Sierra Club Says No to Evergy Rate Increase

protesters with stop coal now sign
Photo by Marcus Spiske on Pexels

By Elaine Giessel, Chair, Sierra Club Kansas Chapter

My comments were made at the July 13, 2023 rate hearing in Overland Park. 

As chair of the Kansas Chapter of the Sierra Club, I am delivering the following remarks on behalf of almost 5000 members across the State who are committed to fighting the Climate Crisis, promoting Environmental Justice, protecting Public Health, and conserving Wild Kansas.

Our planet is burning -- literally in Canada, where wildfire smoke is spreading poor air quality as far south as Kansas. Prolonged heatwaves have scorched the southern half of our nation, especially threatening our most vulnerable populations: the young, the old, the poor, and outdoor workers. Sea surface temperatures have reached record levels; Florida recorded ocean temperatures approaching 100 degrees. On the 4th of July, the global average temperature set an all-time high. Talk about fireworks….

The latest UN report Climate Change 2023 notes with high confidence:

“Human activities, principally through emissions of greenhouse gases, have unequivocally caused global warming…. Global greenhouse gas emissions have continued to increase, with unequal historical and ongoing contributions arising from unsustainable energy use, land use and land-use change, lifestyles and patterns of consumption and production…”

Evergy's rate increase proposal comes upon the release of its new energy plan, which extends the life of its coal-fired facility in Lawrence, reduces investments in renewable energy, and calls for building two new gas power plants. This public monopoly is over-invested in fossil fuels and under-invested in affordable renewable energy, energy storage, and energy efficiency programs that could save customers hundreds of millions of dollars. 

There are serious social justice and environmental equity implications with raising rates. The less affluent will find their energy burdens increasing. Low-income households, often in over-burdened minority communities, already pay a disproportionately high part of their income on utilities and have fewer resources to cope with climate change. The residents of the urban core are the most vulnerable to heat island effects during the summer, especially when there is little cooling at night. Increased heat and higher prices for utilities will kill more people.

Utilities such as Evergy are allowed to exist as public monopolies because they provide a public service. But they, and the agencies which regulate them, must also take responsibility for the external impacts of their business decisions.

Current rate payers will bear the immediate burden of any rate increases. But if we don’t turn off the greenhouse gas emissions derived from extracting, transporting, and burning fossil fuels now, future generations will be paying the unimaginable costs of the climate crisis for decades.

As the world heats up, due to our failure to reduce CO2 and methane emissions, Evergy proposes to raise rates and to continue to burn fossil fuels. If they are granted higher rates, there is no incentive to change their business model.

Until Evergy addresses the full impacts their operations have on our health and on our environment, commits to promoting energy efficiency, and replaces fossil fuel burning facilities with renewable sources of energy, as previously promised, they should not be rewarded for bad behavior.  

We don’t do that for our children. We don’t do it for our pets. The KCC shouldn’t do it for Evergy.

Make your comments to KCC before the 5 p.m. September 29, 2023 deadline.

 To comment, use the link below, send a  letter to the KCC Office of Public Affairs and Consumer Protection, 1500 SW Arrowhead, Topeka, KS 66604-4027 or call 1-800-662-0027 or 785-271-3140. 
Include the docket number 23-EKCE-775-RTS and state your opinion as OPPOSED.