Tag Archives: Earthjustice

KDHE, Sunflower Electric, Earthjustice, Center for Climate Strategies: different peas in the same pod

Evidence that a business seeking regulatory approval of its project enjoyed an apparently close relationship with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment should not be surprising.

Reporting in the Kansas City Star leads with “Hundreds of emails document that officials of a Kansas power plant enjoyed a cozy relationship with the Kansas regulators who issued them a building permit in December.” (Kansas agency, utility worked closely on permit for plant)

A press release from Earthjustice, the legal advocacy arm of the Sierra Club, proclaimed “A new report reveals Sunflower Electric (Sunflower) enjoyed a cozy relationship with Kansas regulators during the permitting process for the highly controversial coal-fired power plant Sunflower seeks to build in Holcomb.”

This incident — the details are not important for understanding the broad lesson — may be looked on as an example of regulatory capture. As defined in Wikipedia, “regulatory capture occurs when a state regulatory agency created to act in the public interest instead advances the commercial or special interests that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating.”

In more detail, the Wikipedia article explains: “For public choice theorists, regulatory capture occurs because groups or individuals with a high-stakes interest in the outcome of policy or regulatory decisions can be expected to focus their resources and energies in attempting to gain the policy outcomes they prefer, while members of the public, each with only a tiny individual stake in the outcome, will ignore it altogether. Regulatory capture refers to when this imbalance of focused resources devoted to a particular policy outcome is successful at ‘capturing’ influence with the staff or commission members of the regulatory agency, so that the preferred policy outcomes of the special interest are implemented.”

Regulatory capture — or at least the heavy-handed attempt by special interest groups to influence public policy to fit their interests — is a non-partisan sport. We shouldn’t be surprised to see this form of government failure taking place at all times, no matter which party or politicians are in power.

As an example on point, the same type of activity happened during the administration of former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius regarding the same electric plant that is the focus of controversy today. Her regulator, former KDHE Secretary Rod Bremby, denied the permit for the plant based on its carbon dioxide emissions, the first time that had been done in the United States.

Radical environmentalists rejoiced. Sebelius was invited to speak at an Earthjustice conference held in Denver in June, 2008. Here are a portion of her written remarks, as supplied to me at that time by her press office, thanking Earthjustice for all it had done in Kansas to help Sebelius and mold her regulatory regime:

When Big Coal pumped their money and politics into Kansas, EarthJustice was there to fight back:

  • Provided litigation and public support
  • Helped shape the media messaging and outreach
  • Rallied supporters and engaged the public to get involved

It was a victory for all of us and I appreciate their help.

About that time Sebelius established the Kansas Energy and Environmental Policy Advisory Group, or KEEP. The activities of this group were managed — at no cost to the state — by the Center for Climate Strategies, a group that expressly advocates for energy policies and regulations based on an extremist view of climate science.

The invasion of Kansas — at least the Sebelius administration — by Earthjustice and Center for Climate Studies proves the point: Regulatory capture is a non-partisan opportunity.

Earthjustice meddles in Kansas again

The radical environmentalist group Earthjustice is again meddling in Kansas energy policy. They’ve sent a “warning letter” to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. You can read it at Proposed Kansas Coal Plant Draws Warning Letter.

Earthjustice opposes the building of a coal-fired power plant in Kansas. Our former governor Kathleen Sebelius, because she opposed the plant, was a darling of Earthjustice. See Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius at Earthjustice.

Earthjustice is simply misinformed in many ways. For example, the press release states: “The truth is building a new, dirty coal plant really only serves the interest of a few while overlooking the virtually free wind energy resources of Western Kansas.”

Consider that the “virtually free” wind energy is supported by a federal subsidy with each spin of the turbine blades.

Consider that Westar’s investment in wind power plus the natural gas plants necessary to back up the unreliable wind has caused the utility to ask for several rate increases in the past few years.

What was that about “virtually free” again? The inexpensive energy a coal plant would produce is a benefit to all Kansans, especially low-income Kansans, as they can least afford the expensive energy produced by alternative sources.

Then, the press release states “The Holcomb coal plant will send most of its power out of state while leaving pollution all over Kansas.”

The writer doesn’t state specifically what type of pollution she means. But the plant was not refused a permit because of what we traditionally consider pollution: sulfur dioxide, mercury, etc. That’s because coal plants now are quite clean with regard to these pollutants.

So that leaves carbon dioxide as the “pollutant” in question. Which, of course, isn’t a pollutant at all. And if it’s a problem, it’s a problem on a global scale, not just “all over Kansas.”

Hopefully our governor will disregard the call of the leftists at Earthjustice and let Kansas get on with its business.

