Latest NewsNews Joplin MOTrending

Kansas Legislature Considers Bill to Restrict Transmission Lines

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Legislature is considering a proposal that would require utilities to undergo a rigorous permitting process before they install transmission lines in urban areas, including allowing communities to comment on the plans.

The proposal comes in response to a wealth of complaints that arose after Evergy — then called Westar — replaced older, wooden transmission lines with taller, metal lines in low-income, historically black neighborhoods in Wichita in 2018. Residents protested that they hadn’t been consulted before the lines were installed. Evergy admitted it made a mistake and set up a scholarship fund for people living in the affected neighborhoods.

The legislation approved last week by the Kansas House on a 123-2 vote would give regulators more power over such projects, with a requirement to evaluate how the poles — which soar more than 100 feet — would affect neighborhood aesthetics.

The bill now heads to the Senate.

Rep. Gail Finney, a Wichita Democrat whose district was affected by the installation of the high-voltage lines, introduced the amendment. It will not affect lines already in place.

“Unless we have some type of accountability in Kansas, this is going to continue to happen to neighborhoods,” Finney said. “And I don’t want it to happen to anyone else.”

Finney’s amendment requires utilities to undergo a permitting process for transmission lines in urban areas that would include a public hearing. The Kansas Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities, would be required to consider aesthetics, location, environment and population density when deciding whether to approve transmission lines in urban areas.

Evergy opposes the measure, contending the definition of an urban transmission project is too broad and would require long and expensive studies for many projects, spokeswoman Gina Penzig said in a statement.

“We oppose the amendment as written because it would add time and expense to nearly all transmission projects, which ultimately also affects electricity prices,” Penzig said. “We have and will continue to work with residents and leaders in Wichita and all the communities we serve. We think there are better ways to address their concerns.”

KCC spokeswoman Linda Berry said the agency doesn’t have a position on the proposal.

Show More
Back to top button