Kansas environmental policy is full of uncertainty

In a January 17, 2008 Wichita Eagle editorial, Nancy Jackson of the Climate and Energy Project of the Land Institute claims that Roderick L. Bremby, Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, did not create regulatory uncertainty when he denied the permit for the expansion of a coal-fired power plant in Kansas.

A dubious claim made in this editorial is how “Neither Bremby nor Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is ‘out front’ on this issue [carbon emissions].” Jackson claims that Bremby was just following an inevitable trend towards more regulation of carbon emissions. But this is in direct opposition to news reports at the time. The Washington Post, for example, reported “The Kansas Department of Health and Environment yesterday became the first government agency in the United States to cite carbon dioxide emissions as the reason for rejecting an air permit for a proposed coal-fired electricity generating plant, saying that the greenhouse gas threatens public health and the environment.” (Power Plant Rejected Over Carbon Dioxide For First Time)

Being the first to do something creates uncertainty, especially when the professional staff of KDHE approved the permit. The decision must have been made by just one person — or maybe two, as the level of involvement of Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius in the decision is not known.

But what discredits Ms. Jackson most is something she couldn’t have known when she wrote this editorial. In February, according to Associated Press reporting, Rod Bremby was apparently willing to approve a permit for an oil refinery that would emit 17 million tons of carbon a year, when he denied the power plant solely because of its emissions of 11 million tons. (See Oil refiner wary of coming to Kansas, also Rod Bremby’s Action Drove Away the Refinery.)

If this isn’t regulatory uncertainty, I don’t know what is.

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