Gov. Sam Brownback criticized the approach of the federal government in fighting climate change Thursday as he signed a bill asserting state authority over new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency power plant rules.
House Bill 2233 stipulates that the state will form a plan to comply with the new federal regulations but places several administrative hurdles in the way of that plan.
Brownback said President Barack Obama’s administration was trying to force through in its last years a rule that could greatly increase costs for anyone who pays an electrical bill.
“The federal rule is expensive in terms of time, money and other resources that will ultimately make the rule one of the most expensive rules in the history of the United States,” Brownback said.
The governor also said the emissions reductions targets in the federal rule could jeopardize the reliability of the electrical grid.
The EPA instituted the rule in an attempt to stem carbon emissions that most climate scientists agree are causing dangerous fluctuations in the Earth’s climate.
Those fluctuations have potentially deadly health effects, as they increase the severity of droughts and heat waves and change the traditional range of some diseases.
Brownback was flanked at Thursday’s bill signing by Rep. Dennis Hedke, a Republican from Wichita who chairs the House Energy and Environment Committee, and Sen. Rob Olson, a Republican from Olathe who chairs the Senate Utilities Committee.
Hedke is an outspoken skeptic of human-caused climate change and Olson said Thursday that he, too, does not believe carbon emissions are affecting the global climate.
Brownback declined to weigh in on the soundness of the science, but rather criticized the federal approach.
“It seems to me that what you need to do in situations like this is be prudent and take your time,” he said. “By that I mean, we’ve got ways we can move forward that don’t involve huge rate increases and the possibility of the grid going down.”
Brownback highlighted voluntary utility purchases of wind energy that has grown cheaper in Kansas as manufacturing costs have decreased.
The EPA rule mandates that states lower the carbon emissions of their existing power plants, which will most strongly affect the state’s coal-burning facilities.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is empowered to form the plan, but the bill Brownback signed Thursday forms a committee made up of legislators who would have to sign off on it.
It also requires the Kansas Corporation Commission — the agency that regulates the state’s utility companies — to advise the committee on the costs of each plan and the Kansas Attorney General’s Office to determine whether the plan would affect the state’s standing in a multi-state lawsuit against the EPA for instituting the rule.
Some Republicans did not want to participate in complying with the law, but Olson said the Legislature ultimately nixed that idea because if the state did not form its own carbon reduction plan, the EPA would have stepped in to impose one.
“We didn’t want to have a federal plan put upon us,” Olson said. “We wanted to be prepared with a state plan if one is needed.”
The governor Thursday also signed Senate Bill 91, which changes the renewable energy standards from a mandate to a goal and caps the state’s property tax exemption on devices that generate renewable energy at 10 years.