Archive for Friday, October 27, 2006

Proposed power plants face criticism

Facilities would help economy, but some say environment would suffer

October 27, 2006


— A proposed $3.6 billion coal-fired electric project in western Kansas would cause health and environmental problems for generations to come, opponents of the facility said Thursday.

"We don't need these outdated, pollution-generating plants," Sarah Dean of Jefferson County said.

But executives of Sunflower Electric Power Corp. said the 2,100-megawatt project near Holcomb complied with all environmental rules and would help the economy.

"We need the power and we need the economic stimulus that will result from this project in rural Kansas," said Earl Watkins, president and chief executive officer of Sunflower Electric.

Testimony from both sides of the issue was taken by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, which will decide whether Hays-based Sunflower Electric gets a permit to build the project.

Nearly 100 people attended the hearing, most of them opposed to Sunflower Electric's plan to build three 700-megawatt, coal-fired electric plants at the site where the company already operates a 700-megawatt plant.

If built, the project would increase electric capacity in Kansas by about one-third. But under the proposal, most of the power generated by the plants will be sold to customers in other states, with much of it being exported to Colorado.

The project would produce 14 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, which Dean and other opponents said would increase respiratory illnesses and add to global warming.

Public hearing

Another public hearing on the proposal will take place at 6 p.m. Nov. 16 in Lawrence in the Malott Room of the Kansas Union, 1301 Jayhawk Blvd. A public comment period on the proposal will run through Nov. 30. All comments should be submitted in writing to Rick Bolfing, KDHE Bureau of Air and Radiation, 1000 S.W. Jackson, Suite 310, Topeka 66612-1366, or presented at the hearings.

But Watkins and other Sunflower officials said the plant's state-of-the-art technology would use coal more efficiently than older plants.

Elizabeth Schultz, a retired Kansas University English professor from Lawrence, said the project's reliance on fossil fuels would delay development of alternative energy.

"Kansas has immense, free, clean and constantly renewable wind and solar resources that are largely untapped," Schultz said.

Dan Nagengast of Lawrence, executive director of the Kansas Rural Center, agreed, saying, "Building excess, commercial coal-fired capacity takes our one renewable hope off the table for the rest of my lifetime and most of my children's."

Wes Jackson, president of the Land Institute in Salina, said Kansas should take a stand against the plant because of the effect of carbon dioxide on global warming.

"We should help lead the way precisely because we will not mine or drill our way out of our problem," Jackson said.

He said conservation measures could reduce the need for the plants.

Sunflower executives said that carbon dioxide was not a regulated pollutant.

"I would say that when, and if, carbon dioxide becomes a regulated pollutant, we will comply with those laws that apply to our assets," Watkins said.

Another concern raised by environmentalists is the emission of mercury from the plants. But Watkins said because of advanced technologies, mercury emissions wouldn't increase.

Pumping water from the Ogallala aquifer for the power plants was also cited as a problem by environmentalists. The plants would need 29,000 acre feet of water per year, but Sunflower officials said that was a small fraction of the 2.1 million acre feet pumped annually, mostly for irrigation in the region.

Holcomb-area legislators and business interests urged acceptance of the project because they said it would provide needed electricity and construction jobs.

"We are looking at an economic boost for the western part of the state," state Rep. Gary Hayzlett, R-Lakin, said.

Supporters of the project said it would provide 2,000 construction jobs and 400 permanent jobs, although a state report said the project would produce 140 permanent jobs.


Packman 11 years, 7 months ago

Right - well said. Now go put your head back in the sand.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 7 months ago

"I would say that when, and if, carbon dioxide becomes a regulated pollutant, we will comply with those laws that apply to our assets," Watkins said.

What he didn't say is that he'll be sending thousands of dollars a year to his favorite politicians to make sure that never happens.

gphawk89 11 years, 7 months ago

Option #1 - Coal-fired plant. Everyone whines about the pollution it causes.

Option #2 - Nuclear plant. Everyone whines about the dangers of nuclear power.

Option #3 - Wind power. Everyone whines about how the windmills are ugly and kill birds.

Option #4 - No new power generation facility. Everyone whines about blackouts.

gphawk89 11 years, 7 months ago

When, and if, carbon dioxide becomes a regulated pollutant, we will all have to stop breathing.

oldgoof 11 years, 7 months ago

"We don't need these outdated, pollution-generating plants," Sarah Dean of Jefferson County said.

If Jeff Co. had one of these, they would have the tax base to properly invest as their share of the Perry-Lecompton bridge costs.

Just a thought...

DeeK 11 years, 7 months ago

what kind of plant do we have here in lawrence?

LogicMan 11 years, 7 months ago

Three coal fired units. And progressive ones too, for example the first to use lime injection for pollution control.

hipper_than_hip 11 years, 7 months ago

"And progressive ones too, for example the first to use lime injection for pollution control."

Actually, the addition of limestone (known as limestone feed), has been used in coal-fired generation for at least 20 years.

The newest pollution control method is called the Chiyoda process, where you bubble the flue gas thru a limestone slurry.

LogicMan 11 years, 7 months ago

I say build it. Lots of good construction and operating jobs, and will help fight the 'brown cloud' on the Front Range. They will have plenty of pollution-control and safety measures at the plant.

But, if I had the authority, I'd require that they add lots of spare (~3x) long-distance transmission line capacity (e.g., to Colorado Springs) and be required to provide access to it for wind turbines out there in western Kansas.

ralphralph 11 years, 7 months ago

Much of the debate misses a major point: In order to make the energy we demand, we must also make a mess we abhor. The type and degree of the mess varies, and the location of the mess is becoming very important to Kansas. We should have seen this issue rising when, for example, Florida mandated the use of alternative sources, but largely forbid their construction in Florida. We have wide-open spaces and dwindling political power, and that results in our being targeted as the site of the necessary but unwanted mess.

werekoala 11 years, 7 months ago

Y'know, I've always wondered why we don't look to lightning for our alternative power needs. Build a big ol' metal pole out on the prairie, and wait for those Kansas thunderstorms.

I guess the problem is probably having a battery that can almost-instantaneously absorb and store 1.21 gigawatts, but hell, you'd think it could charge up some ginormous capacitors or something that could be bled off slowly, right?

ASBESTOS 11 years, 7 months ago

Build about 3 or 4 Nuke plants in Kansas and revive the economy while using a cleaner power than coal.

average 11 years, 7 months ago

Sorry to let you down werekoala, but while lightning is in the giga to tera watt range, watts are a measure of instantaneous power. Over .03 seconds, it amounts to very little. The average lightning bolt (cloud-ground) is around 500 MegaJoule. 3.6 MegaJoule = 1 kWh. One lightning bolt = 139 kWh, or about half what I use in a month.

Evan Ridenour 11 years, 7 months ago

Everyone hates the coal burning power plants but loves electricity.... HMM

snowWI 11 years, 7 months ago

We need to develop transmission lines in Western Kansas FIRST before we ever think about building coal plants. Other states, such as Iowa, Minnesota, and Texas have a system known as the Renewable Portfolio Standard that requires a certain percentage of the electricity generated must come from renewable sources. 92% of the electricity generated at these plants would be exported to other states. Kansas needs to be economically competitive to other states and develop our wind energy resources, or we will be left far behind. Wind energy also creates far more permanent jobs per megawatt hour than any coal plant ever would. Kansas will never be a leader in wind energy, and all states surrounding us will benefit from the investment of the wind energy companies into their rural economy. The carbon dioxide emissions from these proposed plants are outrageous considering the untapped wind resources that we have.

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