HISTORY OF THE HOLCOMB BILLS IN 2009
By Jim Mason
On Friday January 30, 2009 HB 2182 was introduced in the Kansas House that would enable the Holcomb coal plant expansion. The bill would proscribe KDHE from enforcing regulations on any contaminants that are not regulated by the federal government and forbid any state standards more stringent than federal standards. It would apply retroactively to Sec. Bremby's Holcomb decision of October 17, 2007, and give him only 15 days to act on a resubmitted permit application.
The language from 2182 became part of Substitute HB 2014 on Friday February 13. This bill was amended and then passed in the full House on Friday February 27, but five votes short of a veto-proof majority. The vote was 79-44, with 2 Absent or Not Voting.
The bill moved to the Senate, where it was sent to the Utilities Committee, which did a gut-and-go on it, stripping out the House language and replacing it with the language of SB 265 (see below). The bill was now much shorter with fewer provisions, but the essential purpose was still to enable the construction of two new coal power plants at Holcomb. The bill became officially titled Senate Substitute for House Substitute 2014. After floor debate and some amendments, it was approved 31-9 in the Senate on March 5.
A Conference Committee was appointed to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions. It reported the bill back out on March 27. Final passage occurred in the Senate on April 2 on a vote of 31-7, with 2 Absent or Not Voting. The House approved it the next day by a vote of 74-48, with 3 Absent or Not Voting - TEN votes short of a veto-proof majority.
Sub. 2014 was vetoed by Governor Sebelius on April 13. The text of the veto statement is below.
Then things got strange. The pro-Holcomb forces, as expected, vowed to try over-riding the veto in the legislature's final session, yet it seemed certain there were not sufficient votes in the House to get that done. In the meantime, Gov. Sebelius was nominated by President Obama to become Secretary of Health & Human Services, she accepted the nomination and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, April 28. Lt. Governor Parkinson became Governor the same day when Gov. Sebelius resigned to take her new position in the federal government.
Parkinson promptly began a backroom deal with Sunflower on an agreement which settled the dispute over the coal plant expansion outside the legislative process. This agreement was signed Monday, May 4, and announced in a 3:30 PM press conference that day.
The settlement deal between Sunflower and Parkinson.
In a nutshell, it will allow the construction of a single 895 Mw plant, and allow Sunflower to reapply for a second unit April 30, 2011. While the agreement also includes "requirements" for Sunflower to pursue carbon emissions reduction from the coal plant, wind power, energy efficiency and new transmission lines, these stipulations have many built-in loopholes that can allow Sunflower to avoid complying with them. (See link to Craig Volland's analysis below)