Kansas Legislative Network News
January 29, 2010
Sierra Club Kansas Chapter
221 E Ellsworth, Salina KS, 67401
Climate in the Statehouse
Our state is in the midst of an economic recession that threatens safeguards we all depend on, including core environmental protections. Kansans rely on protections that keep our families healthy: clean water to drink, unpolluted air to breathe, and the clean-up of toxic contamination. Maintaining Kansas' environment also attracts business and qualified workers to our state, making us a driver in the new green economy.
Legislators' efforts are trained on resolving our budget crisis. This has meant that a lot of other issues that Kansas is facing have been placed on the back burner and aren't receiving as much attention in committees as they have in years past. All eyes are trained on the impending standoff of Parkinson/Senate/House Democrats/House Moderate Republicans vs. House leadership on tax and revenue issues.
There has been hall talk of potential staffing and budget cuts in the Chemical Analysis Division of the KDHE, these people are Kansas citizens' first line of defense against pollution. However, it's uncertain if this will actually surface. While environmental protection programs are a small part of the state budget, they are critical in terms of public health, economic opportunity, and quality of life in Kansas. In many other states their budgets have decimated many environmental programs, and we cannot afford to impair these critical protections in Kansas. The Sierra Club will work to ensure that our state budget sustains the core environmental protections we depend on to keep our communities healthy and safe.
Governor Parkinson during his State of the State discussed, without notes or a teleprompter, the remarkable progress that we've made in the area of renewable energy and transmission. He called on the Legislature to make 2010 the year we truly become a national leader in renewable energy and to bring green jobs to Kansas. He appointed a sub Cabinet policy team led by Lt. Governor Findley whose purpose is to make sure they do take advantage of every unity to bring transmission, wind farms, and green jobs to Kansas.
We are working directly with Lt. Gov. Findley to help him pursue these policy goals. In our talks, he has said that this sub Cabinet level policy team will be working to build a road map for the next administration while maximizing the opportunities that are on the table in the state currently. It’s important that we too maximize opportunities like this one in order to move the state forward.
Currently there are a couple legislators that are looking at Energy Efficiency legislation. There was early talk that KCPL was going to push for efficiency legislation, but that seems to have fallen apart. Efficiency is also something that the Blue Green Alliance is pushing for as a collective body.
SB 284, which was discussed during the interim, would require the Kansas Corporation Commission to establish the Third Party Administrator Program as an independent, not-for-profit corporation. The purpose of the program would be to achieve reductions in energy use through increasing the level of cost-effective energy efficiency, conservation, and education programs available to Kansans.
The Senate Natural Resources committee has been taking presentations on prairie burning. Representatives from Kansas State, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, the Johnson County Environmental Department, and Kansas Farm Bureau are all speaking to this issue. We will also be presenting on February 4th. So far there has been no wildlife biologists presenting, and it is our stance that any efforts to address the air pollution from the burning should also address the agricultural practices that are destroying habitat for grassland birds. Any conservation easements applied in the Flint Hills should prohibit excessive burning and stocking, otherwise they would be a waste of the public's money.
There will be a hearing on SR 409 Wednesday February 3rd. This establishes the passenger rail service program and provides for powers and duties of the Secretary of Transportation to establish the passenger rail service revolving fund. The Sierra Club will be providing testimony in support of this resolution.
The resolution is a result of years of planning by various state groups and the recent release of an economic impact and feasibility study commissioned by the K.T. Wiedemann Foundation Inc., of Wichita and conducted by Jayhawk Consulting, of The University of Kansas School of Business. This study found that a train running from Kansas City through Topeka and Wichita to Ft. Worth Texas would produce a regional economic benefit of $3.20 for every $1.00 invested.
Rail provides a solution for many of our most urgent transportation, energy and environmental problems. As we look to increase recovery and sustain economic growth in Kansas, it's important that legislature and the administration focus investment on a rail system. The energy and environmental benefits of rail are significant. It would help de-congest choke points, put more freight and passengers on fuel-efficient trains, and lower our state's greenhouse gas emissions.
