Editorials

Sam Brownback’s compromise is a defeat for renewable energy rules in Kansas

Windmills fill the horizon west of Salina, Kan., on Interstate 70.
Windmills fill the horizon west of Salina, Kan., on Interstate 70. The Kansas City Star

The renewable energy standards in Kansas were unfortunately weakened in a compromise unveiled Monday by Gov. Sam Brownback and wind power supporters.

However, the state’s energy mandate is not being totally repealed, which is a small victory for forces that have fought Koch Industries and others seeking that destructive outcome.

Brownback now gets to continue taking credit for one of his signature accomplishments as governor — promoting wind as the best way to boost renewable energy production. The wind industry must stay aggressive in finding ways to thrive in the future in the Sunflower State.

But environmentalists who properly wanted the state to not submit to political pressure from fossil fuel interests are disappointed that a major part of the mandate is now “voluntary.”

That means it will be up to utilities to decide whether they want to reach the original goal of getting 20 percent of their power from renewables by 2020.

The Legislature previously has failed to kill the mandate and for good reasons. It has boosted clean energy production and is providing money to farmers whose land is used for wind farms. Also, use of renewable energy has had little effect on the cost of electricity.

The compromise, like most, is imperfect. It’s maddening that backers of dirty electric power still have so much influence in Topeka. But the Legislature likely would have crafted an even worse deal.

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