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Energy

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Kansas is slipping to the back of the pack on some critical economic measures. In this episode of Statehouse Blend Kansas, host Jim McLean talks with Kansas Department of Commerce Secretary David Toland about what the agency is doing to try to reverse those trends.

McLean also hears from Kansas News Service reporters about a proposal to ban the sale of vaping flavors, and he asks why Republicans resist Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s proposal to create an independent office on energy policy.

Segment 1: Expert in climate impact says ending poverty and hunger should be part of our strategy to protect the planet.

The lead author on several assessments for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  described the social causes and consequences of climate change on the fate of the disadvantaged and disempowered.

Central Standard

Segment 1: Kansas City architect believes we should be in a panic over climate change. 

Instrumental in the formation of the US Green Building Council and its LEED rating system, Bob Berkebile has always kept an eye on climate change. Even as global warming increases, Berkebile believes there is still time to turn things around if we act now. 

One morning after the next, semi-trailer trucks get off Interstate 70 near Colby in west-central Kansas.

They haul parts of giant wind turbines in 150-foot-long sections, the pieces to the Solomon Forks wind farm and the next monumental phase of the Kansas bet on wind energy. The farm will plant 105 turbines in the prairie, each towering 250 feet high.

The project is one of a wave of wind farms under construction in Kansas that will add 20 percent more electrical generation to the state’s output.

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

Not gonna hear it

The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday it would not consider a case involving Planned Parenthood and the state of Kansas.

That means Kansas and Louisiana can still decide which medical providers appear competent enough to take on Medicaid patients.

But more notably, states’ power to exclude a clinic on other grounds — if, for instance, it provides abortion services — are limited.

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

Fill ’er up

Pavement wears down at the same rate whether the cars and trucks rolling over it rely on internal combustion engines for locomotion or on new-fangled hybrid and electric motors.

Yet Kansas, like most other states, relies on gasoline taxes for much of the cost of building its roads and keeping them in reasonable shape.

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

Why not Wyandotte

Wyandotte County has long represented undeveloped political muscle for Kansas Democrats. Lots of Democrats there. Not nearly as many Democrats who show up to vote.

Mobilizing that potential could, maybe, mean trouble for incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, whose district includes both Wyandotte and Johnson counties. And in close statewide races (think this year’s contest for governor), a big turnout in Kansas City, Kansas, could be a gamechanger.

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

High-stakes low-profile

Democrat and political newcomer Sharice Davids is leading in multiple polls and recent fundraising in her bid to oust Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder.

Not so much in public appearances.

KCUR’s Sam Zeff explores her apparent lay-low strategy to win in a district that covers the Kansas side of the Kansas City area.

Schooling you on the candidates

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

MKGA

On the eve of the Kansas Republican primary for governor, President Donald Trump tweeted his endorsement of Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

Little more than a week later, when Kobach could finally claim victory, he stood at the foot of the state Capitol and promised to do for Topeka what Trump’s done for Washington. Trump, he promised, was coming to campaign for him.

This week, that campaign promise looks pretty strong.

To be an oil person in Kansas is to understand that bad times follow good and that betting on any dip or upswing is a game for suckers.

Yet it can be so tempting when crude prices soar. There’s so much money to be made.

Or, of course, lost.

New Trump administration rules aimed at protecting the coal industry reverse Obama-era regulations on greenhouse gases by letting states set their own rules.

That means Kansas regulators could clear the way for more coal, but economic trends have already driven a shift to natural gas and wind power.

Evergy, the company formed in the merger between Westar Energy and Great Plains Energy, has announced the official retirement dates of several older power plants.

Tecumseh Energy Center, near Topeka, and two units at Gordon Evans Energy Center in Colwich will shut down on Oct. 1. Those will be followed by the last two units at Murray Gill Energy Center outside of Wichita on Nov. 1.

Two Westar Energy employees have died from injuries received while working at the company’s largest power plant, which remained closed Monday.

Operations supervisors Craig Burchett and Jesse Henson were burned when a piece of equipment with high-pressure steam broke about 11:30 a.m. Sunday, Westar officials said. The two were airlifted from Jeffrey Energy Center to the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas, where they died Sunday evening.

Perhaps conserving energy is important to you. You’ve switched out all of your incandescent light bulbs with LEDs. You keep your thermostat set at 78 in the summer. You might even get mad at your kids when they leave a light on.

Your neighbor, on the other hand, isn’t quite as concerned. He keeps the thermostat set consistently at 68 and he hasn’t replaced any of his light bulbs because, in his words, who wants to pay $10 for a new one?

Brian Grimmett / Kansas News Service

A resolution pending in the Kansas Legislature would urge, but not require, state regulators to make electric rates more competitive.

In 2017, Kansas electric utility rates averaged 10.58 cents per kilowatt hour. That’s higher than any other state in the region. It’s also slightly higher than the national average of 10.54 cents per kilowatt hour.

file photo

The Trump administration remains unlikely to back off its plans to ease Obama era restrictions that make it harder for utility companies to burn coal.

