Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

House Spikes Renewable Energy Standard ; Lawmakers Also Send Bill Legalizing Pot Oil for Seizure Victims to Senate

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

House Spikes Renewable Energy Standard ; Lawmakers Also Send Bill Legalizing Pot Oil for Seizure Victims to Senate

Article excerpt

The House overwhelmingly voted to approve legislation Thursday repealing the 6-year-old renewable energy portfolio standard in Kansas requiring utility companies to generate one-fifth of power from renewable energy resources by the year 2020.

Adoption of the bill endorsed by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Prosperity and the Wind Power Coalition would bring to a close an intense, multi-year effort by conservatives to abolish the energy standard passed in 2009 in exchange for issuance of a permit for construction of a coal- fired power plant in Holcomb.

The House also sent to the Senate a bill legalizing distribution of a marijuana oil for treatment of chronic seizures, reducing sentences for first and second convictions for marijuana possession and allowing research on production of industrial hemp.

Under the negotiated energy deal unveiled Monday by Brownback and passed 107-11 by the House, the target of 20 percent renewable energy in 2020 would become an industry goal. The Senate is expected to follow the House by passing Senate Bill 91.

"This allows some free-market forces to go to work," said Rep. Dennis Hedke, a Wichita Republican and chairman of the House Energy and Environment Committee.

Rep. Annie Kuether, a Topeka Democrat on the energy committee, attempted to persuade representatives to reject the measure. She said plans to dismantle the renewable portfolio standard were hammered out among lobbyists and Republican legislators behind closed doors. Environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and Kansans for Clean Energy, weren't in the negotiations.

"This is our business," Kuether told House members. "You were elected to do this job, not unelected lobbyists."

Incentive for wind farm developers to accept conversion of the RPS to a voluntary objective was provided by a threat to impose a 4.3 percent excise tax on energy produced at wind farms, said Rep. Boog Highberger, D-Lawrence.

The legislation didn't contain an excise tax, but included provisions that allow renewable energy producers to retain a lifetime exemption from payment of property taxes. …

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