Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Koch Brothers Claim Another State in War on Renewables

Energy

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 They've had a couple of victories: West Virginia repealed its Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard in February and Ohio passed a two-year freeze last June.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

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Women walk from Santa Monica beach after a social media workout on the sand on May 12, 2020 in Santa Monica, California. Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Independence Day weekend is a busy time for coastal communities as people flock to the beaches to soak up the sun during the summer holiday. This year is different. Some of the country's most popular beach destinations in Florida and California have decided to close their beaches to stop the surge in coronavirus cases.

Read More Show Less
Daily fireworks in many U.S. cities in recent weeks have no doubt been interfering with the sleep and peace of mind of thousands of veterans and others who suffer from PTSD. Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Arash Javanbakht

For some combat veterans, the Fourth of July is not a time to celebrate the independence of the country they love. Instead, the holiday is a terrifying ordeal. That's because the noise of fireworks – loud, sudden, and reminiscent of war – rocks their nervous system. Daily fireworks in many U.S. cities in recent weeks have no doubt been interfering with the sleep and peace of mind of thousands of veterans.

Read More Show Less
Koala populations across parts of Australia are on track to become extinct before 2050 unless "urgent government intervention" occurs. Mathias Appel / Flickr

Koala populations across parts of Australia are on track to become extinct before 2050 unless "urgent government intervention" occurs, warns a year-long inquiry into Australia's "most loved animal." The report published by the Parliament of New South Wales (NSW) paints a "stark and depressing snapshot" of koalas in Australia's southeastern state.

Read More Show Less
NASA is advancing tools like this supercomputer model that created this simulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to better understand what will happen to Earth's climate if the land and ocean can no longer absorb nearly half of all climate-warming CO2 emissions. NASA/GSFC

By Jeff Berardelli

For the past year, some of the most up-to-date computer models from the world's top climate modeling groups have been "running hot" – projecting that global warming may be even more extreme than earlier thought. Data from some of the model runs has been confounding scientists because it challenges decades of consistent projections.

Read More Show Less
A child stands in what is left of his house in Utuado, Puerto Rico, which was almost completely destroyed by Hurricane Maria, on Oct. 12, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Jon-Paul Rios. Flickr, CC by 2.0
By Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope

To hear many journalists tell it, the spring of 2020 has brought a series of extraordinary revelations. Look at what the nation has learned: That our health-care system was not remotely up to the challenge of a deadly pandemic. That our economic safety net was largely nonexistent. That our vulnerability to disease and death was directly tied to our race and where we live. That our political leadership sowed misinformation that left people dead. That systemic racism and the killing of Black people by police is undiminished, despite decades of protest and so many Black lives lost.
Read More Show Less
President Trump's claim last September that Hurricane Dorian was headed for Alabama's gulf coast was quickly refuted by employees at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). An independent investigation found that NOAA's chief violated the agency's ethics when he backed Trump's warning and doctored map that used a Sharpie to alter the storm's path, as EcoWatch reported.
Read More Show Less

Trending

African bush elephants in the Makgadikgadi Pans Game Reserve in Botswana on Nov. 22, 2016. Michael Jansen / Flickr

More than 350 elephants have died in Botswana since May, and no one knows why.

Read More Show Less