Brian Grimmett | KCUR

Brian Grimmett

Brian Grimmett comes to KMUW after taking a year break from journalism, but he’s excited to jump back in to the fray. Previously, Brian spent almost five years working at KUER 90.1 FM in Salt Lake City. He worked his way up, starting as an intern and sticking around long enough until they relented and gave him a full-time job. At KUER, Brian covered a wide range of topics, but mainly focused on covering the Utah state legislature.

Brian earned his bachelor’s degree in communications from Brigham Young University.

When not reporting, he enjoys spending time with his family and building/flying remote control planes and drones.

Westar has reached an agreement with staff of the Kansas Corporation Commission and several other interested parties that would reduce Westar’s annual revenue by $66 million.

For the average residential customer, that will mean a decrease of about $3.50 a month.

Westar's original request was for a $52 million increase.

The Kansas Democratic party hasn’t had a gubernatorial primary since 1998. The unfamiliar competition this year is forcing Democrats across the state to wrestle with their identity ahead of the Aug. 7 election.

Should their nominee be a candidate who aligns strictly with the progressive ideals of the party platform, or someone with broader appeal? Do they go with experience and name recognition, or youthful exuberance?

Kansas water use is declining, according to a new report from the U.S. Geological survey.

In 2015, Kansas used on average more than 4 billion gallons of water each day. That’s down nearly 25 percent from 1990. Of that, 2.6 billion gallons per day are used for irrigation — a decrease of 36 percent from 1990.

“What we’re doing is great, it’s just not enough of it,” said Kansas Water Office Director Tracy Streeter.

P.J. Sneed is a nurse at a hospital in Wichita, but only until the end of the June. That’s when he’ll quit to become a hemp farmer.

“I’ve not grown a stitch of hemp,” he said. “But I feel like I know how I could do it and have a plan to do it.”

He’ll need more than just enthusiasm to succeed as he trades the stresses of checking patients’ vital signs and administering medicine for the stresses of growing a new crop without experience or the benefits of crop insurance.

This story has been updated.

More than 2,000 residents in Eureka, Kansas, continued to be without power Wednesday night, a day after an EF-3 tornado hit, damaging more than 25 homes and businesses and injuring eight people.

The tornado struck the town, located about 60 miles east of Wichita, at about 7 p.m. Tuesday. Meteorologists at the National Weather Service estimate winds reached between 136 and 165 mph.

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer on Tuesday denied pardon requests for 21 of the state's inmates.

Colyer made the announcement at a press conference in Wichita. Typically when a governor holds a press conference about pardons, it’s to announce he or she is granting one; Colyer announced only denials, focusing specifically on the clemency petition of Everett Gentry.

Gentry is serving 25 years to life for his role in the 2006 murder of 14-year-old Chelsea Brooks. The Wichita teen was nine months pregnant at the time. 

A blossoming trade war between the United States and China could have a big impact on Kansas farmers and businesses.

President Donald Trump has made good on his threat to slap an additional 25 percent tariff on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods. In turn, Chinese officials have committed to retaliatory tariffs in the same amount. But while U.S. tariffs are focused on tech products, Chinese tariffs will likely focus on agricultural goods.

Two Westar Energy employees have died from injuries received while working at the company’s largest power plant, which remained closed Monday.

Operations supervisors Craig Burchett and Jesse Henson were burned when a piece of equipment with high-pressure steam broke about 11:30 a.m. Sunday, Westar officials said. The two were airlifted from Jeffrey Energy Center to the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas, where they died Sunday evening.

New research shows that Kansas is slowly seeing a shift in when it gets its rainfall during the year.

Depending on the region, Kansas typically receives between 35 percent and 41 percent of its annual precipitation during the summer months of June, July and August. But during the past 100 years, that trend is slowly shifting toward the spring.

Westar Energy and Great Plains Energy, the parent company of Kansas City Power & Light Co., won approval from state regulators Thursday to merge as equals.

That clears the way for a combined company worth $14 billion serving more than 1.6 million customers in Kansas and Missouri.

A couple dozen people showed up Tuesday night in Topeka to voice their concerns about Westar Energy’s proposed rate increase.

Westar is asking the Kansas Corporation Commission to increase prices by about $52 million. That's after taking into account savings from changes to the federal corporate income tax.

The increase would cost the average Westar customer about $5.90 a month.

