PREDOMINANTLY AN AGRICULTURAL state, one out of every five residents in Kansas is involved in farming or food production. Kansas leads the nation in the production of wheat and sunflowers. Like many of its midwestern neighbors, Kansas is experiencing a rural exodus, with large numbers of residents leaving farms to move to urban areas. This exodus has increased the pollution that concentrates in industrial regions. With a total population of almost 3 million people, the state has specific concerns about activities that lead to global warming and climate change. One of those concerns is the regional haze that blankets the large cities of Kansas. In response, Kansas has initiated a regional haze program designed to reduce toxic emissions.
Between 1990 and 2001, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in Kansas rose by 4 percent, reaching a total of 71.9 million metric tons. Kansas currently ranks 26th in the United States in CO2 emissions. Concern over the threat that CO2 emissions pose to global warming and climate change has resulted in program initiatives that successfully increased CO2 efficiency by 23 percent. However, the government is engaged in a balancing act, attempting to protect health and the environment while promoting economic growth. In 2007,
Kansas joined some 30 other states in establishing the Climate Registry, which is designed to measure, track, and report greenhouse emissions in order to reduce national levels of pollution.
Environmentalists began putting pressure on the Kansas state government in 2006, when it was announced that the Sunflower Electric Power Corporation would build three new coal-fired power plants in western Kansas. The plan proceeded, despite the fact that eight states had filed lawsuits accusing such plants of accelerating global warming and climate change. Opponents of the project were also concerned about possible threats to the Wichita Mountain National Wildlife Refuge, located 260 mi. (673 km.) away in Oklahoma. The Environmental Protection Agency predicted that sulfur emissions released by the coal-fired power plants would surpass federal limitations and threaten health and the environment. Sunflower officials answered concerns about mercury emissions by insisting that they would be well below federal standards. Government officials were faced with the dilemma of balancing threats to health and the environment against the 2,000 jobs created by the construction project.
The Department of Health and Environment is the Kansas agency that exercises major responsibility for programs designed to reduce activities associated with global warming and climate change. The Environment
Division is specifically involved with oversight and implementation of laws and regulations that deal with air, radiation, public water resources, industrial discharges, solid waste landfills, hazardous waste, asbestos removal, and fuel storage tanks. This agency has the authority to levy fines and impose penalties to enforce compliance. Responsibilities include offering financial aid assistance programs designed to reduce global warming and climate change.
The Environment Division houses the Bureau of Environmental Field Services and the Bureau of Environmental Remediation. Other Kansas agencies involved in protecting the environment are the Department of Agriculture, which implements the Pesticide and Fertilizer Program, the Department of Wildlife and Parks, the Kansas Forest Service, and the State Conservation Commission.
In Kansas, programs that target global warming and climate change include efforts to promote public awareness. Kansas Don't Spoil It and Get Caught Recycling are statewide educational campaigns that encourage recycling of solid waste products. Aging wastewater and deficient public water supply systems pose particular environmental threats, and efforts are underway to rebuild or improve existing facilities. To this end, the state appropriated $94 million to 37 localities in 2006. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has also been engaged in a massive effort to decontaminate 28 public water supply wells that serve approximately 150,000 residents. Through the Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy, the state works with local governments and federal agencies to address problems with the state's watersheds. The Stream Probabilistic Monitoring Program
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