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The New United Kansas Party

Sat ,22/06/2024

” The United Kansas Party’s focus is on economic opportunity, affordable health care, quality education, infrastructure improvement, protecting our natural resources, protecting citizens’ rights, and coming together to get things done.”

In Kansas, the second biggest political bloc in the state isn’t the Democratic party, it’s the Unaffiliateds. According to the Secretary of State’s office, 43% of registered voters are Republicans, 26% are Democrats, and 29% are Unaffiliated. Apparently, many Kansans are disenchanted with the major political parties. However, they often register with a major party, because the Republican or Democratic party in their district is so strong that the only way to have a say is by voting in the major parties’ primaries. But there’s a problem with this system. It’s polarizing, making it harder for our government to make the compromises necessary to function in the best interests of average Kansans.

I’ve been a Republican my entire life. Lately, I’ve been feeling that my party has been taken over by its extreme wing. The more it pushes for tax breaks for the wealthy or tougher restrictions on women’s health choices, the more it alienates the more moderate Kansans. They are the middle-class citizens who carry most of the tax burden, and who want the government to make decisions based on science and reason, not on polarizing social issues or which lobbyists donate the most to their campaigns.

From 2019-2021, I was proud to serve the 93rd House district -where I worked to manage our state’s resources wisely and invest in our future. Given where the extreme party leaders and wealthy lobbyists wanted to go, that wasn’t always easy. As I gear up to run for the Kansas Senate, I’m encouraged by a new development here in Kansas. There’s a new political party, the United Kansas Party, that has submitted enough petition signatures to qualify for the ballot. Its focus is on economic opportunity, affordable health care, quality education, infrastructure, protecting our natural resources, and coming together to get things done. Its goal is to bridge the political divide, and it’s a party you may wish to consider.

What makes United Kansas different from other third parties is that it doesn’t want to spoil elections by running its standalone candidates, who may have little chance of winning outright. Instead, it aims to revive fusion voting, a voting option in Kansas that was more common until about midcentury. Fusion voting allows a candidate to be nominated by more than one party. Each candidate’s votes, no matter from which party, are then tallied to determine the winner.

To avoid being a spoiler, the United Kansas party plans to nominate the major party candidate who most closely matches their values. Each general election ballot would then have third-party candidates, a Democratic candidate, a Republican candidate, and a United Kansas candidate who is also the same as a major party candidate. That would allow citizens who are more in the middle to vote for the United Kansas candidate and, in close elections, the United Kansas candidate might garner enough votes to swing the election. That is enough to make the major parties consider running a more mainstream candidate. In districts dominated by one party, the United Kansas Party could just nominate its own candidate, which would keep a partisan major party candidate from running unopposed.

 In Senate District 26, I am running as a Republican candidate, and I have also been nominated by the United Kansas party. If I make it to the general election, fusion voting could help me draw the support of many of the unaffiliated voters in my district who agree with the United Kansas Party’s values. People in Kansas are looking for a change. The emergence of the United Kansas Party, plus fusion voting, could make change possible.

(C) 2024 – J.C. Moore on

Regulation of Commercial Solar Farms

Fri ,01/12/2023

These are notes from a recent Town Hall meeting on 11/16/2023 regarding proposed commercial solar farms in Sedgwick County, Kansas. Many of the regulations for commercial renewable energy installations are made through zoning decisions. Though you may not live in Sedgwick County, this may become an issue where you live.

Thanks goes to Mary Ann Harmon who researched and wrote the following article.


Sedgwick county has a six-month moratorium on utility (commercial) solar farms (USF) that began September 2023. On November 16th, the entities involved in planning convened a town hall to take comments from all the shareholders on whether there should be such utilities in the county, and, if so, how they should be regulated. The meeting was attended by well over 100 people from various governing and regulatory groups, and members of the public, some of whom will be living near the proposed USF between Colwich and Maize. There are many issues to consider when deciding to site and regulate any utility.

Location, Location, Location

The location of the proposed USF is adjacent to a power plant that is being decommissioned. This provides a huge advantage, as most, if not all the transmission lines that are required for a utility are already in place.

Installing a new transmission line system for a utility can cost upwards of half a billion dollars. Here is an interview regarding the difficulty of siting transmission lines: Transition to clean energy is happening faster than you think-reporter-says October 5 2023 NPR

Residents of the area believe that the property is too valuable to put it to an ‘unsightly’ solar farm. They say this will prevent the growth of their towns.

There are calls to utilize rooftops to prevent some of the issues listed below, and this has validity. Arguments for USFs point to the economies of scale, the ability to use panels that will follow the sun, etc. But the current, dire situation calls for both rooftop and USFs.


There are concerns that a solar farm can produce a lot of glare. Fortunately, there is new technology that can totally eliminate glare to protect against danger to airline pilots or drivers approaching from an elevation. It also prevents ‘lake effect’ when birds see reflections off the panels, and dive down, intending to land. This can result in the bird’s injury or death.

Long term commitment: The contract for the property will be for 35 years, with an option to renew for another 35 years. This presents a plethora of opportunities for failure. There is a history of corporations establishing a USF, only to sell it to other companies later, resulting in a facility that is not well managed. Appropriate regulation with penalties at the local level could ameliorate this problem.

Environmental concerns

. Sourcing of materials: Materials for and construction of panels vary greatly. It is essential that all solar panels, especially in our neighborhoods, be made carefully for robust service, and with materials that are responsibly sourced to reduce impacts to the environment and society. It is prudent and responsible to prevent sources that use slave labor, seabed mining, wildly unsafe manufacturing processes, and other unsustainable practices.

