Gov. Sam Brownback’s fairy tale about President Obama and the EPA

06/10/2014 6:54 PM

06/10/2014 7:25 PM

Gov. Sam Brownback thinks he knows who’s to blame for rising electricity costs in Kansas. It’s the “excessive regulation of Obama’s EPA.”

That’s what a new “reality check” on Brownback’s campaign website claimed this week. It attacked President Barack Obama and the federal Environmental Protection Agency, while linking them to Paul Davis, the governor’s likely Democratic opponent this fall.

Those claims make for great fodder on the campaign trail.

They also are not true.

If Brownback really wanted to point at someone responsible for much of the spending that’s happened over the last decade to clean the air in Kansas and cause electricity rates to go a little higher, his target would be a fellow Republican.

Former President George H.W. Bush signed the Clean Air Act amendment on Nov. 15, 1990. That bill — passed by large bipartisan majorities in Congress — laid the groundwork for most of the major EPA rules that have been used since then to make utilities reduce harmful emissions from their coal-fired power plants, in Kansas and elsewhere.

Brownback also could point to the actions of former Republican President Richard Nixon, who signed the original Clean Air Act in 1970. Or to former Republican President George W. Bush, whose administration in 2005 unveiled tough rules on sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury emissions.

The GOP’s formerly strong pro-environmental record deserves praise.

But Brownback’s game plan doesn’t call for him to go down that road.

Instead, he is mixing fact with fiction as part of the flawed reality about electricity rates which he wants to foist off on Kansans.

Last week, the Kansas Corporation Commission released a report that attempted to measure how much it has cost Westar Energy and Kansas City Power & Light since 2007 to meet EPA regulations and slash dangerous air emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The current annual bill, the KCC said, is $227 million for the utilities to pay for “capital investments for environmental retrofits.”

That money has done a lot of good. Cleaner air reduces fatalities and health risks linked to pollution-clogged air. The funds also have created jobs for construction workers and companies that make modern equipment to cut emissions.

In his “reality check,” Brownback summed up the KCC findings by saying, “Kansas businesses and families are paying $227 million more a year on electricity bills to pay for the excessive regulation of Obama’s EPA on electricity generation.”

However, Westar and KCP&L were planning at least a decade ago to retrofit their current plants to meet EPA regulations.

For example, retrofits of the LaCygne power plant were being discussed in 2006.

Obama didn’t even take office until January 2008.

Since then, the president has been trying to further strengthen the nation’s air pollution rules.

Just last week, Obama and the EPA unveiled proposed rules that would further slash dangerous emissions. However, they won’t take effect for at least a year and probably more, after the courts get through with them.

Brownback misfires when he says “Obama’s EPA” has caused electricity rates to rise in Kansas.

Yes, those rates are higher. But it’s all part of a positive, multi-year plan to clean up coal-fired plants to benefit almost three million Kansans.

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