Likewise, the federal courts may eventually decide what pollution rules the Environmental Protection Agency can enforce on energy production.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Executives pushing the merger of the two largest utility companies in Kansas have told regulators they’ll give in on some customer bill protection and job guarantees.

But the leaders at Great Plains Energy and Westar Energy say promising a 5-year moratorium on rate hikes could leave the new, larger company unable to keep step in a fast-changing industry.

Kansas Geological Survey

Zack Pistora of the Kansas Sierra Club was worried about the number of earthquakes in the state and wanted to do something about it.

“Those earthquakes can cause damage to people’s homes, businesses, public buildings,” he said. “Right now there’s no recourse for those Kansans who get affected.”

When it comes to fighting for a cause, some may picture protestors chaining themselves to machinery or going on hunger strikes. But a former journalist in Kansas fought a proposal for saltwater injection wells in a different way: she read a lot of documents and examined the tiny administrative details.

Then: two area researchers on how dogs and humans became friends, then an encore presentation of how a local musician found one family's long-lost Christmas tape at a thrift store.

Guests:

Submitted Photo

Editor's note: This story was updated at 3:30 p.m. July 10.  

Two of the region’s largest utilities are taking another run at a merger.

Great Plains Energy, based in Kansas City, Mo., and Topeka-based Westar Energy announced Monday that they would seek regulatory approval for a proposed merger, which if approved would create a Fortune 500 company with $14 billion in assets and approximately 1.6 million customers in Kansas and Missouri.

GarrettTT / Flickr -- CC

When you flip a light switch or plug something into an outlet, something usually happens. Lights come on, iPhones get charged. But where does that energy come from in Kansas City? How are we using it, and what is the future of energy here?

Then, the story of Aldo Leopold, a Missourian and a passionate early writer about nature and conservation.

Guests:

Sarah Craig/Faces of Fracking / Flickr - CC

While scientists have gained a clearer understanding of what's causing recent earthquakes in the Great Plains, they haven't reached a point where people can let their guard down. That's according to Heather DeShon, associate professor and seismologist at Southern Methodist University.

"The earthquakes in Oklahoma and parts of Kansas ... have been linked to a process called wastewater injection," she says.

In that process, large volumes of salty, briny water are deposited into cavities in deep rock layers, says DeShon.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Every major advancement of African-Americans since the Civil War has been met and opposed by "white rage," says Carol Anderson. Today, she explains how resentful whites have looked to halt the progress of blacks through discriminatory policies, laws, intimidation and violence.

United Sates Department of Energy / Flickr-CC

A drive 30 minutes north of Omaha, Nebraska, leads to the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant. It's full of new equipment. There's a white concrete box building that's still under construction. It's licensed until 2033. But the plant is closing Monday.

Nuclear power is expensive, especially when compared to some of the alternatives, so the U.S. nuclear power industry is shrinking. As more plants go offline, industry leaders are forced to reckon with what critics call a "broken system" for taking plants out of service and storing radioactive waste.

Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons

While the mud flies between the major party presidential candidates, the Smart Money Experts are focused on the issues. Today, we review the proposed tax and economic policies from both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Wikimedia Commons

Kansas City innovators will have an opportunity to develop business ideas in a new program for people who want to change the energy industry.

Digital Sandbox KC is partnering with GXP Investments, an area energy investor. They’re collaborating to create Energy Sandbox, which will help entrepreneurs take ideas, test their feasibility and develop prototypes.

Courtesy of KCP&L

Kansas City Power and Light has agreed to buy wind energy from two plants now under construction in northwest Missouri.

NextEra Energy Resources is building its Osborn wind farm east of St. Joseph. It’s expected to be up and running by the end of the year and provide 200 megawatts of energy. A little further north, Tradewind Energy plans to complete the 300 megawatt Rock Creak wind farm near Tarkio, Missouri by September 2017.

Fuel: It's What's For Dinner

Nov 30, 2015
Stephanie Joyce / Harvest Public Media

There are few places where the connection between energy and food is more obvious than at the Bright Agrotech warehouse in Laramie, Wyo.

Most of the building is filled floor to ceiling with giant shelves of cardboard boxes and tubing—equipment Bright Agrotech sells to farmers—but in one corner of the warehouse, there’s a small farm: rows and rows of greens and herbs, growing in white vertical towers under dozens of bright LEDs. The hum of electricity is palpable.

The Kansas Corporation Commission has approved a rate increase of 9 percent for customers of Kansas City Power & Light. The increase was a compromise allowing the electricity company to collect an additional $48 million per year from its 250,000 Kansas electricity customers.

KCP&L says the increase pays for power plant upgrades and means a cleaner, more reliable electric system.

KCC Commissioner Pat Apple voted against the proposal. He says Kansas customers of KCP&L consistently have to pay more for electricity than customers on the Missouri side of the border.

Kansas regulators will consider a compromise that would allow Westar Energy to increase rates for electricity customers by $78 million. That would mean $5 to $7 more a month for most customers. The Kansas Corporation Commission will consider the compromise during hearings starting Monday. Commissioners will decide whether to adopt it or craft their own plan.

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