·      Greenhouse gases:  Solar panels are not without cost to the environment, but a much better alternative to fossil fuels. A 2023 article by CNET states: “…when it comes to greenhouse gases, solar panels pay for themselves within one to four years of use, according to a report by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. “Pros and Cons of Solar Panels: Are they worth it?” Written by Katie Collins, Eric Mack Updated Aug. 9, 2023

·      Land Use: The property in Sedgwick County under contract for the USF is very fertile ground, not ideal for use by solar panels only. However, the county has identified possible co-uses. The land under and around the panels can be used for plants helpful to pollinators. Certain vegetable crops thrive in lower sun settings, and so can use the shade of the panels. Sheep have also been grazed successfully in these facilities. We cannot forgo this opportunity to utilize this ground. Here is an excellent article on solar farms and biodiversity: Solar farms are often bad for biodiversity — but they don’t have to beYes, we can have clean energy and tortoises too.”

·      Precious local water: The proposed USF is poised above the Equus beds, vital to the drinking water supplies of Wichita and surrounding communities. Whether these panels, and the associated equipment, could affect that water must be examined as part of an environmental impact study. The metals inside the panels can cause contamination if the panels are damaged, so any ongoing operating regulations of such a farm need to include regular inspection.

Economic concerns

The proposed site is under contract with a huge international corporation, and there are rumors that the operation will be run as a Limited Liability Corporation, or LLC. LLCs are very difficult to hold accountable under law. There are also concerns that much of the money brought into and being earned by the LLC will not benefit the local economy, especially after the initial build. Such a utility requires very little labor to operate, while occupying a large swath of land.

Power generated here will be sold on the market, just as most utilities. Electricity could be transmitted to other states, depending on demand. Kansas has a history of profiting from and shipping excess to other locations, being the breadbasket of the continent.

Threat from hail, tornadoes, straight winds is not to be ignored. But these threats will only increase if we do not reduce the fossil fuel emissions that have thrown our earth into greater and greater extremes. Most of those extremes have been impacting other areas. That does not reduce our responsibility to create clean energy with the resources at hand, just the same way Kansas has provided wheat to famine areas.

The only Kansas incentives for solar power generation are a moratorium on property tax on the land in use for a10-year period after construction. As it has been pointed out, these incentives are not available in Oklahoma, but Oklahoma has different incentives for solar generation that do not fit the plans Invenergy have. But most states have some method in place to attract renewable energy. See the incentives here: “Financial Information: Funding, Incentives, Tax Breaks, and Programs” Agrisolar Warehouse

There are, of course, federal monies for this project thru the Inflation Reduction act. Full regulation of these projects is good stewardship of the taxpayer dollars, the land entrusted to us, and the water below it.


A 2020 Harvard Business Review article states: “First Solar is the sole U.S. panel manufacturer we know of with an up-and-running recycling initiative, which only applies to the company’s own products at a global capacity of two million panels per year. With the current capacity, it costs an estimated $20–$30 to recycle one panel. Sending that same panel to a landfill would cost a mere $1–$2. ‘There must be regulations in place, perhaps contributions to a recycling fund over time to ensure that the panels are properly handled at the end of their useful lives. Technology to recycle solar panels advances daily.

Even though this is decades in the future, there must also be thought about what state the land must be in after the solar panels have been removed.

So much to consider! How can we make this work for everyone? The main issues to be considered are size, setbacks, decommissioning, payment in lieu of taxes, and rules and regulations that define best practices in this type of zoning case. These are very complex issues that requires much study, caution, and input from the public!

Additional information

The Town Hall meeting was recorded and is available on YouTube here.

Solar ‘farm’ proposed for rural Sedgwick County by Craig Andres, March 28, 2023, Wichita Eagle (simplified article)

Commercial solar projects in Sedgwick County? Residents weigh in at townhall meeting by Matthew Kelly, Wichita Eagle November 17, 2023 (simplified article)

Photos of the posters from the Town Hall Forum by Randi Thimesch

Photos: The Growth of Solar-Power Stations by Alan Taylor, The Atlantic, Nov. 27, 2023

The information is from the 316 United newsletter and reflects the author’s personal opinions. Its intent is to provide interested people with different touch points to consider. This is a complicated subject which deserves your personal research. 

316 United is an Environmental Conservation Organization, whose goal is “Uniting people for sustainability”. Follow: See all

A Visit to a Hemp Processing Plant

Thu ,20/07/2023
Hemp’s uses.

Last Spring, a group from the Sierra Club visited Midwest Hemp Technology. The Sierra Club is interested in agricultural hemp because if it’s benefits to the environment. One acre of hemp sequesters 4 to 6 tonnes of CO2, similar to the amount sequestered by a young forest, but it only takes five months to grow. Hemp helps pollinators as its flowering cycle usually occurs between July and September, coinciding with a lack of pollen production from other crops. Hemp produces large amounts of pollen and provides shelter for birds and hemp seeds for food for animals. Use of hemp products can save forests, reduce plastic waste, improve the soil, and greatly cut our greenhouse gas emissions. And it is profitable, as hemp normally produces 2 to 3 times as much income per acre as corn or soybeans.

Hemp has been grown for over 4000 years, and one website claims over 50,000 uses for hemp products. Its usefulness has been its downfall in the United States. Hemp and marijuana are essentially the same plant, but hemp has less than 0.3% THC by dry weight while marijuana has considerably more and is intoxicating. Competing industries, such as the paper, plastic, and cotton industries, have used hemp’s similarity to marijuana to essentially ban hemp in the United States for about the last century. Hemp, quite wrongly*, has been classified as a schedule one drug and only recently has it been legal to grow it in the United States, with the passage of the Hemp Farming Act in 2018. Though it can now be grown legally in Kansas, it is heavily regulated by the state, which has been a barrier to using it more widely.

