Library from Kansas
The Senate passed a bill 25-15 Tuesday to repeal the renewable energy standards enacted in 2009. The mandate, known as the Renewable Portfolio Standards, require the state's utility companies to get 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
Republicans in the Kansas Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that would repeal the state's renewable energy standards. "Let's repeal this mandate and allow the free market system to work," said state Sen. Rob Olson, R-Olathe.
[The RPS] is not needed anymore,” said Mike O’Neal, president of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce. “I’d make an argument that it never was needed.” The RPS statute requires that utility companies get 15 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2015, and O’Neal said they’ve already reached that point. “Time to take the training wheels off. We don’t need the RPS anymore.”
"We have sacrificed everything for this land," said Jennifer Gatrel, 33, who, along with her husband, Jeff, farms a 430-acre cattle ranch in western Missouri. "We don't go on vacation. We don't go out to eat. Everything we have is tied up in this land. The idea that somebody can come in and take it from us is appalling and it goes against what it is to be an American."
Demands from conservatives to jettison Kansas' renewable energy standards died down by halftime of the 2014 legislative session, but like the Kansas weather, that could change at any moment. Asked if the effort to repeal renewable energy goals was dead for 2014, Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, responded. "Oh no. The session is just starting."
In December, the commission placed a moratorium on wind farm projects until it had time to draft regulations on their development. But at the commission's Wednesday meeting, the panel ruled the meteorological towers did not fall under the moratorium and allowed the application process for a conditional use permit to continue.
Farming interests want to change the process for approving construction of direct current power lines in Kansas to give landowners more input.
“The first time was about two weeks ago,” said the substation’s site manager, Tony Nikabadze. “It was on a Friday. We had all the tools and equipment stored in two trailers. The thieves cut the chains on the doors of the trailer and stole a welder and power tools.” This past weekend thieves struck the site again,” Nikabadze said.
Threats to the bird include wind farms, oil and gas production, herbicides, drought and livestock grazing. Kansas Electric Cooperatives and the Kansas Farm Bureau back the bill. Designating the bird as endangered or threatened could stymie the state’s wind industry by limiting placement of wind turbines. It also could double the cost of building power transmission lines.
Mark Schreiber, Westar’s executive director of government affairs, told legislators that under current law his company “is paying net-metered customers a retail price for a wholesale commodity” and that the 1-to-1 kilowatt credit doesn’t account for infrastructure costs like power plants and power lines.
Wind energy turbine farms could be hazardous for small aircraft. That’s the conclusion of a study done by the University of Kansas for the Kansas Department of Transportation. “These turbines can set up a circular vortex that can roll a plane if it gets in there,” said Tom Mulinazzi, a KU professor of civil, environmental and architectural engineering.
Chamber leaders said businesses' concerns about energy costs are prompting it to enter the debate over a state law requiring utilities to see that renewable resources, such as wind power, account for 20 percent of their capacity to generate electricity by 2020. The chamber is not "anti-wind." "We are against government picking winners and losers. Wind energy has its place, but those investments have to be self-sustaining."
Current Federal Aviation Administration guidelines only evaluate vertical structures from a static perspective within an airport zone. However, wind farms are dynamic with spinning blades that can create rotational vortices. "This research points out a shortcoming in the current evaluation process and that is why this is so important.”
The rule shields producers enrolled in the plan and operating in compliance with it from punishment for the accidental death or disturbance of the bird the EPA has targeted for listing as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
The action came amid reports from residents in southern Douglas County that a potential developer has approached residents seeking to buy easements for wind towers. "Currently we don't have any specific regulations that mention wind farms," said county Administrator Craig Weinaug.
Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, said she doesn’t like the mandate. “Clearly repeal of the RPS is on the table. It is our responsibility to see that our citizens have the most reliable and affordable energy possible. Renewable energy is very expensive.”
Commissioners are expected to vote on a home rule resolution imposing a moratorium on large wind energy systems when they meet at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the county courthouse. The proposed moratorium would run through April 30, 2014. Douglas County currently does not have development codes that specifically deal with wind farms.
The approval depends on the developer, Clean Line Energy, getting approvals from the Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana state utility commissions before starting construction in Kansas. The order also specified that construction must begin within five years, and that Clean Line can’t recover any of its costs from Kansas ratepayers.
In 2012, there were an estimated 34,000 lesser prairie chickens across their grassland range, which includes portions of Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Colorado. Kansas is home to about half the country's lesser prairie chicken population. This year's survey showed the bird's population has declined by about half, down to an estimated 17,600 total in the five states.
"There was a mechanical failure that caused the trailer to go into the median," Cordry said. "Everything was totaled. The truck rolled over; the trailers were damaged and so was the load."