Exciting news out of Kansas! As I mentioned in a previous post, Kansas’s renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS) was under attack through two bills: House Bill 2241 and Senate Bill 82. The renewable portfolio standard ensures that Kansans receive a certain percentage of renewable energy like wind and solar, culminating in 20 percent renewable energy by 2020. The House bill would have completely repealed the 20 percent benchmark. The Senate Bill would have delayed targets by two to four years.
But Kansans didn’t stand for this. Today, the House voted 63-59 to send the House bill back down to committee for further review. The Senate rejected SB 82 by a 23-17 vote this evening.
All this in a state where Republicans have a supermajority in both chambers. There are 33 Democrats and 92 Republicans in the House; 8 Democrats and 32 Republicans in the Senate.
What this shows is that the RPS is not a partisan issue, it is a bipartisan issue. The RPS signals to the wind industry that Kansas is open for business. And the wind industry has responded enthusiastically. The number of wind farms that came online from 2011 to 2012, after the passage of the RPS, nearly doubled Kansas’s installed wind capacity. The 19 wind farms operating in the state have created more than 12,300 jobs for Kansas citizens, $13.7 million in payments to landowners annually, and $10.4 million in contributions to communities each year. The RPS is good for jobs, good for the economy, and good for Kansans. It’s all just common sense.
But we were up against giant forces. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)—a coalition of conservative state legislators and corporations has teamed up with a number of fossil fuel-funded groups including the Heartland Institute, the American Tradition Institute, Americans for Prosperity, and Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform on a nation-wide attack on state RPS policies. Kansas was one of the priority states on their list, and repealing the Kansas RPS represented a critical first step to in their momentum building strategy.
Operating alongside ALEC and the Heartland Institute, two other groups - the Beacon Hill Institute and the Kansas Policy Institute (KPI) - released a very poorly researched and highly inaccurate study concluding that the Renewable Portfolio Standard would lead to electricity prices increasing by 45 percent and the loss of more than 12,000 jobs.(See NRDC Factsheet on Renewable Portfolio Standard.pdf) The Kansas Policy Institute testified before the Senate Utilities Committee in early February. Eventually, Beacon Hill, KPI, Americans for Prosperity, and Heartland Institute all testified against the RPS before the House Energy and Environment Committee in mid February, along with promoting the report at legislative lunches. A couple days ago, Koch Industries got directly involved by sending its lobbyist to talk with House members. And just today, Grover Norquist himself urged legislators to repeal the RPS.
NRDC has been actively working with Kansans for Clean Energy, a broad coalition of agriculture, energy, environmental and faith-based organizations in Kansas encompassing Climate + Energy Project, Kansas Farmers Union, Kansas Interfaith Power & Light, Kansas Natural Resource Council, Kansas Rural Center, and Kansas Sierra Club to get the word out about how beneficial the RPS is for Kansas. We have also been coordinating with the Kansas Energy Information Network and the wind industry to disseminate accurate information about the RPS to legislators.
Earlier this month, I made a trip to Kansas to speak with legislators all along the political spectrum about the RPS and provided testimony in the Senate Utilities Committee and the House Energy and Environment Committee. Lobbyists for Sierra Club Kansas and the wind industry have been tirelessly engaging with legislators on this issue. Kansans for Clean Energy did a phenomenal job raising awareness of this issue and encouraging Kansans to call their legislators. Thousands of people signed online petitions standing up for the RPS and wind energy. There were letters to the editor in papers continually voicing support for the RPS and the jobs and economic benefits it has provided. This was an intense and hard-fought battle by a team I am proud to be a part of. And in the end, Kansans stood up and the message was clear: the Renewable Portfolio Standard works in Kansas, don’t weaken it, don’t get rid of it.
Thank you to the Kansas legislators for listening. It will not be forgotten.