The tour started in the office with a display of many of the products made from hemp. The picture on the left shows how hemp can be made into webbing, fiberboard, a finished wood substitute, cloth, and even hats.

The hemp utensils were my favorite as they show hemp can replace many single use plastics. Hemp can be made into such items as carry out boxes, plastic forks, straws, and plastic bags. Hemp plastics are compostable and biodegradable and break down rather quickly in the environment. Use of hemp would greatly cut down on plastic litter and plastics in the ocean. Birds and animals that ingest plastic often die from it. Microplastic particles from production, the breakdown of plastic products, and even from synthetic clothing, have become ubiquitous. A recent study found that eight out of 10 people have plasticizers and microplastics particles in their blood. That is certainly is not a good thing, as they have been associated with hormonal disruption and and a variety of other diseases.


Hemp is a useful building material as it can be made into wood, particleboard, insulation, and plastic-like materials. Given its light weight and durability, hemp is being used as a substitute for plastics in sectors such as car manufacturing, railway, aviation, and aerospace applications. When combined with lime and water, it makes hempcrete, which can be substituted for concrete in most applications. This is important as about 9% of the United States’ carbon emissions are made in the production of concrete. Hempcrete will last for centuries, is a good insulator, and is mold, mildew, pest, and fire resistant. Hempcrete, even considering the energy used to produce and harvest the hemp, actually sequesters carbon. The hempcrete block on the right looks a little rough, but here are some examples and a movie of buildings made with hempcrete. There is a shortage of workers who know how to build with hempcrete, and there is now a program to help veterans learn it as a trade

A Hemp Field in Bloom

Aside from regulations, hemp is one of the easiest plants to grow and one of the fastest growing biomass products in existence. It uses less water than cotton, and requires minimal pesticides to thrive. Hemp helps to break the cycle of diseases when used in crop rotation. In addition, weeds are not able to grow due to the fast growth and shading capacity of hemp plants. The dense leaves of hemp are a natural soil cover, reduce water loss, and protect against soil erosion. Hemp covers the ground just three weeks after germination. Hemp is susceptible to few pests and the use of insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides can be avoided in most cases.

One problem with hemp production is the lack of custom equipment to harvest and process the hemp. Farmers and hemp processors have been quite creative in modifying existing equipment or building their own equipment to process hemp. When harvested, hemp is usually cut and baled into large bales similar to round hay bales.

Trommel, separates hemp fiber from seeds and hurd.

At processing, the bales are broken apart and put through the trommel which separates out the bast from the seeds and hurd. Bast is the long fibers just inside the stalk, and hurd is the pith, the woody inner core of the plant. The stalk can be converted into fuel and paper products like cardboard. The long fiber strands extracted from the hemp stem have long been used to make textiles, rope, and webbing. Hemp makes extremely durable clothes and accessories, such as shirts, skirts, bags, shoes, and belts. Hemp has anti-microbial properties and the fabric is stronger and more durable than cotton and, unlike cotton, hemp clothes will not lose their shape with repeated washing.

Air classifiers, which separate different sizes of hurd from the grain.

From the trommel, the hurds and grain are directed to the air classifier. Depending on the settings, the air classifier separates different sizes of hurd from the grain. The hurds may be used for horticulture mulch and for other agricultural uses. They absorbs moisture which makes them very useful for animal bedding and litter. The hurds can also be used to make hemp plastic and building materials. When the hurds are mixed with lime and water, they make hempcrete. The hurds may also be mixed with a polymer to create a fiber-reinforced biocomposite, and if the hurds are reduced to micron sized particles first, the product is much like plastic. If the polymer used is petroleum-based, the hemp plastics are not compostable. However, sustainable bioplastics may be made if plant-based polymers from corn or kenaf are used.

This is the grain cleaner.

The grain cleaner is the last step of the process. The hemp seeds are then used for food flour, hemp milk, cooking oil, and beer—as well as dietary supplements. Some companies sell the edible seeds of the hemp plant. These seeds have a mild, nutty flavor and make milk, oil, cheese, and protein powder. The seeds are a rich source of polyunsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, essentials for human health. Unhulled seeds are sold for bird and animal food. Other uses of hempseed oil are to make body-care products, biofuels, paints, and varnishes. According to the FDA, hemp seeds do not naturally contain THC or CBD oil.

Hemp in Kansas : Kansas used to grow a lot of hemp and, one year during the Civil War, Kansas grew more bushels of hemp per acre than any other state. However, economic competition with cotton, timber, and synthetic plastics – all backed by wealthy corporations – led to anti-hemp propaganda that caused a moral panic. It portrayed hemp and marijuana as being the same and that they would lower the moral values of American culture. This led to the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 which essentially banned Hemp production in the United States. The ban was essentially ignored when hemp was needed for the war effort, and the government even subsidized the production of hemp. After the war, the ban went back into effect and, in 1970, President Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act which officially outlawed hemp and marijuana for any use (medical included) by declaring they were schedule one drugs. The Farm Bill of 2018 authorized the commercial production and processing of hemp, but it remains a Federal schedule one drug to this day.

Hemp can now be legally grown in Kansas, according to state law, but the laws are very restrictive. Applicants must submit a fingerprint-based state and national criminal history background check. The application fee is $100 and is due with the application no later than March 15 each year.  The background check fee of $47 per person, including the farmer and all workers, is due no later than March 15th each year.  A license fee of $1,200 is needed to cultivate or produce industrial hemp are due no later than March 15th each year. All forms and fees must be paid and filed by that date or they will not be approved. Industrial hemp producer must use authorized seed, guaranteed to produce industrial hemp with not more than 0.3% THC, so grower may not save their seeds for the next crop. Both federal and state rules surrounding the crop are in constant flux, so finding investors to spur innovation and development will remain challenging. There are no insecticides, no fungicides, no herbicides labeled for this and there’s no crop insurance and no safety net for it. And to complicate things, even though a state can legalize growing hemp, the federal government still views it as a dangerous drug, the same as heroin or cocaine. Among other consequences, that makes it difficult for potential growers and processors to secure loans from traditional banking.

