- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 25, 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas legislators moved Tuesday night toward repealing the state’s renewable energy standards for electric utilities, an idea pushed by conservative, small-government groups and the powerful Kansas Chamber of Commerce.

The state Senate approved a repeal bill on a 25-15 vote, despite strong objections from environmentalists and wind energy companies. The measure goes next to the House.

The bill would rescind a 2009 state law requiring utilities to have wind and other renewable sources account for 15 percent of their peak electricity-generating capacity by 2016 and 20 percent by 2020. Environmentalists and wind company officials give the law credit for helping to create a vibrant, job-generating industry.

“What kind of signals are we sending economically to people who create jobs and want to come to Kansas to do business?” said Sen. Tom Hawk, a Manhattan Democrat.

But the renewable energy mandate has been targeted by the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, which has been running television ads attacking the policy since late January and spent $154,000 in that month alone, according to its lobbying reports. Also, the American Legislative Exchange Council has drafted a model policy for states to repeal such mandates, and the Kansas Chamber considers it government picking winners and losers in business.

“I always go back to the free market,” said Sen. Jeff Melcher, a Leawood Republican. “The free market kind of filters out all the trash and it gets down to the basics.”

Supporters of the bill also argued that the renewable energy mandate has led to significantly higher electric rates in Kansas. They also said wind energy is likely to get more expensive because of the expiration of a federal production tax credit and argued that Kansans are subsidizing the industry through property tax breaks for wind farms.

“Our constituents need the cheapest energy possible,” said Sen. Larry Powell, a Garden City Republican.

But critics of the bill note that the utility-regulating Kansas Corporation Commission has estimated that electricity generated with renewable resources accounts for less than 2.2 percent of Kansans’ bills. Also, they said, wind energy accounts for thousands of jobs.

“We’re lucky now to have wind,” said Sen. Marci Francisco, a Lawrence Democrat. “Any time we provide more diversity in our power sources, we are providing a more robust and reliable system.”



Information about the repeal bill: https://bit.ly/OSMfSy

Kansas Legislature: https://www.kslegislature.org


Follow John Hanna on Twitter at www.twitter.com/apjdhanna .

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