Federal regulations on carbon dioxide and the lesser prairie chicken could cause energy prices in Kansas to double or triple, Sen. Pat Roberts and the Victory Electric CEO warn.
Two issues could collude to cause local energy prices to double or triple, said Sen. Pat Roberts following an invite-only "targeted town hall" at Victory Electric on Monday.
State wildlife officials are expecting the federal government to add the lesser prairie chicken to a list of threatened species or to create a conservation plan that could increase the price of development in west Kansas, a significant part of the bird's natural range.
State lawmakers have considered fighting federal action on the bird which Victory Electric CEO Shane Laws would add impact fees and other costs to construction of both electrical transmission and distribution lines. At the high end of the cost spectrum could be an additional price of $800,000 per mile to the construction of transmission lines, he said.
"That's a huge issue for us," Laws said.
Roberts said listing the bird on a federal registry is premature, blaming the reduction of the bird's population on the ongoing drought. If it rains, "it becomes the greater lesser prairie chicken," he said.
"Bring us rain and we won't have a problem."
The proposed environmental regulation, which may derail an expansion of the Holcomb coal fired power plant, is one of several overreaches by the Obama administration.
Roberts also called the Environmental Protection Agency's "burdensome, terribly costly" proposed tightening of carbon dioxide regulations evidence of the administration "declaring war on coal."
"I think it's heavy-handed and counter-productive," Roberts said.
The issue should come before Congress where "We need to tell the EPA to back off," he added.
While wind and other energy sources are important, they do not represent an amount of generation necessary to power the nation, Roberts said. While Roberts' voting record has drifted more in line with the conservative Heritage Foundation this Congress, he has consistently differed with that group on the issue of wind power subsidies.
Coal, natural gas and renewables, "We need a policy of all of the above," Roberts said, including the Keystone XL pipeline, which he says the president should approve.
Though Victory Electric sits amidst some of the most productive wind generators in the nation, the majority of its generation comes from coal. Wind, which is mostly transmitted to large metropolitan, represents about 15 percent of the energy sold by the co-op, Laws said.
The Holcomb plant is owned by Sunflower Electric, which sells power to electricity co-ops, including Victory.
Victory Electric "staunchly" supports renewable energy, Laws said, but "It's a balanced approach we need to take."
"What we ask for is sound science. Some of this stuff isn't based on sound science," Laws said.
The EPA needs to be convinced to use a "common sense yardstick" regarding regulations, Roberts said.
During a brief press conference after a closed-door meeting with about 40 people, Roberts commented on several other issues:
Roberts said the passage of the Farm Bill, the nation's primary food policy document, continued a situation where farmers are planting for federal subsidies and not for the market. He voted against the bill, but said it was "shameful that it took 400 days."
"At least we got the bill done," he said.
On immigration he said broad "Gang of"-type rewritings of immigration law with thick "thousand-page" documents are doomed to fail and rather he preferred a piecemeal method.
The issue is "highly political and it should not be," he said, and is a bipartisan issue. Still he gave one sticking point: immigration reform should provide no amnesty to people residing in the country illegally.
When asked about a recent article that questioned the amount of time he spent at his residence in Dodge City, Roberts said "The New York Times does not get to define whether Pat Roberts is a Kansan or not."
"You want to come home as much as you can," Roberts said, but his work is in Washington, requiring him to be in Washington.
"I love Dodge City. I pay taxes in Dodge City. I vote in Dodge City."
The senator was less willing to weigh in on the upcoming city election.
"Oh, you won't trap me there," he said, drawing a laugh.