Kansas Hemp growing licenses dropped  from 218 in 2020 to only 81 in 2022. Of the 4,000 acres planted, only 761 were harvested for production. and an eighth of that had to be burned by the state because it contained too much THC. Hemp growing licenses dropped  from 218 in 2020, to only 81 this year. Of the almost 4,000 acres planted last year, only 761 were harvested for production. and an eighth of that had to be burned by the state because it contained too much THC. Hopefully both national and state laws will improve so that hemp can profitably be grown. As one Kansan wrote, “My son is taking over his in-laws’ farm, and it is very important to keep our young kids on the farm. I am very proud of him for taking on this challenge. Farmers need all the help they can get, and hemp is a very lucrative crop to grow. This is very important for Kansas and our young farmers. Thanks for your help.”  

*Note: 2010 study in the journal Lancet graded common drugs on sixteen criteria relating to how harmful the drugs were to users and to society overall. On both measures – marijuana scored significantly lower than alcohol and ten other drugs. THC is not physically addictive and scored below tobacco in terms of harm to the users. Marijuana should probably not be listed as a schedule one drug, and certainly hemp should never have been.

(C) 07/23/2023 – J.C. Moore

Unethical Journalism and Political Stereotyping Create Partisanship

Fri ,17/02/2023

Journalism’s ethics say that newspapers should seek the truth and print it, and avoid bias and sensationalism. Publisher Steve Haynes violates those principles in his article, “Democrats want to tap every dime you have”, (TS News 12-01-22). The title is sensational to catch your attention. And, even worse, the article is filled with misinformation. It would be somewhat more accurate to say that Democrats want to tax the wealthy and give it to the poor and that Republicans want to tax the middle class and use it for tax breaks for the rich. Which would you prefer? The first paragraph lists things the Democrats are known for giving people, but he left out farm subsidies, something very important in Western Kansas.

As much as he’d like to blame Democrats for inflation, they’re not really powerful enough to cause it. Economists think that 3% to 5% inflation is healthy for the economy, as it means that demand is greater than supply. Recently inflation is because the supply has decreased because of the pandemic, bird flu, and the war in Ukraine. If you want to blame someone, you might consider that inflation has been about 7% in consumer goods but about 30% in the cost of fuel, which pushes the price of everything up. Oil companies have been reporting record profits, and are using the extra money to buy back their own stock which enriches the company executives and the shareholders. It’s probably, as has been suggested, a good idea to put a tax on stock buybacks.

Mr. Haynes also blames Democrats for the national debt. The national debt tripled after Reagan’s tax cuts. Deficits increased under the Bush and the Trump administrations, while deficits decreased under Clinton and Obama, and the jury is still out on President Biden. The money spent on infrastructure helps all of us. The minimum wage would now be $23 if it had grown as fast as inflation. Middle-class workers’ salaries have gone up 18% since 1978 while CEO pay has risen by 1322%. Does that seem fair? Mr. Haynes also claims that the Democrats want to tax Social Security. Taxing Social Security began under the Reagan administration, so how are Democrats to blame?

Mr. Haynes is also against canceling student loans. States used to pay about two-thirds of the cost of a college education. Now, they pay about one-third and colleges have raised tuition to make up the difference, causing a college education to cost much more and the average student to have to borrow money. The terms of the loans allowed the banks and even the federal government to make money off the students, and, like most debts, student loans cannot be discharged through bankruptcy. So perhaps it’s only right that some of the loans be forgiven, especially if those responsible pay the cost.

Mr. Haynes does point out some of the problems our country faces. He says Democrats and Republicans have different approaches to solving them, but better solutions usually result from compromises. Stereotyping Democrats, or Republicans for that matter, interferes with the bipartisanship we need. Articles like Mr. Haynes’ lead to partisan politics, which is a real problem in Kansas. His article is especially concerning since he is the owner and publisher of Nor’West Newspapers in Oberlin, Kansas, and he likely influences many voters in that area.

(C) 2023 – J.C. Moore

Kansas Is Set to Approve Net Energy Metering Bill

Thu ,16/02/2023

The Energy, Utilities, and Telecommunications Committee is now holding hearings on HB 2228. The bill will reset the total capacity limitation for net energy metering (NEM) systems that may operate within the service territory of an investor-owned electric utility. The total capacity is now set at 1% and it will be increased to 10%, allowing many more customers to install their own solar panels or wind energy systems. If a customer generates electricity in excess of their monthly consumption, all such net excess energy shall be carried forward from month to month and credited at a ratio of one-to-one against the customer’s energy consumption in subsequent months. It will also increase the load size limitations on a customer’s NEM system up to 250 kW.

HB 2228 is likely to pass as it is supported by many homeowners and businesses for the following reason:

  •  Kansas has some of the more restrictive net energy metering (NEM) policies in the country. They discourage residents from choosing lower cost options which would benefit both Kansas citizens and the electric companies.
  •  Residents who install their own power generation systems, such as wind and solar, need to back up their system either with a battery or a connection to the power grid. NEM is a lower cost option than a battery system and provides a number of benefits for Kansans.
  • An independent study in California found that NEM customers provide a benefit both for other ratepayers and for the electric company.
  • NEM customers allow utilities to avoid costs of generation and fuel, maintenance, and the upgrade of transmission and distribution infrastructure.
  • NEM helps avoid the cost of transmission losses (which account for 7% of losses), avoids additional capacity purchases, and increases compliance with renewable energy standards.

