Kansas has become an unlikely battleground over the future of coal-fired power plants in the age of global warming.
Most activism on global warming has sprung up in states on the liberal coasts but Kansas, in the country’s heartland, is the first state to block the construction of coal-fired power plants specifically because of their climate change impact.
The Kansas legislature recently passed legislation to undo that, thwarting Governor Kathleen Sebelius’ authority on the issue, but she is expected to veto the bill this week, setting the next phase of a closely watched test case.
On one level the battle in Kansas is about the legal authority of states to regulate greenhouse gases in the absence of much-needed federal regulations, but it is also a broader struggle over how coal will figure in the country’s future energy mix.
Coal, which currently supplies 50 percent of the nation’s electricity needs, accounts for about 40 percent of all carbon emissions.
“We are in the midst of perhaps the biggest assault on a single source of power generation in decades,” says Dan Reidinger, spokesman for Edison Electric Institute, which represents 70 percent of the U.S. electric power industry.