Someone needs to throw cold water on legislative plan to sabotage wind energy in Kansas. Instead, make it better

By The Editorial Advisory Board

As a practical matter, the writing is on the wall for fossil fuels. Everyone who pays attention to the energy sector — and our warming world — understands this.

So why on earth would Kansas legislators be looking at halting one of the biggest renewable energy success stories in our state? That’s what Kansas Senate Utilities Committee chairman Mike Thompson appears to be trying to do. Developers say the provisions of his Wind Generation Permit and Property Protection Act would all but end wind farms in this state.

That’s a terrible idea.

Attorney Alan Claus Anderson’s firm, which has represented wind developers, has the receipts. According to The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Titus Wu, “Over two decades, the wind energy industry has created 22,002 jobs directly and indirectly in Kansas. Around $48 million is put into the state economy annually through landowner lease payments. And almost 42% of Kansas electricity is generated by wind.”

More:Proposed, controversial restrictions on wind turbines pop up again in Kansas

That’s an extraordinary return on investment. And it shows a path the rest of the nation and globe will have to follow to avoid catastrophic climate change.

As conservatives are fond of saying in other circumstances, facts don’t care about your feelings. And the consequences of a rapidly warming planet have already been felt. Every person, business, state and country has to act, or we will be caught flat-footed sooner than we think.

This isn’t to say that the wind industry couldn’t be improved.

It’s important to review how close windmills are to existing homes and give owners a voice. Property owners should not only be consulted, but also listened to. There’s also the question about materials used to build the windmills. These are large structures with big pieces that wear out. We don’t want to see them become a source of waste and fill local landfills with chunks of rusting metal.

More:Rolling blackouts in Kansas restart renewable energy debate among state lawmakers

In other words, let’s not assume that we have everything figured out. Kansas has learned about the challenges and benefits of wind farms, so let’s build on what works and fix what doesn’t. Let’s keep improving this sector and building on the success story of wind energy in Kansas.

But let’s not pursue foolish, short-sighted legislation like the Wind Generation Permit and Property Protection Act. We’ll all regret it — if not tomorrow, then soon enough.