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Showdown Starts Today Over Kansas Coal Plant

Now that Big Coal has stumbled in New Mexico, the industry is targeting Kansas in hopes of re-igniting the expansion of coal-fired power in America.

Although their chances are slim, they are counting on a shift in state leadership to help them out. Yesterday, Kathleen Sebelius—who has four times vetoed power plant expansion legislation—relinquished her role as governor to become President Obama's Secretary of Health and Human Services. Her successor is the lieutenant governor, and born-again Republican, Mark Parkinson.

Pro-coal forces have not been coy in expressing their belief that Parkinson is less formidable than Sebelius, despite the new governor's sworn allegiance to Sebelius policies on coal power. They think they can rally enough votes to override Sebelius' most recent veto of a bill that would allow two coal-fired power plants to be added to the existing Sunflower plant in Holcomb. Electricity from the plant would mostly go out of state, but the plant's particulate emissions would remain in the region, and it's 11 million tons of annual carbon dioxe emissions would add to global warming.

The showdown starts today as the Kansas Legislature opens a short special session to deal with loose ends, especially vetoes. The House was 10 votes short of a veto-proof vote when the bil was passed. We have reason to believe there is only a 2-5 vote margin at present.

Earthjustice and its allies in Kansas are sponsoring a door-to-door campaign to rally public support behind the new governor as he strives to hold the veto line. We also have an online support campaignthat you can take part in. Meanwhile, pro-coal forces have their own public rally set Friday in Topeka.

As I said, this is a showdown—not just over a plant in Kansas but over the future of coal-fired power across the nation. We stood with Sebelius nearly two years ago when she first vetoed the Sunflower plan, making Kansas the national battleground over coal's future. In a sense, as Kansas goes so goes the nation.