United we bargain, divided we beg
Kansas has been so successful because we’ve built a strong foundation that we can all rely upon, like having stable roads and bridges that allow us to get where we need to go, peace of mind that our elderly and disabled neighbors are being cared for, and the pride that comes from having a strong local school system.
Our communities have taken a serious hit from state budget cuts and we can’t afford to take another one. When we fail to take care of our public structures — the streets we drive on, the clean water we drink, clean air we breathe, and the police force that keeps our neighborhoods safe — we jeopardize the Kansas way of life.
Right now, our communities are facing a difficult time. Budget and tax problems have hurt - or eliminated - many of the services we all rely upon. But, we’ve faced problems like this before and we’ve all stepped up to the plate. History tells us that the best solutions come from all of us working together for the common good. With all of us doing our part, we can protect the foundation that our communities rely upon and improve the quality of life in Kansas. A better quality of life means attracting new industries and more jobs to Kansas, giving our children the opportunity to build a good life right here at home.
In order to thrive in the future, we need to maintain the foundation we have in place today — so future generations won’t be left to repair damages and rebuild public structures that we’ve already built. Budget and tax decisions are our way of ensuring our future by putting our money into maintaining the people, infrastructure and communities that make Kansas such a great place to live.
Together we must advocate for a policy framework that supports new green businesses and reminds the Kansas Legislature that this would help spur jobs in largely new professions that help workers in construction and advanced manufacturing as well as new innovators, researchers, and entrepreneurs. A variety of new jobs would be created from solar panel installers to advanced manufacturing workers who will do the metal fabrication to build wind turbines and towers.
If you have not yet done so, contact your legislator, sign up for your legislator's newsletter on their website, and let your friends and neighbors know about the issues that will directly affect their health, pocketbooks, and the prosperity of future generations.
Kansas Sierra Club
P.S. You can find your legislator by visiting
http://www.ipsr.ku.edu/ksdata/vote/ or by using the voters self defense system provided by Project Vote Smart at http://www.VoteSmart.org
Other legislation worth watching
SB 2420 - Decoupling
In conventional utility regulation, utilities make money based on how much energy they sell. A utility's rates are set based largely on an estimation of costs of providing service over a certain set time period, with an allowed profit margin, divided by a foretasted amount of unit sales over the same time period. If the actual sales turn out to be as foretasted, the utility will recover all of its fixed costs and its set profit margin. If the actual sales exceeds the forecast, the utility will earn extra profit.
However, if actual sales fall below the forecast, the utility will earn less profit and may not be able to recover all of its fixed costs. Under conventional regulation, therefore, promoting any kind of energy efficiency measure is clearly against a utility's interest. Any type of measure to encourage green building or more energy efficiency appliances therefore often faces opposition from utilities because it would undermine their profit.
Decoupling breaks the link between the utility's ability to recover its agreed-upon fixed costs, including the profit margin, from the actual volume of sales that occur through a rate adjustment mechanism. If a utility promotes less energy use, they are rewarded rather than punished.
Jim Mason and the KNRC were kind enough to allow us to use his very precise summary's of the below legislation.
HR 2419 - Enables utilities to partner with customers for the installation of renewable energy production and storage facilities and to include such facilities in their rate base. It specifies that if a utility enters into such contracts, a minimum of 10% must be with low-income customers.
HR 2421 - Mandates engineering programs at regents schools be required to evaluate “any innovative renewable or distributive energy generation technology, or innovative energy transmission technology, patented by a Kansas resident” when requested to do so by the Kansas technology enterprise corporation, the Kansas bioscience authority, the KCC or the secretary of KDHE.
HR 2422 - Creates a Kansas Energy Science Authority, an 11-member appointed Board similar in function to the state bioscience authority but focusing on development of in-state energy technologies. It would be funded by an assessment on electric and gas utilities.
HR 2426 - Would increase ad valorem taxes on property reclassified from agricultural use to other uses, with the proceeds from such going to a fund administered by the State Conservation Commission (SCC). dedicated to purchasing conservation easements.