What does coal plant deal mean?

You have to wonder what’s cooking in the governor’s office.
Is it that Gov. Mark Parkinson is a much more skilled negotiator than was Kathleen Sebelius? Or is it that Parkinson, despite his claims of no interest in being elected governor, has changed his mind now that he holds sway?
For whatever reason, it confounded a good many Kansans when it was announced late Monday afternoon that Parkinson had struck a deal with Sunflower Electric that would permit the company to build a coal-fired power plant at Holcomb.
The plant will generate about 65 percent as much electricity as the twin plants first proposed and its construction is contingent on enhanced environmental features, including 20 percent of power coming from renewable sources by 2020.
Another component of the deal will limit the secretary of the Department of Health and Environment in regulation of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide. The secretary could not impose standards more stringent than those of the federal government without legislative approval.
In less than a week in the governor’s chair, Parkinson apparently has resolved a festering confrontation that began when Rod Bremby, KDHE secretary, denied Sunflower a construction permit in November 2007.
On Sunflower’s side, it promises to close two old oil-burning generators near Garden City and build a center to use CO2 to grow algae that could fuel the new plant.
The Associated Press reported that Parkinson began work on the deal soon after succeeding Sebelius on Tuesday of last week. Sebelius had made attempts to negotiate with Sunflower, but none ever seemed to approach a serious stage.
Figures that stick in the craw like a lump of bituminous coal is that the two plants were expected to produce 11 million tons of CO2 a year, while the single plant is rated at 6.7 million tons. A portion of the agreement, according to the AP, is that Sunflower will offset at least 3 million tons, which would leave 3.7 tons of the greenhouse gas to stream into the atmosphere above Kansas.

WHILE THE Sierra Club and other environmental watchdog groups are perplexed by the turn of events, Parkinson’s stock with Republican legislators and all of the GOP no doubt rose appreciably, which leads us to the second question.
If Parkinson does have a change of heart and decides he wants to call Cedar Crest home be-yond the 2010 election, a deal with Sunflower, which has had overwhelming Republican support, would be politically helpful in allaying wrath over his changing of party affiliation to be Democrat Sebelius’ running mate in 2006.

— Bob Johnson