Today is the day that SB 91 gets debated on the Kansas House floor. This is the bill that came out of the “deal” between the wind industry and the Kochfrastructure (Americans for Prosperity, Koch Industries and the state Chamber of Commerce). It turns Kansas' 20% mandatory Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) into a goal, in exchange for the withdrawal (for now) of a proposed 4.33% excise tax on commercially generated renewable energy. For our response, see this statement.
On the one hand, this feels like a huge loss. Kansas IPL, along with our partners in the advocacy community, in industry, and in the legislature, have worked for three years to maintain the RPS, because it's an important and successful policy and because we didn't want Kansas to be the thin edge of a national movement to repeal RPSs in other states.
On the other hand, it had long started to feel, to me at least, that this thing was taking a lot more effort than it was really worth. As this article from Grist points out, Kansas is already at 21.7% of generation from wind, with a further 1,273 megawatts under contract. On this front at least, the wind industry is correct: the repeal of the RPS is not going to mean that wind energy is going away in Kansas. For commercial reasons – it is the cheapest new-source energy on the market, and new coal is cost- and regulation-prohibitive – it will continue to grow, even without a mandatory RPS.
And even the question of manditoriness (manditorytude?) is unclear. The other issue we've been working on this year is the Clean Power Plan. Under this, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) is to develop and submit a state implementation plan (SIP – there's a lot of acronyms in this work) to the EPA; once accepted by EPA, it becomes legally binding. So we think that once the 20% renewable goal is included in the SIP, it will be legally binding – ie, mandatory. So suck on that, Koch Brothers.
The more I think about it, the more I think that CEP's later pressrelease hit it right on the head – the Kochfrastructure spent hundreds of millions of dollars to repeal the RPS, and by the time they did, it had already been surpassed. It's kind of a joke. Although RPSs have been repealed in a couple of other states, the Kochs' fevered dream of rolling back the renewable energy revolution has failed.
One thing I'll say there because I probably won't say it anywhere else: the wind industry people that we've been working with for three years decided, in their wisdom, not to try to convince us (advocates) of the wisdom of the deal, or even to inform us that there was a deal. We never received so much as a phone call, and we were directly lied to when we asked about it. We, being idealists, were hurt by this behavior. This is one of those places that politics is a bitch, and I was involved in politics long before I became a rabbi. You know what? That's their karma.
Kansas IPL has a lot of things to work on. There's an upcoming Westar rate case that will attempt to destroy rooftop solar through high fixed charges. Pope Francis is issuing an encyclical on climate change this summer, and we will be organizing our Catholic supporters to develop and deliver an effective, supportive response. What's going to move the needle on our state's response to the ongoing challenge of climate disruption is grassroots organizing in faith communities. That's our mission, and that's what we'll do, with or without an RPS.
Keep the faith.