      • NEM also reduces peak loads, transmission losses, and the need for new power plants.

  • Similar research studies in Vermont, New York, California, Texas, Missouri, and Nevada also concluded that net metering provided a net positive benefit for utility companies and their customers.
  • It will ensure greater access and affordability of distributed generation systems utilizing solar and wind energy.
  • It gives businesses and homeowners an immediate remedy to better manage their electric
    energy costs and reduce their monthly bills.
  • NEM will help stabilize the grid and add to its security. It and any battery backups will feed electricity into the grid when needed.
  • It is good for the environment as it helps reduce emissions from coal-fired and gas power plants.

The main opposition to the bill comes from the Evergy electric company, which provides electricity to over one-half of Kansas’ residents. They ignore the benefits of NEM to their company and are reluctant to give up the profits generated by their coal-fired power plants.

The Kansas Marshall Plan: Good Ol’ Boy Politics

Mon ,07/02/2022
Justice: Kansas Style

The Marshall Plan was initiated in 1948 to help Europe rebuild after World War II. Interestingly, Kansas also has a Marshall plan named for Kansan Roger Marshall. It helps prominent Republicans rebuild their political careers after committing a crime.

After a dispute with his neighbor in 2008, Roger Marshall attempted to run his neighbor over with his pickup and apparently hit him. Instead of being charged with attempted vehicular homicide, a felony, Marshall was charged with battery and reckless driving, both misdemeanors. But that was not all. As part of a negotiation with the prosecutor, the battery charge was dropped. Marshall pleaded “no contest” to reckless driving and was given a five-day suspended sentence plus a $225 fine. However, the reckless driving conviction was then wiped from the records and reduced to a minor traffic infraction, “failure to exercise due care in regard to a pedestrian” – something akin to stopping in a crosswalk.

It helped that Marshall was a prominent Republican, and the prosecutor was the son of his business partner. Marshall has always denied he hit his neighbor, but his neighbor thought otherwise and filed a civil suit, which Marshall settled out of court. But, with that minor traffic violation behind him, Roger Marshall went on to become a US Representative, and he is now a Senator.

Last year, a Kansas Senator pulled off an even greater coup. About 2:30 in a morning in March, the 911 dispatcher received several calls about a white SUV driving the wrong direction on Interstate 70 in Topeka. A policeman gave pursuit, also going the wrong way, but the SUV ignored the lights and sirens and fled at speeds approaching 100 mph through Topeka, making multiple vehicles swerve to avoid head-on collisions. When the SUV was finally stopped, the driver reeked of alcohol and struggled to speak. The driver was none other than Gene Suellentrop, the Vice President of the Kansas Senate. After being taken into custody, Suellentrop was verbally abusive to law enforcement officers attempting to test his blood alcohol level. He called the arresting officer a “donut boy,” the officer wrote in his report and Suellentrop bragged that he could beat the officer in a fight because he had played sports competitively in high school.

Suellentrop refused to voluntarily take a breath test, and a search warrant had to be obtained to compel the senator to give a blood sample for testing. Even after the elapsed time, his blood alcohol was 0.17%, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08% in Kansas. The charges against Suellentrop, included a DUI, reckless driving, driving the wrong way on a divided highway, speeding, a felony attempt to elude the police, twice, and threatening to hurt the officer. That sounds like it should be some serious jail time.

But it wasn’t. The prosecutor said that since it was Suellentrop’s first offense, he should get leniency. How many first offenses does someone get? It seems like the first offense was driving while intoxicated, the second was driving the wrong way on a divided interstate, the third was speeding, the fourth was reckless driving, the fifth was avoiding a police officer, a felony, and the sixth was threatening the police officer. However, Suellentrop was a beneficiary of the Marshall plan. He was sentenced to six months in jail for the DUI.  It was reduced to 12 months supervised probation and a fine of $750. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail for reckless driving. It was reduced to six months of supervised probation with a $25 fine. Both probation sentences were to run concurrently, but he had to serve 48 hours in jail – time already served. The felony charge of attempting to elude police was dropped as part of the plea bargain. A felony conviction would have cost him his position in the Senate. His driver’s license was suspended until June of 2022, but after 90 days he was able to appeal for its reinstatement, and he already has his license back. Under public pressure, he was removed as Vice President of the Senate, but he remains in the Senate.

So – in summary – 12 months supervised probation and $775 in fines, and he gets to retain his Senate seat. Even Roger Marshall didn’t get a deal like that.

Why the Rich Are Getting Richer and the Poor Poorer

Mon ,09/08/2021

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Job Act (TJCA) really did a job on the American people. The results were predictable. A similar tax cut in Kansas in 2012 was a disaster for Kansas. It benefited the rich, led to a stagnant economy, took money from infrastructure and schools, and put Kansas far in debt. States cannot run a deficit, so Kansas finally had to make up for it in 2017 with the largest tax increase in Kansas history.  

The TJCA was based on the trickle-down theory which, as experience has shown, increases public debt and makes the wealthy wealthier – at the expense of the middle class and low wage earners. The CBO estimated that the TJCA would increase the national debt by almost $1.9 trillion over the next 10 years. It cut the corporate tax rate from 39% to 21% and allowed companies to bring their intellectual assets (GILTI) back to the United States at an even lower tax rate. Those who profited the most were the wealthy and corporations, as it gave permanent tax cuts to corporate profits, investment income, inheritance taxes, estate taxes, and preferential tax treatment to pass-through income*. Some banks, for instance, will pay far less than the 21%. Some of the tax cuts went to the middle class, but they will sunset in 2025 while the tax breaks for businesses and corporations do not sunset.

