Big Victories for KS Sierra Club during last week’s “Big Week”
Last week’s legislative update framed last week’s Capitol events as a big week of defense against bad environmental bills.The defense held strong, with the help of coalition partners and constituent calls to key swing committee votes, and Kansas Sierra Club saw two its high priority issues (defeating an anti-RPS bill and Corporate Farming legislation) go in its favor. The Kansas Chapter of Sierra Club thanks our members and volunteers for their help in reaching out to their legislators on these issues.
Anti-Renewable Energy Bill (HB 2241) Stalls in House Committee
Last Tuesday, HB 2241 receivedreconsideration in House Energy and Environment. Because the bill had already had a hearing previously in the session, the Chairman entertained written testimony from conferees but no oral testimony. Kansas Sierra Club under the coalition group, Kansans for Clean Energy, testified to the negative impacts of reducing our Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) on economic investment, jobs, tax revenue for rural Kansas, and of course our environmental progress. The written testimonies included 3 proponents and 15 opponents. The Chairman opened the discussion from committee members on both sides of the bill and two amendments were offered. Rep. Scott Schwab (R) from Olathe proposed an amendment that would have locked the RPS standards in place until Sunflower’s Holcomb II coal-fired power plant was built. That amendment failed 10-8. Another amendment by Rep. Bill Sutton (R) from Gardner was deemed a compromise that would have altered RPS standards based on energy demand of 2013,extended to the year 2030, but not to allow renewable energy to exceed 17.5% of the generation. That amendment also failed. The committee then heard a motion by Rep. Russ Jennings of Lakin to table the bill. In a close 10-9 vote, the bill was tabled, effectively killing the bill for this session. Below is a summary of the votes on tabling HB 2241.
- HB 2241– tabled, on a 10-9 vote.
Representatives who voted to table the bill in our favor were:
Julie Menghini (D) of Pittsburg, Marshall Christmann (R) of Lyons, Gail Finney (D) of Wichita, Tom Moxley (R) of Council Grove, Annie Kuether (D) of Topeka, Steve Alford (R) of Ulysses, Scott Schwab (R) of Olathe, Russ Jennings (R) of Lakin, Ed Trimmer (D) of Winfield, and Patricia Sloop (D) of Wichita.
Those who voted against the motion to table (and were against our favor) were:
Sue Boldra (R) of Hays, Bill Sutton (R) of Gardner, Josh Powell (R) of Topeka,
Phil Hermanson (R) of Wichita, Dennis Hedke (R) of Wichita, Randy Garber (R) of Sabetha,
Ron Highland (R) of Wamego, Charles Macheers (R) of Shawnee, and Craig McPherson (R) of Overland Park
The bill would’ve delayed the RPS’s 10% and 15% benchmarks and totally eliminates the 20% goal by 2020.
Corporate Farming Bills Do Not Pass Committees; Bills Get Referred for More Study.
SB 191 and HB 2404 both got sidetracked last Friday, to the disappointment of Secretary of Agriculture Dale Rodman. These bills, which were planned by the Dept of Ag as a way to remove hurdles to bring large-scale, corporate animal agriculture to Kansas, were both moved by their respective committees to be further reviewed and studied. These actions spared counties from losing their right to vote against a new Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) from being established.
During the deliberation of the bill, the point was brought up that Kansas Farm Bureau, who stood in support of the bill’s action of taking away a county’s right to object to a large-scale animal facility, had a member-approved and platform policy that directly contradicted their legislative position. Read more about the KS Farm Bureau controversy.
Kansas Sierra Club, along with Kansas Farmers Union and Kansas Rural Center, testified to the negative consequences of the bills, referencing the loss of county rights, economic loss of local farmers, and harmful environmental effects.
- SB 191 – Senate Natural Resources voted to send bill to interim committee for more study.
- HB 2404– House Agriculture & Natural Resources voted to send bill to KS Judicial Council for more review of the constitutionality of current corporate farming laws.
These bills would have redefined “agricultural business entity” to allow non-Kansans to own and operate a farm without living on the property. These bills remove corporate farming restrictions and the rights of counties to exempt themselves from a CAFO.
Resolution on Keystone XL Pipeline Gets Go-Ahead from House
HCR 5014 got passed by a voice vote in the House today, sending the resolution to the Senate to concur.
