What's The Matter With Kansas? The Fight Against Big Coal Hits the State Legislature, with National Repercussions.
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Because of high disapproval rates around the building of new plants, the predominantly Republican legislature has been wary of casting a strictly pro-coal vote. But according to Scott Allegrucci of the Great Plains Alliance for Clean Energy (GPACE), Bill 2182 "is cleverly written to allow some legislators who sustained the 2008 vetoes to vote for the coal plants this time, while giving them the ability to tell their constituents that they only voted for 'regulatory certainty,' not coal plants." In Wednesday's discussion of the bill, proponent Amy Blankenbiller of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce stated, "We are not here today to talk about environmental regulation, but to talk about due process, regulatory process."
Call it "due process" if you want, but the truth is that the bill's environmental repercussions are huge. What would it mean for Kansas if the bill is passed? Scott Allegrucci says, "It would certainly force the Holcomb plants to be given air quality permits; it would force KDHE to file action in local courts county-by-county if it wished to enforce federal Clean Air Act findings or rulings; and it would certainly open Kansas to future attempts by ANY polluting industry that wished to secure air quality permits and could afford to buy enough advertising or enough legislative votes to get their way."
And the rest of the nation would lose the first real stand of public heath officials and government against one of the nation's most polluting industries. Whether you live in New York or Nebraska, this ruling will either allow or limit your own state's ability to protect your health. You can follow the legislature's discussion at the Climate and Energy Project's blog, and on Twitter. To support the cause, shoot a friendly email to Lisa Jackson at the EPA, and let her know that Americans across the nation recognize the importance of this case.
Climate change is boundless. Whatever's the matter with Kansas will hit you, too.
Simran Sethi is an award-winning journalist and the Lacy C. Haynes Visiting Professional Chair at the University of Kansas School of Journalism and Mass Communications, where she teaches courses on sustainability and environmental communications.