What is better than lobbying? It is electing Legislators who the large corporations can depend on to cut their taxes. For Republicans, adding to the national debt has always been anathema. Sadly, it was a Republican President and Legislature who passed the TJCA. The chart above lists some of the corporations who donated heavily to Republicans who they could depend on to vote to cut their taxes. It also lists the amount they gained from the tax cuts. Those corporations received about a 6000% return on their investments in electing compliant politicians. Not bad, especially when your bank pays you about 2%. Not only that, but the New York Times reported that there were 55 very profitable companies, such as Nike, FedEx, and Duke Energy, that paid no taxes at all last year. Considering subsidies, some of them had an effective tax rate of as much as a -50%.

Also, the US subsidizes oil and gas companies so that investors never lose. Every year, the U.S. federal and state governments pour around $20.5 billion in subsidies into the oil and gas industry. New research, published in Environmental Research Letters, puts a value on the effect that the16 tax breaks and exemptions will have on the 1,000 U.S. oil and gas fields projected to be built before 2030. The paper found that if fossil fuel prices stay high, most of the subsidies — 96 % in oil, 87% in gas— will go directly to the pockets of investors as profit. And if prices go down, these subsidies will help 60% and 74% percent, respectively, of new oil and gas fields to remain profitable.

So there you have it. If you’re wondering why you pay so much in taxes yet receive so little back, it is because your state and federal governments give away so much money to help the wealthy and profitable companies become wealthier and more profitable. Please consider that when you vote.

*A recent study by Treasury economists found that the top 1% of Americans by income have reaped nearly 60% of the billions in tax savings created by the pass-through provision. And much of that went to the top 0.1%. 

The Problem with Addressing Induced Earthquakes

Thu ,04/02/2021

Many people believe that man’s activities are so inconsequential that they could not possibly induce earthquakes. However, there have been cases as far back as the 1960s where the only reasonable explanation was that earthquakes were being induced by disposal wells. When the U.S. Army’s Rocky Mountain Arsenal built a disposal well in 1961 to get rid of waste fluids, the seismic activity in the area increased. The well was plugged and the earthquakes stopped. A study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) determined that a “deep, hazardous waste disposal well at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal was causing significant seismic events in the vicinity of Denver.”  Another case of induced seismicity occurred in Kansas in 1989 near Palco, northwest of Hays. The largest earthquake had a magnitude of 4.0 and caused some minor damage. Several injection wells, used for the disposal of wastewater from conventional vertical oil wells, were located near a deeply buried fault zone. Investigators concluded that the earthquakes were likely induced.

Recent research shows that disposal wells are causing the earthquake swarms in Kansas and Oklahoma. There were only two or three quakes a year in Kansas and Oklahoma before 2009. That was when fracking operations started in the area and each day millions of gallons of wastewater were pumped into disposal wells. By 2015, there were about 4500 Class ll disposal wells in Oklahoma and about 1600 and Kansas. Some Class II disposal wells, which are associated with oil and gas production, were injecting as much as 15,000 barrels of disposal fluids daily.

The graph below shows the number of earthquakes in the central United States from 1973 to 2019. The number of earthquakes, mostly in northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas, increased dramatically as the number of disposal wells increased after 2009.  When, in 2015, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) and the KCC started putting limits on the amount of disposal fluid that could be injected into wells near earthquake epicenters, the number of earthquakes fell off appreciably. However, that decrease may not be true for the magnitude (M).

Figure 1.

Earthquake intensity is measured on the Richter scale. The Richter scale is a logarithmic scale, with an M3 .0 quake being 10 times stronger than an M2.0 quake, and it dissipates 32 times more energy. Earthquakes over M2.0 can be felt, those over about M3.5 can cause minor damage, and those over M4.0 are strong enough to do structural damage to buildings and infrastructure. An earthquake in Oklahoma near Pawnee, in 2016, was an M5.8 earthquake. It caused millions of dollars of damage in Oklahoma, an estimated $600,000 in damages 110 miles away in Wichita, and was felt as far away as Illinois.

Most disposal wells are drilled into the Arbuckle zone as it is porous enough to take up the fluid. The Arbuckle zone lies under the region at about 2700 feet.  The pressure of gravity on a column of saltwater that long exerts a pressure of over 1500 psi at the bottom. The drilling fluid, under that much pressure, has to go somewhere so it migrates outward from the injection wells.  As the fluid migrates, it causes an increase in pressure in the zone, labeled dP. When the increase in pressure, dP, reaches about 50 psi, it starts destabilizing ancient faults, causing earthquakes. The graph below shows how the dP has changed in south-central Kansas over the past several years, and its increase can be identified with new clusters of earthquakes.

Figure 2.

The pink area (dP > 50 psi) began increasing near the disposal wells in Harper and Sumner Counties and, by 2014, earthquakes were beginning to start there. The pink area reached Reno County (RN) in 2017. Since then, that area has experienced 126 earthquakes of a magnitude 2.0 or greater – and the magnitude seems to the increasing over time.  Hutchinson experienced an M4.2 quake in 2019  and an M4.6 earthquake on 01/19/2021, which was felt in 20 states. In 2018, Burrton, situated between Hutchinson and Wichita, had an M4.2 earthquake. One of Burrton’s school buildings was damaged and hasn’t been used since then.  The maps only go to 2017, but the disposal fluid has been migrating outward since then, with the pink area, dP > 50, likely reaching Wichita in 2020. That’s when earthquakes began occurring in Wichita.