Perhaps conserving energy is important to you. You’ve switched out all of your incandescent light bulbs with LEDs. You keep your thermostat set at 78 in the summer. You might even get mad at your kids when they leave a light on.

Your neighbor, on the other hand, isn’t quite as concerned. He keeps the thermostat set consistently at 68 and he hasn’t replaced any of his light bulbs because, in his words, who wants to pay $10 for a new one?

Industrial hemp is coming to Kansas, but first the Department of Agriculture has to figure out how to regulate it.

Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O'Donnell has been indicted on charges of wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering.

Kansas is about to make it through the end of April without a tornado for only the fourth time since record keeping began.

For about 10 years Laura Krier has lived in Concordia, Kansas, a small town that she’s seen get only smaller.

Without some kind of economic development, she fears things it will only get worse.

Wheat producers in Kansas are worried about the potential for freeze damage after temperatures stayed below freezing for much of the weekend.

While it’s not unusual for Kansas to see spring freezes, the frigid temperatures and blowing wind over the weekend likely caused some damage to the state's wheat crop.

The public submitted more than 100 comments to Kansas regulators about the proposed merger of Great Plains Energy and Westar Energy. Almost all of them were negative.

China has announced its intent to add additional tariffs to 106 U.S. products, including several of Kansas’ top agricultural exports.

Brian Grimmett / Kansas News Service

A decade ago, Kansans felt an earthquake once every few years. Now ground tremors come regularly. One of the hardest hit areas is Harper County in the south central part of the state.

It’s no coincidence, scientists and state regulators agree, that Harper and Sumner counties are also where massive amounts of wastewater has been pumped below ground by outfits drilling for oil and natural gas.

FILE PHOTO / Reno County Fire District No. 6

One year and nearly a half million torched acres after the Starbuck wildfire, strong winds blow across a parched Kansas landscape.

In some ways, last year’s experience showed how man-made systems fell short of handling natural disaster.

As March roars in with another dangerous fire season, lessons from 2017 will be tested and Kansas could learn whether it’s better prepared now.

file photo / KCUR 89.3

Kansas regulators have found that more than one thousand applications for new wastewater disposal wells failed to give the required 30-day public notice period.

Since October 2008, applicants hoping to get approval to begin operating wastewater disposal wells have been required to alert the public about a 30-day protest period.

file photo

The Trump administration remains unlikely to back off its plans to ease Obama era restrictions that make it harder for utility companies to burn coal.

Likewise, the federal courts may eventually decide what pollution rules the Environmental Protection Agency can enforce on energy production.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Executives pushing the merger of the two largest utility companies in Kansas have told regulators they’ll give in on some customer bill protection and job guarantees.

But the leaders at Great Plains Energy and Westar Energy say promising a 5-year moratorium on rate hikes could leave the new, larger company unable to keep step in a fast-changing industry.

Kansas Geological Survey

Zack Pistora of the Kansas Sierra Club was worried about the number of earthquakes in the state and wanted to do something about it.

“Those earthquakes can cause damage to people’s homes, businesses, public buildings,” he said. “Right now there’s no recourse for those Kansans who get affected.”

Photo courtesy Cromwell Solar

If you’ve got solar panels on your roof, Westar Energy wants to create a surcharge on your power bill.

The utility insists that if it doesn’t charge you extra, all of its other customers will get stuck with the tab of being ready with electricity when the sun lets you down.

Solar power enthusiasts want the Kansas Legislature to outlaw such charges, fees they say could stymie their industry’s growth.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Jeff Colyer rose to the top of the Kansas executive branch Wednesday with events staged not just around his swearing in as governor, but in concert with his dash to get elected to the office and a possible inauguration next year.

file photo

A merger of Westar Energy and Great Plains Energy deserves approval, regulatory staff say in a new report, if the two utilities sweeten the deal with more money for ratepayers and less for shareholders.

The staff report issued this week is only advisory. Combining the two companies still needs a go-ahead from the Kansas Corporation Commission. But it signals that the companies may be close to a merger that wins regulatory approval.

Grian Grimmett / Kansas News Service

A proposed merger between two of Kansas’ biggest electric utilities drew little criticism, or praise, during a public hearing Monday night in Topeka.

Westar Energy and Great Plains Energy, the parent company of Kansas City Power & Light, want to  create a new company worth about $15 billion. It would serve more than 1.5 million customers in Kansas and Missouri. The combined company would also have one of the largest portfolios of renewable energy in the country.

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