Capitol Update: Rep. Xu says Kansas must ‘maximize opportunities to address climate change’

Rep. Rui Xu has introduced three pieces of legislation related to climate change this session. "I truly believe that we need to maximize our opportunities to address climate change on every single bill at every level of government," he said.

Each legislative session, we provide Shawnee Mission area legislators the opportunity to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. This week we’re scheduled to get updates from Rep. Cindy Holscher, Rep. Rui Xu and Sen. John Skubal. Rep. Xu’s column is below.

In my very first Capitol Update I ever wrote shortly after my election in 2018, I talked about how policies to reverse climate change must be a priority. I thought I would spend this article talking about some updates on that goal.

  • The biggest and most significant advancement has come not from the legislative branch, but from the executive branch. The Governor recently announced the development of a State Energy Plan and the creation of an independent State Energy Office to execute on this plan. This would simultaneously lead to a decrease in electric rates as well as the ability to plan for our long-term energy future, which would likely lead to an expansion of wind and solar in Kansas.This plan, however, has run into partisan gamesmanship. The creation of the State Energy Office required what’s known as an Executive Reorganization Order (ERO), which automatically takes place as long as no legislative action is taken on it within 60 days. By and large, these are just allowed to happen without much to-do. However, the House Energy, Utilities, and Telecommunications Committee took debate on the ERO, recommended that the House disapprove of the ERO, and sent that to the House floor. We are waiting to take action on that, which could happen any day.
  • I’ve introduced several pieces of legislation to address climate change:
  1. HB2623, which establishes pollinator-friendly solar sites. As solar installations (hopefully) become more popular in the state, we need to try to ensure that they are installed in an environmentally friendly way. This bill incentivizes them to become as pollinator-friendly as possible.
  2. HB2640, which establishes a tax credit to incentivize carbon farming. We know that cover cropping is a great way to sequester carbon, slow down soil erosion, and improve soil nutrition. While some farmers have taken it upon themselves to implement carbon farming practices, we can do a better job of encouraging them to do that more quickly.
  3. HCR5022, which is a resolution recognizing the global climate crisis. We cannot address the problem if people do not acknowledge the issue, and this was crafted with the goal of getting the conversation going on climate change.
  • I truly believe that we need to maximize our opportunities to address climate change on every single bill at every level of government. I’ve tried to start looking for opportunities to amend other bills to help address climate change. Recently, we had a debate on our KPERS system and the responsibilities of the actuary. The bill added that the actuary can look at “investment returns,” so I brought an amendment to also have them look specifically at the investment returns on fossil fuel investments.

    The amendment ultimately failed, but we ended up having a long debate on the issue with the promise of a robust conversation about fossil fuel investments in committee in the future, which was ultimately my goal.

If you have additional ideas on how we can address climate change, especially with a legislative makeup that is not particularly eager to act on this issue, please reach out to me or your own legislator with those ideas! We know that we don’t have long to act to reverse the effects of human-made climate change, so we all have to work together to come up with the best possible plan.

As always, it is a true honor to represent the 25th District in the Kansas State House. Please feel free to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, sign up for my email newsletter, or call/text me at 913.535.8691.