Kansas Can’t Do Much Locally To Counter Global Greenhouse Gas Emitters

A recent op-ed piece in the Wichita Eagle (Reader View: Give up on Climate Efforts?) makes the case that it is still important to fight climate change at the local level, here in Kansas. “When millions of people act, even in small ways, it has a cumulative effect on the planet.”

The problem is that most people can act in only very small ways, and even these have a high cost that many won’t bear. The popular resistance to a reduction in the speed limit is such an example.

The stark fact of the arithmetic is that greenhouse gas emissions are rising so quickly worldwide that anything we can do locally is like a drop in the ocean. That’s not much of an exaggeration. If Kansans were to stop all emissions of greenhouse gases from all sources, our sacrifice would be negated by China’s emissions growth in about 16 months.

As it turns out, the cost of making even small reductions in greenhouse gases is quite large. To fully implement goals like the Stern Commission’s would largely mean the end of capitalism as we know it, and of our present standard of living.

The writer also uses anthropomorphism — the “strange groaning of the ice” making him believe the earth is calling out for help — as an argument. This is similar to the radical environmentalist group Earthjustice and its motto: “Because the earth needs a good lawyer.” These appeals to emotion are a common tactic of the radical left.

Earthjustice in Kansas: The Press Release

I’ve recently learned that the radical environmentalist group Earthjustice played a role in the rejection of a coal-fired power plant in Kansas. I didn’t learn that from any Kansas news source, but only from Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, and only then long after the permit for the plant was denied. See Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius at Earthjustice.

Now I see Earthjustice’s press release Kansas Rejects Massive Sunflower Coal-Fired Power Plant.

What did Earthjustice do in Kansas, and how did they do it? These are things Kansans need to know. To that end, I’ve filed a request under the Kansas Open Records Act asking for records of the correspondence between the governor’s office and Earthjustice. Hopefully the governor’s office will respond to this request in a way that will let Kansans have access to information they have the right to know.

Earthjustice in Kansas: What is Their Agenda?

Yesterday I posted Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius at Earthjustice, about Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius speaking at a event hosted by Earthjustice, a group that I believe has a radical environmentalist agenda.

Just what is the agenda of the group? Do they have the interests of Kansas in mind, or something else?

I asked a few blogger friends if they knew anything about Earthjustice and its agenda. Here’s what I received from one, which I believe correctly tells us what this group is really about:

I find this organization to be rather scary. From their president’s vision:

But, we are not like a law firm in the fundamental sense that we identify critical issues and strategies that need to be moved forward, rather than just wait for clients and cases to show up. We think about what kinds of clients are needed to best advance the particular cause.

Translation: We don’t have clients — we have issues and then find clients to sue in court.

Our bottom line is using the courts to protect wild places and wildlife, reduce pollution and protect people’s health from all kinds of environmental problems, and move us all forward on addressing global warming. We are here “because the Earth needs a good lawyer.”

Translation: Since we can’t accomplish our goals through legislation, we’ll use the courts to bypass the will of the people.

It’s very clear to me that voluntary actions by individuals and businesses, no matter how widespread and well-intentioned are important but are not sufficient to bring about the change we need. We will always need a powerful environmental movement that can affect policy, and to be effective that movement needs a powerful litigation organization like Earthjustice.

Translation: And since we think we’re right and everyone who disagrees with us is wrong, we’ll use the power of the courts to force our ideas upon you.

Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius at Earthjustice

On June 26, 2008, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius spoke at an event hosted by Earthjustice (motto: “Because the earth needs a good lawyer”). By the next day, Earthjustice already had a self-congratulatory professionally-produced video available at Earthjustice & Kansas Governor Talk Clean Energy.

Evidently, Earthjustice, previously known as the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, was involved in the events leading up to the denial of the permit for Sunflower Electric Power Corporation’s Holcomb Station coal-fired electricity generating plant expansion.

Now, I read the Wichita Eagle, Topeka Capital-Journal, and Lawrence Journal-World regularly, and until last week, I had never heard mention of this group being active in Kansas. A Google search showed no news media coverage, either. It appears, then, that there was a lot of behind-the-scenes maneuvering before the denial of the permit for Holcomb Station, and not covered by Kansas news media.

But now that the permit has been denied and the Kansas Legislature failed to produce legislation that would survive the Governor’s veto, the activity of Earthjustice in Kansas, clearly a group with a radical environmentalist agenda, can be admitted.

I received a copy of the Governor’s prepared remarks to Earthjustice, and in them she thanks the group for their involvement. How did they help Kansas? According to the Governor, Earthjustice “Provided litigation and public support, helped shape the media messaging and outreach, and rallied supporters and engaged the public to get involved.” Somehow this group did this without being noticed by Kansas news media.