Sebelius dissolves energy policy group

TOPEKA | Gov. Kathleen Sebelius dissolved a state energy group Wednesday, following months of criticism from even some members that its unwieldy size made it ineffective in influencing policy.

Sebelius said the Kansas Energy Council had provided a "solid foundation" for others' discussions and noted that four other task forces or committees are studying various issues.

"This decision was made because the KEC was given a charge and has completed it," Sebelius spokeswoman Nicole Corcoran said.

But Rep. Tom Sloan, a Lawrence Republican who served on the council, said it wasn't as effective as he had hoped it would be when it was formed. A big reason, he said, was its 34 members.

"Groups that size are unwieldy, if you're trying to advocate policy development," Sloan said. "More creative thinking, less checks and balances on the KEC would have been beneficial."

The council included legislators, Cabinet secretaries, utility officials, oil and gas industry representatives, as well as environmentalists. Some critics said such a mix hampered efforts to develop recommendations on issues such as global warming, as council members protected the groups they represented.

Sebelius' predecessor, Gov. Bill Graves, formed an energy policy council with 13 members in 2002, just before leaving office. She replaced it in 2004 with a 23-member group, eventually expanding it to its current size, with Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson as co-chairman.

Sloan said he wasn't surprised at Sebelius' executive order dissolving the council but added it still could have played a valuable role in advising the governor and legislators.

"There's a whole bunch of things I would have liked to have changed, but I thought it was the most independent of the energy advisory groups that have been created," Sloan said.

Sebelius said that because of the council and its staff, state officials now have an in-depth understanding of the state's energy needs and effective conservation measures.

Earlier this year, the Legislature created a joint committee on energy issues. Sebelius has appointed a task force to promote wind farms and other renewable energy sources and another to study how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Kansas.

Also, a 2005 state law created the Kansas Electric Transmission Authority, which can propose construction of new lines or upgrades to existing ones.

"Our current and future accomplishments would not have been possible without the solid foundation established by the KEC," Sebelius said in a written statement. "With that foundation now complete, we are ready to build upon it and move forward in securing a clean energy future."