KCC and the KDHE had different opinions at the hearing, the two organizations will advance the committee’s discussions and be ready to move forward when the committee meets next Wednesday.
“We’ve got good professionals here,” Hedke said. “Both the KCC and KDHE are loaded with highly qualified expertise, so I do believe that both of them actually want to get legislation built so that the EPA doesn’t have that overreach without some kind of preparation on our side.”
Alyssa Scott is a University of Kansas junior from Wichita majoring in journalism and French.