Environmental campaigners in Kansas have criticised a deal made by the state's newly appointed governor that allows the construction of a hotly contested coal-fired power plant in return for the passing of a renewables law. Although Kansas recently joined the ranks of states with a renewable energy standard (RES) by requiring public utilities to generate 20% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020, the law is linked to a condition that allows power company Sunflower Electric to build a 895 MW coal plant. Governor Mark Parkinson negotiated the deal quickly after the former governor, Kathleen Sebelius, resigned in April to become US Secretary of Health and Human Services. Sunflower had initially intended to build two coal power plants but was denied an air quality permit in 2007 and Sebelius had vetoed four previous bills to overturn the denial. "We're disappointed with the deal that was made," says Stephanie Cole of the Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club, an environmental group. "It basically invites Sunflower to come back and apply for a permit for a second plant in two years." Critics also point to a loophole in the RES that exempts utilities from penalties if they can show that compliance would force them to raise electricity prices by more than 1%. Cole further notes a provision that allows utilities credit of 1.1 MW for each renewable energy megawatt they install, essentially watering the bill down to 18% by 2020. Meanwhile, Kansas had surpassed 1000 MW of online wind plant with a voluntary RES, making many believe the legislation was unnecessary.
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