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Dorothy Barnett

Defending the Renewable Portfolio Standard

2 years ago | Apr 23, 2013
By: Dorothy Barnett, Executive Director

Many of you followed along and actively supported our efforts to defend the RPS in KS. Thank you.

While this post might be longer than usual, I want to share with you all my thoughts on the entire process:

While focused on the fate of the federal Production Tax Credit we were caught off guard when our state’s clean energy policy came under attack in March of 2012. There was an attempt via HB 2446 by Representatives Dennis Hedke and Forrest Knox to roll back the successful Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) in place in Kansas since 2009.

Supporters of wind energy came together to offer testimony about the economic benefits of renewable energy and the effectiveness of the RPS during a week of hearings. The rollback attempt died in committee.

Leadership and committee changes in the 2013 Kansas legislature were not good for energy policy.
30 year veteran House Energy and Utility Chairman Carl Holmes, (known for his fairness and expertise on energy) was defeated and his knowledgeable and fair committee was split in to two new committees - Energy & Environment and Utilities & Telecommunications. Chairmanship of Energy & Environment was given to Dennis Hedke (a climate denier and author of the attempted RPS rollback in 2012).

The Speaker of the Kansas House and the President of the Kansas Senate currently serve on the board of directors for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a coalition of corporations and state legislators. ALEC is leading a nationally coordinated attack on state renewable portfolio standards. Their "Electricity Freedom Act" is a full repeal of state laws requiring increasing electricity generation from renewable energy, although here in Kansas, their model morphed into a freeze of the RPS.

It was no surprise when Chairman Hedke spent the committee’s valuable time educating his committee about global warming with presentations from known climate deniers Willie Soon and John Christy. If only such time had been spent analyzing the impacts of the wind industry to the KS economy.

Chairman Hedke followed with HB 2241 which would cap the RPS at 15% and included language that would negatively impact this job creating energy policy. Although only a few groups supported rolling back the RPS, they were giants compared to CEP and our counter parts.

The Kansas Policy Institute, Beacon Hill, Americans for Prosperity, and Heartland Institute all testified against the RPS before the House Energy and Environment Committee. Koch Industries got directly involved by sending its lobbyist to talk with House members and Grover Norquist himself urged legislators to repeal the RPS.

CEP was thrilled when the Senate voted 23 to 17 against Senate Bill 82, a bill not quite as bad as Hedke’s. Clearly the Senate was not interested in negatively impacting the Kansas wind industry.

On the same day, the House voted 63-59 to send HB 2241 to the House Utilities and Telecommunications Committee instead of its committee of origination (House Energy & Environment).

Unfortunately, House leadership didn’t listen to the members and sent the bill back to Chairman Hedke who decided to take the rarely heard of step to have a reconsideration hearing on the bill.

Over 90 Kansans made the trip to Topeka (many at CEP’s request) and over 20 of our partnerssubmitted written testimony opposing any changes to the RPS (although they were not allowed to testify). Their impassioned written testimony talked about the jobs, and the prosperity wind energy has brought to Kansas.

The number of wind farms that came online from 2009 to 2012, after the passage of the RPS, nearly doubled Kansas’s installed wind capacity. The 19 operating wind farms in the state have created more than 12,300 jobs and provides $13.7 million dollars annuallyto landowners and $10.4 million in donations to communities hosting wind farms each year.

During the hearing, Representative Moxley, a Republican and rancher said the state made a deal that has led to hundreds of millions of dollars being invested in Kansas, and he disputed Representative Hedke’s (and Beacon Hill’s) assertion that rates have increased by 37 percent because of wind energy. Kansas Corporation Commission data shows it’s far less than that, Moxley said. "Less than 2 percent is what we’re fighting over,” he said.

After much debate, Representative Jennings, a Republican from Western Kansas, moved to table the bill, which means that a vote on the bill is adjourned until a later time. The motion passed 10-9. It appeared there would be one more attempt by Chairman Hedke to take the bill off the table right before the session was adjourned, however a bi-partisan coalition of legislators in his committee held strong and the bill remained on the table.

In addition legislative outreach, CEP was also making sure Kansans understood what was at stake with this RPS attack. We partnered with energy experts Polsinelli/Shughart and the Kansas Energy Information Network to share their report "Economic Benefits of Kansas Wind Energy" during business leader energy roundtables held across the state. Citizens were able to discuss the economic benefits of wind, ask questions of the report’s authors and receive legislative updates from the Wind Coalition. More than 200 Kansans attended these roundtable events.

Our last roundtable was held at the Capitol where 30 legislators (28 Republicans and 2 Democrats) joined their constituents for lunch and a conversation about the positive impact wind energy in having in their community.

Kansans have a lot to be proud of. We signed thousands of online petitions supporting the RPS, wrote dozens of letters to the editor and drove hundreds of miles to attend hearings. The RPS is safe for now, but we must continue to build a coalition of wind supporters within our communities and at the legislature in order to continue to reap the benefits of renewable energy.

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