Kansas Gov. Kathleen SebeliusKansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has vetoed Senate Bill 327, whereby the state legislature would have constrained the powers of Kansas Dept. of Health and Environment Secretary Roderick Bremby, prohibited "consideration of any standards beyond the Clean Air Act" (which, remember, U.S. EPA refuses to apply to CO2, despite the Supreme Court’s orders), and green-lit two new coal plants — 11 million tons of CO2.

This is from Sebelius’ statement:

Instead of building two new coal plants, which would produce 11 million new tons of carbon dioxide each year, I support pursuing other, more promising energy and economic development alternatives.

With the increasing pressure for the federal government to develop national standards for carbon emissions, there is a high probability coal will become a lot more expensive in the next several years. Countries throughout Europe and South America already have standards in place and states are following suit.

Federal legislation has been introduced that would have the net impact of taxing carbon. If any of the proposals are adopted, utility companies and their customers will pay far more for energy which produces carbon. It will also require spending billions on equipment to clean the atmosphere as thoroughly as possible. Building additional coal plants now is likely to create a significant economic liability for Kansas in the future.

Note that this is not an environmental argument. You don’t have to care about climate change to see its logic. Events are likely to conspire to sharply increase the price of coal. You build two new dirty coal plants and you’re hanging them around your own neck for the next 50 years. That’s short-sighted.

Here’s what Sebelius offers as a compromise:

• Build one new plant similar in size to the Sand Sage permit previously approved (660 MW);
• Kansas base load power needs must receive top priority;
• Plant must be able to implement carbon sequestration technology;
• Commitment for 20% wind power (132 MW)
• Commitment for 100 MW of energy efficiency
• Net metering allowed in the Sunflower service area

Sebelius frames this as the "middle ground," but it’s actually quite ambitious. They get a single coal plant with sequestration — unlikely to come on the grid for years — and she gets large-scale commitments to R&E.

Maybe she likes that deal. Maybe she just thinks they won’t take it. This is doozy of a game of chicken. Pass the popcorn!