Kansas Sierra Club has testified that both economic and environmental damage that would occur with allowing the dirtiest oil on the planet to be transported across our national water bodies and wildlife habitat from Canada to the southern tip of Texas. Economically, we pointed out that the Tar Sands pipeline wouldn’t create more jobs, but potentially lose more jobs by spiking up gas prices 10 to 20 cents more per gallon for Midwesterners. According to a Cornell Global Labor Institute report, Keystone’s tar sands (which currently do not go to the global market, but exclusively to Midwest refineries), would go for higher prices now that they would be available on the global market, estimating a cost of 2 to 4 billion dollars to the U.S. economy annually. Environmentally, the Tar Sands project potentially means “game over” for the climate according the top NASA climate scientist, James Hansen.
Other News on Bills We’re Following:
- Sub for HB 2207– Awaiting its turn to come up on General Orders today or tomorrow in the Senate.
The bill closes a loophole that would establish separation distances at the initial point of application, to prevent mobile trailers and pop-up buildings from neighbors to block CAFO construction. While we support better policymaking by closing loopholes, but we oppose this legislation because it reduces the ability of neighboring residents the ability to enjoy and build upon their property rights without obstruction from the nuisance of a CAFO. We propose that separation distances should be based on property lines, not habitable structures.
- Sub for HB 2051–Awaiting a new substitute bill number, to be on General Orders in the Senate.
This bill got changed into a different substitute bill last Friday in Senate Natural Resources.The original HB 2051 had language about requirements for qualified dam inspections by the Department of Agriculture. Since then, the actions of the bill to dam inspections have been removed from the bill and inserted into HB 2363. The new substitute bill keeps the 20% carryover of water allocations in Multi-Year Flex Accounts. Moreover the bill keeps creation of limited water transfers for water right holders. Thus, a farmer who does not use their entire water right allocation could transfer up to 4 million gallons of their water right to an oil and gas company for fracking in exchange for money.
- SB 168– Passed both chambers, but Senate chose to nonconcur on the House passage, thus bringing forward a conference committee. Members include Senators Love, Kerschen, Francisco and Representatives Schwartz, Hoffman, and Victors.
SB 168allows protection from nuisance suits when farmers seek to expand their agricultural activities, both in terms of acres, agriculture units, and scope of activities. We oppose this bill because depending on the level of expansion, broadening agricultural activities to large-scale, corporate style activities should not be immune to nuisance rules that help protect our communities.
- SB 120 – Passed both chambers, the Senate 40-0, and the House 68-51. However, the Senate did not concur with the House passage. A conference committee has been formed with Senators Love, Kerschen, and Francisco. The House will appoint their conferees in the next days.
SB 120creates a voluntary registry for Kansas farmers’ markets for the promotion of farmers markets in Kansas across the state, as well as creates a limited liability protection for farmers’ market sellers.
- SB 212, is on General Orders in the Senate. Likely to be voted on Tuesday or Wednesday.
This bill seeks tax credits for equipment used in recycling, storing, and transporting produced “frack” water. The tax credit allows a 25% reimbursement for up to $250 million a company spends. The Kansas Sierra Club opposes SB 212 because we believe that good conservation practices for oil & gas, like recycling frack water for other frack jobs as the bill proposes, should be mandatory anyway and built in as part of the cost of doing business, not a tax credit.
- HR 6015 – On General Orders in the House this week. We expect the bill to be passed.
HR 6015 prompts state agencies to collaborate and study the viability and benefits of compressed natural gas as an add-on or alternative vehicle fuel. Kansas Sierra Club supports this study.
Bills Defeated Means Positive Outcome for Kansas, Much More Work Left To Do
The defeat of the attacks to reduce the RPS as well as the defeat of the corporate farming bill for this session proves a great stand for environmentalists across Kansas. For now, communities and landowners will continue to gain payments and economic investment through wind projects in our state because of our successful renewable energy goals. For now, communities and farmers will benefit by being protected from having large-scale, environmentally-damaging CAFOs set up shop by will of the Department of Agriculture in Topeka.These are currently the circumstances, but there are certainly efforts by corporate-friendly, non-environmentalists to get their bills passed through next session. Moreover, with our state leaders continuing to support fossil-fuel legislation, such as Keystone XL Pipeline, there is still plenty of room for improvement in attitude and in policy regarding our environment. As advocates and members of the environmental movement, we must continue to take it upon ourselves to help educate our neighbors, our community, and our legislators on the importance of protecting our precious resources and sensitive ecosystems. Thank you for continuing your efforts in the environmental movement and for being part of our Kansas Chapter of Sierra Club.
Zack Pistora, Legislative Director
Kansas Sierra Club