Kansas Legislative News #1

We missed the posting of Zack’s first KLN during the transitions for our new website.  Sorry, Craig Wolfe, Webmaster

January 2nd, 2014
Zack Pistora
Legislative Director
Sierra Club – Kansas Chapter
22801 Golden Rd, Linwood KS 66052
Phone: 785-865-6503
email: zack@kansas.sierraclub.org

Happy New Year everybody!  I hope you all had a great 2013, and I wish you the upmost happiness and success throughout 2014.  New Year’s is actually one of my favorite holidays because of its customary opportunity for reflection, setting goals, and getting excited for the year ahead.  As your Kansas Sierra Club lobbyist, I want you to know that I’ve been working hard in analyzing lessons learned from last year’s legislative session, as well as making goals and preparing strategies for the upcoming session.

What I can tell you is that 2013 was a good legislative year for us who want Kansas to be a wonderful, healthy, safe, and prosperous place to live, work, and raise our children in a beautiful and bountiful natural environment.  Kansas Sierra Club- in partnership with farmers, businesses, community members, faith leaders, and other environmental nonprofits across the state- joined forces to defeat bad legislation aimed at reneging on our state’s goals to generate and use more renewable energy by 2020, as well as an attempt to remove democratic rights for counties to oppose super stinky, unhealthy, and environmentally-damaging corporate animal farms.  We also introduced HB 2332 & SB 193, the Fair & Responsible Actions to Conserve Kansas (the “FRACK Act”) to put the best safeguards and industry practices on horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.  If you would like more details on the 2013 legislative session, read my final 2013 legislative update @ <http://kansas.sierraclub.org/kln/kln-2013-05.htm>.

Still, despite our winning votes and popular public support for renewable energy, traditional family farms, and a healthy environment, Climate Deniers and big spending corporate interests are not giving up.  In fact, we expect 2014 to be our most challenging year since 2009, when we fought against that proposed coal plant out in Holcomb (which was recently denied its building permit by the Kansas Supreme Court because of its failure to meet air pollution standards).

Here is a breakdown of what I expect to be the top major environmental issues in the 2014 session, which is now less than 2 weeks away:

Expanding Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency
Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) – This 2009 law that challenged utilities to be 20% powered by renewable energy by 2020 is again at the top of the agenda for a handful of radical Republicans.  Even though our RPS has been widely successful; spurring billions of dollars in economic growth and thousands of jobs across Kansas (especially in the wind energy sector), some legislators want to slow our progress by putting off our 2020 deadline or eliminating the law altogether.  It seems these radical Republicans have either been misled about the true costs of various energy sources, or are catering to their big money corporate backers (fossil fuel and utility companies), or are still sore about not getting that pricey and dirty Sunflower coal-fired power plant they hoped for, or all-of-the-above.
Solar Energy & Net Metering – With the solar energy industry growing substantially across America as solar panel prices continue to drop dramatically, many utility companies are nervous that they might lose part of their market control to people producing their own power.  The rumor is KCPL and Westar may be bringing forth or backing legislation that would prohibit consumer generated-power programs like net metering and feed-in tariffs.  These programs allow electricity users to roll back their meter or receive payments by utilizing or selling their own “homegrown energy” like rooftop solar or small wind turbines.
Energy Efficiency (EE)– The cheapest form of energy is ironically the energy you don’t use.  Making our homes, businesses, and power plants more efficient, i.e. less wasteful, in using energy would save money both for the electricity consumer (in not buying as much electricity) and the utility (because of the less need to build more power plants for electricity capacity).  We hope our big investor-owned utilities like KCPL and Westar can convince our legislature to adopt an EE policy like the one that recently got passed in Missouri.  After all, we desperately need a policy that can reduce our electricity bill; KCPL and Westar have both raised their electricity rates on residential customers by nearly 60% in the past 5 years (largely due to recuperating costs from detoxing their dirty coal-fired power plants).

EPA’s New Rules
Carbon Pollution Limits for Power Plants – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced they plan to implement new standards for current and future power plants in regards to their carbon emissions.  The EPA is taking a historical step in addressing the ongoing problem of climate disruption by reducing carbon emissions at their source; power plants.  Of the top 20 large carbon-emitting facilities in Kansas, power plants account for ~80% of the carbon pollution.  I expect our legislature’s climate denier team to draw up a resolution to oppose these much-needed EPA standards.
Renewable Fuel Standards – In November, the EPA announced it would reduce the mandated amount of biofuels with a cap on corn-based ethanol as called for by the 2007 Renewable Fuel Standards act.  Many farm and biofuel organizations are opposed to the new rule because of the reduced market for corn-growers and ethanol producers.  On the other hand, the EPA has cited several studies that determine corn-based ethanol is highly inefficient and costly for a food-based fuel source.  The issue is a contentious one for Kansas as it ranks 9th among states in ethanol production with nearly 450 million gallons produced per year from over a dozen ethanol facilities.  Look for another house resolution opposing this EPA rule.

As you can see, there should be a lot of talk on energy in 2014.  In addition, there will be likely be more debate on corporate farming laws, water conservation, teaching of climate science and sustainable development in schools, and more.  Please make time to join me up at the Statehouse this session in talking with our elected officials about our positions. I am equally proud and excited to serve as your legislative correspondent and represent the Kansas Sierra Club in promoting smart, green policies at the Capitol.  I certainly think 2014 is our time to shine!  Certainly, you can count on me to keep you updated to what’s happening in Topeka throughout the session.  Of course, I am counting on you to help me get the message across to our legislators too.

Hopefully you all have acquired your beautiful 2014 Sierra Club calendar by now…  the first day of the legislative session is January 13th, our Governor’s State of the State Address is January 15th, and a prayer for the climate is scheduled for January 16th at the Capitol.

Finally, a very special thanks to all of you who continue to donate your time and money to our Kansas Chapter of Sierra Club.  Thank you for caring so much about our state, our environment, and our planet.  It means the world to me, it means the world to a better Kansas, and it means the world to well… the world.


Zack Pistora
State Lobbyist
Sierra Club – Kansas Chapter

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