Lawrence activists to rally for clean energy, closure of coal-fired power plant

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Environmental activists plan to hold a peaceful demonstration to push for local climate action and for Evergy to close the coal-fired Lawrence Energy Center.

Zack Pistora, lobbyist for the Sierra Club, spoke to Lawrence city commissioners during their Tuesday meeting to offer a “courtesy heads up.”

“I just want to emphasize it’s not a protest. We’re not angry at the city or anything like that,” he said. Rather, the group wants to offer support and a visual element of people who care about the climate and who want clean energy and a better future.

The Sierra Club and partner groups want to promote moving away from coal as an energy source and toward solar energy. Evergy had promised a couple years ago to close the Lawrence electrical plant by the end of this year and replace it with solar generation, but reversed that plan a few months later and said it would convert the plant to run occasionally on natural gas. 

Rally organizers want to encourage the City of Lawrence to pass a resolution to “intervene in utility planning and demand that Evergy keep their promise to stop burning coal in Evergy’s Lawrence Plant in 2024,” according to the Facebook event page. “Kansas City’s Council demanded the same for their coal plant, and now Evergy is feeling the heat from the public to embrace more affordable, sustainable energy.”

Pistora pointed to the recent heat wave and extreme weather this year as examples among climate change concerns that activists want to do something about.

“We’re just trying to be out there to remind the people of Lawrence and remind you that you have our support in providing for a clean energy future, because we sure want to see positive developments for the next 50 years at Lawrence Energy Center,” Pistora said.

Evergy’s proposed rate increases also played into the group’s plan to rally, Pistora said.

The investor-owned utility asked to raise rates in April, Kansas Reflector reported. Regulators bucked the utility’s request to raise monthly bills by $14.24 in the Kansas Central region, which includes Lawrence, Topeka, Wichita and other eastern parts of the state. The utility wants a 9.77% rate increase for $204.1 million in new revenue, but Kansas Corporation Commission staff said a 1.66% increase, or $34.7 million, “was all that could be justified” for the region. A final decision is expected in December or January. 

“We want lower rates with a clean energy future; we want less pollution and a more firm energy pathway here for Lawrence,” Pistora told commissioners.

The rally is planned for 5 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 12 outside Lawrence City Hall at 6 E. Sixth St., ahead of the Lawrence City Commission meeting. Those who are interested in participating can RSVP and find more information at this link.

After the demonstration, there will be an info session, screening of “Weathering the Future” and a panel discussion at Liberty Hall. The screening is set to begin at 6:45 p.m. It will be hosted by the Climate + Energy Project and Kansas Interfaith Action. RSVP at this link.

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