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Kansas legislators offer new plan on coal plants

TOPEKA, Kan. _ Legislative leaders who support two proposed coal-fired power plants outlined a new plan Thursday for making sure they're built, describing it as their last offer of compromise to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

Sebelius was skeptical but said she would seriously consider the offer.

The leaders made their proposal as the contentious debate surrounding the proposed plants continued. House Speaker Melvin Neufeld said that recent comments from Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson, the governor's chief energy adviser, show "a complete lack of understanding of economics."

The latest plan still would permit Sunflower Electric Power Corp. to build the two plants outside Holcomb, in Finney County, but they would be 14 percent smaller than the utility had proposed.

Lawmakers also would impose more aggressive goals than previously approved for requiring utilities to develop wind farms and other sources of renewable energy. Sunflower also would agree to join an international registry tracking greenhouse gas emissions.

The new plan doesn't back away from proposals legislators have approved to strip the secretary of health and environment of some power. Secretary Rod Bremby denied an air-quality permit in October for Sunflower's project, citing its potential carbon dioxide emissions.

Sebelius has vetoed two bills allowing the plants and restricting the secretary's power. Overriding her veto is a key issue for lawmakers after they return April 30 from their annual spring break.

Neufeld and Senate President Steve Morris, both strong supporters of Sunflower's plan, released the proposal after representatives of Sunflower and two other companies met with Sebelius. The others were Midwest Energy Inc., a sister company of Sunflower's, and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association Inc. of Westminster, Colo., a partner in the Holcomb project.

Neufeld, an Ingalls Republican, and Morris, a Hugoton Republican, said they developed the new plan with the utilities.

"Today's compromise proposal will be the last from legislative leaders and the Cooperatives," the two leaders said in a joint statement.

Sebelius called the plan "another version of the elements that they've put on the table before," but she said she would review it. She promised to have an answer for lawmakers before they return.

"It has a number of the elements of the two bills that I've already vetoed, but I'm going to take some time and, you know, analyze the newer features and talk to the secretary and get some expert advice," she told reporters.

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On the Net:

Kansas Legislature: http://www.kslegislature.org

Governor's office: http://www.governor.ks.gov

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