The Wichita area has had very few earthquakes in the past. In the period1990-2019, there was only one quake near Wichita, about 15 miles east. However, beginning in November 2020, a cluster of earthquakes occurred with the epicenters under Northeast Wichita. There were 21 earthquakes greater than M2.5, with the largest of those an M3.9 on December 30th, which could be felt as far as 30 miles away. Minor damage occurred and Wichita citizens became concerned that there might be more and stronger quakes. Many people thought the earthquakes were caused by disposal wells in the area. The KCC and the Kansas Geological Survey (KGS) investigated and found that there were six disposal wells within a 6 mile radius and together they were only injecting a modest 9000 barrels of wastewater a day. So, the investigators concluded that there was very little link between the earthquakes and the disposal wells near Wichita.

And, the investigators were mostly right. The earthquakes were likely caused by disposal wells much further away. In 2016, the KCC limited the volume of fluid injected into disposal wells within a 6 mile radius of an earthquake’s epicenter. That 6 mile distance, establish for wells south-central Kansas, is apparently not adequate. A 2018 research study by the American Geophysical Union concluded that the earthquakes that occurred in Hutchinson were caused by an increase in fluid pressure from wells that were as much as 55 miles away. The graph of dP versus time from the KGS (Figure 2.) makes it clear that the increased pressure migrating outward from disposal wells correlates with the clusters of earthquakes.

The induced earthquakes have done millions of dollars in damage to homes, public buildings, roads, and bridges. The disposal well companies should be liable for the damages. Lawsuits to recover damages have been unsuccessful as it is not possible to link earthquake damage to any one disposal well. It has been proposed that the disposal companies carry liability insurance or voluntarily set up a fund to pay for damages. Since damages are caused by the total volume of fluid, it would be reasonable to apportion the cost among the disposal companies according to the amount of fluid they inject. Those proposals have not been well received. Many people are now buying earthquake insurance for their homes when it was not needed before. The insurance has been little help. After damages, many customers found their policies have a clause that limits payments to damage only from naturally occurring earthquakes. Even policies covering induced earthquakes have been slow to pay, claiming the damage was caused by settling or poor construction. A professional engineer can determine if the damages are caused by an earthquake, and insurance companies should be required to pay up promptly when the engineer certifies that is the case.

There have been efforts to put regulations in place to limit earthquake damage. Those have met with some success, but are clearly not adequate. Current regulations by the KCC in Kansas impose volume limits on wells within 6 miles of a known earthquake epicenter. That distance is clearly not sufficient. An effort to put limits on the volume of disposal fluid in all wells in Kansas, HB 2641, failed in the legislature after intense lobbying by the oil and gas industry. The KCC and KGS need to re-examine the research and put new guidance in place to protect private property and infrastructure and guide the legislature in protecting the citizens of Kansas.

It is clear that both Kansas and Oklahoma need to put regulations in place to limit induced earthquakes and pay for damages to infrastructure and homes. Either effective agreements, or good legislation is needed to:

1) restrict the location of disposal wells.
2) limit the amount of wastewater that can be disposed of at a site.
3) limit the pressure which can be used to inject the wastewater.
4) require that any disposal well linked to significant seismic activity be further regulated.
5) require that disposal well companies form a fund or carry liability insurance to pay for earthquake damage, and pay claims promptly.

It would be best if the disposal well industry would regulate itself by agreements. They would be happier with the outcome and it would avoid the political pressure put on the state legislatures. So far, it is the Corporation Commissions who have put what regulations there are in place. Our best hope is that they will look at the most recent research and put regulations in place which take it into account.

(C) 2021 J.C. Moore All rights reserved.

Earthquakes in Wichita?

Thu ,28/01/2021

Earthquakes in the Wichita area are very rare. However, beginning in November 2020, a cluster of earthquakes occurred with the epicenters under Northeast Wichita. There were 21 earthquakes with a magnitude above 2.5 (M2.5) on the Richter scale. The largest of those was an M3.9 on December 30 which could be felt as far as 30 miles away. Many people thought the earthquakes were caused by disposal wells in the area, but the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) and the Kansas Geological Survey (KGS) investigated and found that there were only six disposal wells within a 6 mile radius and together they were only injecting a modest 9000 barrels of wastewater a day. That may seem like a lot, but it is a relatively small quantity compared to disposal wells in Harper and Sumner Counties where regulators found dozens of wells in 2016 pumping as much as 15,000 barrels a day. So, the investigators concluded that there was no link between the earthquakes the disposal wells near Wichita. And the investigators were mostly right. The earthquakes were likely caused by disposal wells as far as 55 miles away.

There were only two or three quakes a year in Kansas and Oklahoma before 2009. That was when fracking operations began in Oklahoma and millions of gallons of wastewater were pumped into disposal wells. The graph below shows the number of earthquakes per year in the central United States. The number of earthquakes, mostly in northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas, went to over 1000 a day by 2015, with one in Oklahoma in 2016 being an M5.8 earthquake. It was felt as far away as Illinois and caused an estimated $600,000 worth of damage in Wichita. When the Oklahoma Corporation Commission and the KCC put a limit on the amount of disposal fluid that could be injected into each well, the number of earthquakes fell off appreciably.

In Kansas, fracking started later, but earthquakes soon emerged as a problem as the number of disposal wells grew to more than 16,000 by 2015. Some of them were injecting as much as 15,000 barrels each day. In response to the induced earthquakes they caused, the KCC put a limit on the amount of fluid that could be injected into disposal wells within a 6 mile radius of earthquake epicenters. However, later research by the American Geophysical Union found that earthquakes could be caused by disposal wells as far as 55 miles away.

Most disposal wells inject fracking fluids into the Arbuckle zone because it is porous enough to take up the fluid. The extra fluid has to go somewhere, so it migrates outward from the injection wells, causing an increase in the fluid pressure, dP, ahead of it. The Arbuckle zone lies under the entire region, and the increase in pressure is moving North and East in the zone. When the increase in pressure, dP, reaches about 50 PSI as shown in pink, it starts destabilizing and causing slippage in ancient faults. The graph below shows how the dP has changed in south-central Kansas over the past several years, and its migraton can be identified with new clusters of earthquakes.

