Quantcast
Politics

Koch Brothers Claim Another State in War on Renewables

Throughout the last two decades state after state has passed renewable energy standards, often with big bipartisan majorities, as investment in technologies like wind and solar held great promise for economic growth and job creation in addition to cutting greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change and decreasing air pollution.

The wind industry in Kansas has already exceeded the state's renewable energy standard for 2020 on its own, but now Kansas is repealing the standard.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

But in the last few years, pressed by fossil fuel businesses such as Koch Industries and advocacy groups funded by the Koch brothers, including Americans for Prosperity and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), bills have been introduced in state after state to repeal these standards. They've had a couple of victories: West Virginia repealed its Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard in February and Ohio passed a two-year freeze last June.

Now Kansas is following in their footsteps. This week the legislature voted to repeal its mandatory renewable portfolio standard (RPS), passed in 2009, and replace it with a voluntary standard. It passed overwhelming, 105-16 in the Kansas House and 35-3 in its Senate.

The legislation is now headed for Gov. Sam Brownback's desk, and he's certain to sign it, given that it was unveiled at a press conference last week held by Gov. Brownback and legislative leaders at which he said it "further solidifies and stabilizes the policy environment so that investment can continue in Kansas." The Wichita Eagle noted that Mike Morgan, a lobbyist for Kansas-based Koch Industries, was also present at the news conference.

The bill, SB 91, is being touted as a compromise. While it replaces the mandatory standard, which required utilities to generate 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020, with the voluntary one, Kansas' burgeoning wind industry staved off a proposed 4.33 percent excise tax on wind production. The bill also shortened the lifetime property tax exemption for businesses using renewable energy sources to 10 years. The deal was struck in a series of closed-door meetings with legislators, the conservative Kansas Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Propserity and wind industry representatives.

Kansas is already a national leader in wind generation. Last year, wind provided more than 21 percent of the state's electricity, exceeding the 20 by 20 standard. According to the Wind Coalition, it has created 12,000 jobs in the state.

"The wind energy industry has been an economic and job growth engine for Kansas," said Wind Coalition spokesperson Kimberly Svaty. "We are pleased that an agreement was reached that will provide investment and policy stability so Kansas can continue be an industry leader. We are always willing to come to the table with anyone who is willing to recognize wind energy’s economic benefits."

But the group's executive director Jeff Clark acknowledged, "It’s a step back from what we have now.”

Environmental groups, who were not at the table when the legislation was crafted, were not so upbeat. Zack Pistoria of the Kansas Sierra Club called it a "backroom deal," and said, "Our state is riding the brakes while other states are hitting the gas pedal—Nebraska, Oklahoma, Iowa. They’re going to have a competitive edge. Now’s the time to double down on renewable energy, not double back.” He pointed out that the wind industry's involvement likely resulted from their effort to stave off the excise tax, which could have crippled it.

Americans for Prosperity, which had called the Kansas Renewable Portfolio Standard an "unaffordable mandate [that] merely drains family budgets, promoted by "powerful environmental interests," expressed delight at the repeal.

“This is a good compromise that promotes the free market," said the group's Kansas state director Jeff Glendening. “We support an energy policy that allows the free market to decide which energy Kansans consume. Wind has a role in the mix. An electric market free of mandates is most efficient."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Battle Continues in Fight to Save States' Renewable Energy Policies

Ohio's Renewable Energy Freeze Threatens Growth of Solar and Wind Investments and Jobs

War on Renewables Claims Victory in West Virginia

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Champurrado (Mexican hot chocolate) is a beloved holiday favorite. PETA

8 Festive Vegan Drinks to Keep You Cozy This Winter

By Zachary Toliver

Looking for warm vegan holiday drinks to help you deal with the short days and cold weather? This time of year, we could all use a steamy cup of cheer during the holiday chaos. Have a festive, cozy winter with these delicious options. (Note that you must be 21 to enjoy some of the recipes.)

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Pexels

For a Happier, Healthier World, Live Modestly

By Marlene Cimons

Gibran Vita makes every effort to get rid of the dispensable. He lives in a small home and wears extra layers indoors to cut his heating bills. He eats and drinks in moderation. He spends his leisure time in "contemplation," volunteering or working on art projects. "I like to think more like a gatherer, that is, 'what do I have?' instead of 'what do I want?'" he said.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
An underwater marker in front of Cortada's studio helps predict how many feet of water needs to rise before the area becomes submerged. Xavier Cortada

As Miami Battles Sea-Level Rise, This Artist Makes Waves With His 'Underwater Homeowners Association'

By Patrick Rogers

Miami artist Xavier Cortada lives in a house that stands at six feet above sea level. The Episcopal church down the road is 11 feet above the waterline, and the home of his neighbor, a dentist, has an elevation of 13 feet. If what climate scientists predict about rising sea levels comes true, the Atlantic Ocean could rise two to three feet by the time Cortada pays off his 30-year mortgage. As the polar ice caps melt, the sea is inching ever closer to the land he hopes one day to pass on to the next generation, in the city he has called home since the age of three.

Keep reading... Show less
Food
GMVozd / E+ / Getty Images

How to Ferment Vegetables in Three Easy Steps

By Brian Barth

A mason jar packed with cultured or fermented vegetables at your local urban provisions shop will likely set you back $10 to $15. Given that the time and materials involved are no more than five minutes and $2, respectively, one imagines that the makers of cultured vegetables have spent eight years training with fermentation masters in some stone-age village, or that they've mortgaged their house to pay for high-end fermenting equipment to ensure that the dilly beans come out tasting properly pickled.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Orangutan in Sumatra. Tbachner / Wikimedia Commons

Norway to Ban Deforestation-Linked Palm Oil Biofuels in Historic Vote

The Norwegian parliament voted this week to make Norway the world's first country to bar its biofuel industry from importing deforestation-linked palm oil starting in 2020, The Independent reported.

Environmentalists celebrated the move as a victory for rainforests, the climate and endangered species such as orangutans that have lost their habitats due to palm oil production in Indonesia and Malaysia. It also sets a major precedent for other nations.

Keep reading... Show less
Oceans
Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Steve Parish/ Lock the Gate Alliance / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Scientists Discover 'Most Diverse Coral Site' on Great Barrier Reef

Australian scientists have found the "most diverse coral site" on the Great Barrier Reef, observing at least 195 different species of corals in space no longer than 500 meters, The Guardian reported.

The non-profit organization Great Barrier Reef Legacy and marine scientist Charlie Veron, a world expert on coral reefs, confirmed the diversity of the site, also known as the "Legacy Super Site" on the outer reef.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Renewable Energy
Buses head out at the Denver Public Schools Hilltop Terminal Nov. 10, 2017. Andy Cross / The Denver Post via Getty Images

Why Aren't School Buses Electric? These Coloradans Are Sick of Diesel

By Corey Binns

Before her two kids returned to school at the end of last summer, Lorena Osorio stood before the Westminster, Colorado, school board and gave heartfelt testimony about raising her asthmatic son, now a student at the local high school. "My son was only three years old when he first suffered from asthma," she said. Like most kids, he rode a diesel school bus. Some afternoons he arrived home struggling to breathe.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
jessicahyde / iStock / Getty Images

Hemp May Soon Be Federally Legal, But Many Will Be Barred From Growing It

By Dan Nosowitz

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has, perhaps unexpectedly to those who find themselves agreeing with only this one position of his, been a major force for legalizing industrial hemp. Industrial hemp differs from marijuana in that it's bred specifically to have extremely low concentrations of THC, the primary psychoactive chemical in marijuana; smoke industrial hemp all you want, it'll just give you sore lungs.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!