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Topic: Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC)

Interview of Carl Holmes, September 3, 2020

Interviewed by Rex Buchanan
In this 2020 oral history interview, former State Representative Carl Holmes discusses his observations of state water policy formulation in the 1970's through 2012. Holmes began his involvement in water policy as a farmer and active member of his community in southwest Kansas. In many respects, his experiences reflect the water-energy nexus. Holmes describes how he had observed cities and irrigators mining water in southwest Kansas. He recalls developing a comprehensive understanding of water issues by interviewing the managers of the state’s water resources. In this interview, Holmes describes how he managed the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee by Show Morecreating subcommittees and educating members on how to work bills and guide them through the process. He discusses his bipartisan work with Representative Ken Grotewiel and other committee Democrats in the 1990s, actions that resulted in the Speaker removing him from the chairmanship of the committee. Holmes describes how irrigation changed over time from flood to sprinklers and how the sprinkler systems have become more efficient. However, Holmes observed that groundwater levels continue to decline leading to abandoned wells, the growing of crops that require less water, the return to dryland farming, and, for some, the call for diversion of water from distant sources, such as the Missouri River, to sustain farming and communities on the plains. Show Less

Interview of Dennis McKinney, August 23, 2019

Interviewed by Dale Goter
Dennis McKinney developed many insights in his sixteen years as a leader in the minority party into how the legislature did work, and how it should work. He recounts numerous instances when things worked well because of bipartisan cooperation and compromise. McKinney's experiences on the House Energy and Natural Resources committee working with Carl Holmes and Ken Grotewiel helped shape water policy in Kansas. His experience as a farmer and rancher in south central Kansas coupled with his focus on problem solving led to his reputation as a "middle of the road legislator" who would work Show Morewith both political sides as well as urban and rural. McKinney was committed to public education as well as conservation. The pursuit of fair and balanced tax policy shaped his actions. The interview highlights the importance of leadership from the governor's office and other legislative leaders (Mays, Shallenburger, D. Kerr, Morris). There is an interesting segment about the 2005 Special Session on school finance where McKinney talks about using the courts as leverage. The interview concludes with a brief discussion of the Greensburg tornado. Show Less

Interview of John Solbach, June 11, 2021

Interviewed by Alan Conroy
John Solbach served in the Marines, was wounded in combat in Vietnam, returned to Kansas to finish college and law school and ran for the Kansas legislature in 1978. He represented Lawrence/rural Douglas country in the House for 14 years. Solbach's interview is replete with entertaining stories, starting with his Populist ancestors' takeover of the Kansas House in 1890, to stories about how Mike Hayden helped him get a $4,000 appropriation to bring David Eisenhower to Kansas. He teamed up with Wint Winter Jr. to pass a Uniform Conservation Easement Law in spite of Sen. Ross Doyen; Show More he and R.H. Miller stopped a group of rural electric cooperatives from taking the Wolf Creek Nuclear plant out from under the control of the Kansas Corporation Commission. Solbach considers the sentencing guidelines, passed in 1992 while he chaired the House Judiciary Committee as the best legislation of his career. Show Less

Interview of David Pierce, October 2, 2023

Interviewed by Rex Buchanan and Mike Lennen
Retired Professor David Pierce recalls how he became interested in environmental policy and in oil and gas law. After starting his career, this native Kansan returned to the state where it was easy to do business in the oil and gas industry. In this interview, Pierce identified several factors that contribute to the positive business atmosphere, including land ownership patterns, the location of Kansas' oil and gas resources, and a general attitude that regulation is a means by which reasonable resource extraction is facilitated. He identifies two areas where solutions need to be identified: one old issue, in Show Morethe eastern part of the state where unplugged wells continue to be a problem; and the other a newer issue of increased seismic activity associated with new drilling techniques. Pierce also reviews several of the key federal and state laws and court decisions that have shaped the nexus of energy and environmental policy in the oil and gas industry. Show Less
Jim Haines

Interview of Jim Haines, November 2, 2023

Interviewed by Rex Buchanan and Mike Lennen
In this interview, Jim Haines describes his long career in the electric utility industry in Kansas during a tumultuous time. He talks about changes in the energy marketplace and in regulations regarding fuel types, safety, and the environment. He also identifies changes that enabled utilities to achieve economies of scale through mergers and acquisitions. Haines talks about the difficult years during which Wolf Creek, Kansas' only nuclear power plant, was under construction, including the public resistance to the plant and the push-back at many levels as construction costs escalated. In this discussion, Haines places the construction Show Moreand initial operation of Wolf Creek in the specific context of Kansas as well as the general context of the U.S. nuclear power industry of the 1980s. Show Less

Interview of Earl Watkins, December 19, 2023

Interviewed by Rex Buchanan and Mike Lennen
Earl Watkins recalls his years of work with Sunflower Electric Power Corporation, a generation and transmission (G&T) cooperative headquartered in Hays, KS. Watkins describes navigating between requirements to provide power to member-owners and requirements of lenders, regulators, and other policymakers. He paints a picture of the unique position of a G&T cooperative in an industry dominated by large investor-owned utilities serving primarily densely populated areas. He also reflects how the co-op business model serves well a sparsely populated portion of Kansas where self-reliance is an important element of the Show Moreregional culture. Show Less

Interview of Roger McCoy, January 24, 2024

Interviewed by Rex Buchanan
Roger McCoy. founder of McCoy Petroleum Corporation with headquarters in Wichita, Ks. , recalls growing up in the oil industry from the late 1950s. Among his observations about the industry, are the dynamics of relationships between independent oil companies, like his and the "majors" like Mobile Oil and Gulf that were active in Kansas. McCoy also observes that environment-related regulation of the industry in Kansas is "justified" and that federal laws impact the industry more than state laws. In his observations, laws that impact pricing and leasing, such as the Kansas Natural Gas Price Protection Act, and Show Morethe Deep Horizons law have greater impact on the industry than most of the environmental requirements. Show Less
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