When the pink area (dP > 50 PSI) reached Reno County in 2017, the area began experiencing quakes. Since then, the county has experienced 126 earthquakes of a magnitude 2.0 or greater. The magnitude seems to the increasing over time.  Hutchinson experienced an M4.2 quake in 2019 and an M4.6 earthquake on 01/19/2021, which was felt in 20 states. In 2018, Burrton, situated between Hutchinson and Wichita, had an M4.2 earthquake. One of Burrton’s school buildings was damaged and hasn’t been used since then.  The map only goes to 2017, but the disposal fluid has been migrating outward since then, with the pink area, dP > 50, likely reaching Wichita in 2020. And that’s when the earthquakes began. Judging from Hutchinson’s experience, future earthquakes in the area may be stronger.

Since the earthquakes are clearly caused by the volume of fluid injected by the disposal wells, the industry should be accountable for the damage done to private and public property. In the period 1990-2012, there were only 16 earthquakes at M2.5 or greater magnitude in KS. Only one of those was greater than M4.0 and only one was near Wichita, about 15 miles East. From 2013 until today, there have been 730 earthquakes of M2.5 or greater in Kansas, 220 of them M3.0 or greater, and 9 of M4.0 or greater. The Richter scale is a logarithmic scale, so an M3 .0 quake is 10 times stronger than an M2.0 quake, and dissipates 32 times more energy. Earthquakes over M2.0 can be felt, those over about M3.5 can cause minor damage, and those over M4.0 are strong enough to do structural damage to buildings and infrastructure.

The earthquakes in Oklahoma have done millions of dollars in damages, but lawsuits to recover damages have been unsuccessful as it is not possible to link one disposal well with any given earthquake. One reasonable proposal was to have the disposal companies voluntarily create a fund which could be used to reimburse injured parties for damages. Since damages are caused by the total volume of fluid, it would be reasonable to apportion the cost among the disposal companies according to the amount of fluid they inject.

Certainly, regulations are needed to protect people’s property in Kansas. Current regulations, imposed by the KCC, only limit disposal volumes within 6 miles of earthquake epicenters. An effort to put limits on the volume of disposal fluid, KS HB 2641, failed when it died in committee. The Kansas KCC and KGS need to re-examine the research and put new guidance in place to regulate disposal wells and guide the legislature in protecting the public and private property in Kansas.

Kansas has not had exceptionally strong earthquakes yet. It has a unique opportunity to learn from what happened in Oklahoma, and take action to limit induced earthquakes and any costs to Kansas citizens. Effective agreements with the industry – or good legislation is needed to:

  1. restrict the location of disposal wells.
  2. limit the amount of wastewater that can be disposed of at a site.
  3. limit the pressure which can be used to inject the wastewater.
  4. require that any disposal well linked to significant seismic activity be further regulated.
  5. require that disposal well companies create a fund or carry liability insurance to pay for earthquake damage.

Without effective action, the earthquakes are likely to grow worse. If the disposal wells connot be regulated, then at least the disposal well companies should compensate people and taxpayers for the damage.

© 2021 – J.C. Moore All rights reserved.

What is the Kansas Chamber of Commerce Hiding?

Tue ,27/10/2020

The answer is “the whole truth”. The Kansas Chamber of Commerce (KCC) is not like our local Chambers of Commerce. They trade on the Chamber’s good name, but their PAC functions as a lobbyist group for large corporations and those already wealthy. They not only lobby to influence state policies, but they work to remove Legislators who represent the best interests of all Kansans. If legislators do not vote for the interests of corporations and the wealthy, then the KCC tries to keep them from being reelected by using misleading ads and postcards that distort the truth. Alan Cobb, CEO of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, recently explained how his organization decides who to endorse in political campaigns. He made the claim that their campaign efforts are 100% fact-based. That is not the whole truth, and in some cases it is an outright lie. Besides endorsements, the KCC sends out postcards that demonize the incumbent legislators they want to defeat. One of their most damaging postcards claims the targeted legislator voted to “retroactively raise our state taxes by $1.2 billion”. The card implies that, if reelected, they would vote to raise your taxes. That is wrong, but it is only part of the story.

That $1.2 billion tax increase, which passed in 2017, was deemed necessary by more than 2/3 of the Kansas Senate and 2/3 of the Kansas House. It was passed to correct earlier tax cuts which had devastated the state’s finances. The state would have gone broke unless it passed. Most of the Republican Leadership and many staunch Republicans voted for the bill. However the KCC is not targeting ALL the legislators who voted for the tax increase. They are selectively targeting the independent-minded incumbents who do not obediently go along with whatever the Chamber wants. They are also claiming that some of the targeted legislators voted for the 2017 tax increase – even though they were not in the Legislature in 2017. How is that possible?

Two of the Core Values listed by the KCC are to: > Be passionate about the economic growth of Kansas and its people. > Be ethical in all that the Chamber advocates for and does.

The KCC’s leaders have mastered the craft of appearing unbiased and truthful when they are not. And, they are not as passionate about the economic prosperity of all the people – as they are for that of the wealthy. Don’t be fooled! Whenever you see a campaign hit piece from them, ask yourself what the real story must be. And then consider voting for the person they are attacking. Kansas needs independent-minded legislators who are not influenced by special interest groups.

Though this is about Kansas Politics, the Chamber of Commerce in your state, and the National Chamber of Commerce, are likely functioning as lobbyists. Yor state and our nation need independent-minded legislators who will not be influenced by special interest groups.

Credit: Thanks to Don Hineman, past Republican Majority Leader, for some of the ideas and wording for the article.