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      6/10/2004    

 

 

 

 

 

Great Plains doing
phone survey about
power plants

Some respondents claim research
firm asking ‘leading’ questions


by Mark Vasto
Landmark reporter

For 25-years, IHR Research Company of Las Vegas has been phoning and surveying countless numbers of Americans during their dinner hours.

They don’t like receiving callbacks, however, as The Landmark learned.

In recent days, residents of the Platte County and Atchison, Kansas area have reported receiving survey calls from a company regarding the possibility of building coal-fired power plants in the region. The company making the calls has identified itself as being IHR Research, a firm that purports to employ nearly 300 “interviewers” for its marketing surveys.

Specifically, residents say that the questions seem to be overly technical and geared towards providing a pro-power plant stance – a stance many indicated they aren’t willing to take.

When contacted by The Landmark, Lynn Stalone, a 20-year partner of the firm and acting client representative, refused to confirm that IHR was working on behalf of KCP&L, the company proposing to build the plants. When asked if she knew of any other Las Vegas firm calling itself IHR Research that may be calling into the area, Stalone admitted that the company had been calling into the Kansas City area over the weekend but for an unspecified company.

Stalone said that the company’s account list was “proprietary” and then warned The Landmark not to use her or her company’s name in an article about the situation.

When told that The Landmark did plan on using both her name and the name of her firm in an upcoming article, Stalone offered to put The Landmark in touch with the company’s “senior partner.” Unfortunately, before Stalone could warn the senior partner that she had a reporter on the line, the senior partner made it clear he wasn’t going to cooperate with reporters.

“I’m not going to give him my name or tell him who I am,” said the unnamed senior partner, unaware that the call had already been connected.

“This is Ron Clark,” said Stalone, simultaneously blowing her partner’s cover.

The Landmark sought to confirm the identity of the man to no avail.

“Who is this?” the man introduced as Clark angrily demanded.

“Someone who claims to be a journalist from Kansas City,” Stalone added, apparently skeptical.

Subsequent attempts to get the man Stalone identified as Ron Clark to admit who he was proved fruitless, the telephone interaction ending when he hung up.

According to the company’s website, Clark is the company’s senior partner. The site says that prior to forming IHR, Clark was senior vice president with an alleged “large advertising agency” in Southern California. The site also says that he served in marketing research and marketing positions in New York, Chicago, Detroit, and San Francisco.

Tom Robinson, spokesperson for KCP&L, confirmed to The Landmark that the company was, in fact, using a telephone survey company to canvas the Platte County area for opinions on the plant but did not give specifics on the project.

Beatrice Shisler of Atchison, Kansas was one such resident who received the telephone survey. Expecting the survey to be about the upcoming presidential elections, Shisler was surprised to find out the questions were related to the power plant issue. She was even more surprised to learn that the surveyor considered Atchison to be a part of the greater Kansas City metropolitan area.

“They even asked how I thought Kay Barnes was doing as mayor,” Shisler said with a laugh.
Shisler said she didn’t find the survey’s methods to be very funny, however.
“The questions were being asked in such a way that it seemed you were for the power plants, even if you were vehemently against it,” Shisler said. “They would ask questions like ‘do you support jobs more than releasing things into the air.’”

Platte County resident Ruby Crouse relayed a similar experience.

“They asked an awful lot of questions,” Crouse said of the survey that lasted, in her estimate, close to 10 or 15 minutes. “They asked about KCP&L, whether I was a Republican or Democrat, and then they focused on the power plant for about four or five questions.”

Crouse said the survey asked "leading" questions and that at times she had to have the questions repeated because of the confusing manner they were asked. She said that the survey asked if she would be for the power plants if they were to hypothetically meet pollution standards, to which Crouse replied “no.”

“But they didn’t ask why,” Crouse said, adding that she was primarily against the proposed plants because it was her belief that they were to be merchant plants and their generated power would go elsewhere.

KCP&L, Great Plains Power changing story again

The news of KCP&L’s recent surveying came as no surprise to members of the Concerned Citizens of Platte County and the local chapter of The Sierra Club, the two groups most closely associated with being in opposition to the proposed 800-megawatt power plants near Weston and Atchison. At a fundraiser held Saturday at the Red Barn Farm in Weston, the more than 100 people in attendance were heard discussing the latest trend and speculating on what it could mean.

More than likely, the company will be using the data to arm executives when the company begins its own series of public forums in mid-June.

The company announced on June 1 that it is currently looking at four options to meet the “area’s growing need for electricity and cleaner air.” According to the company, the potential options include:

·Accelerated environmental investments of $300 million to $350 million for selected existing plants;

·Investment in up to 200 megawatts of wind generation;

·Ownership of up to 500 megawatts of an 800- to 900-megawatt regulated coal-fired plant at the Iatan site in Missouri;

·And technologies and programs to help customers conserve energy.

The announced measures are significant for those following the story of the proposed power plants. They are the first time the company has outlined an investment in wind generation and conservation since the issue began to take shape. More significantly, the stated ownership of 500 megawatts of a potential regulated coal plant at Iatan changes the overall scope of that project.

If built, a 900 megawatt plant would be even larger than the originally planned plant that already has some residents up in arms. Ownership of up to 500 megawatts could also mean that the company is not projecting robust sales of energy, at least for now. Great Plains officials have already said that their original plan to sell energy in 50 megawatt bundles has not met with great enthusiasm on the open market.

In a statement, the Concerned Citizens of Platte County said they are encouraged by the company’s consideration of a variety of possible strategies.

“We’re especially pleased that the company will invite the community to participate in the discussion, and that they specifically mention renewable (wind) energy and energy efficiency as among the options being considered,” the statement read.

The Sierra Club was decidedly more skeptical.

“We remain suspicious of their intentions considering all of the secrecy and flip-flopping GPE has engaged in concerning the proposed coal burning power plants,” the statement begins. “We agree with GPE that ‘these are important decisions for the future of our region and for all of us who live and work here’, and we want to emphasize that the decisions for how to meet the long-term energy needs for the region belongs to the community, not to profit-seeking corporations. We encourage community leaders and individuals to fully participate in these community forums.”

The public forums which will be hosted by Kansas City Power & Light in Clay, Platte and Jackson counties in Missouri and Atchison and Johnson counties in Kansas. No times or dates are available as of this writing. The Concerned Citizens of Platte County wi

 

   
 

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