Topeka The state's top environmental official Wednesday approved construction of an ethanol plant in Dodge City, and used the action to try to dampen criticism over his rejection of two coal-fired power plants sought by Sunflower Electric Power Corp.
"There has been speculation that last month's Sunflower decision would in some way threaten the ethanol and biodiesel industry in Kansas," said KDHE Secretary Roderick Bremby. "That is simply not the case. Kansas is still open for business."
Supporters of the Sunflower proposal in western Kansas have blasted Bremby, who last month rejected the two 700-megawatt plants because of concerns about carbon dioxide emissions and global warming. They said Bremby's decision threatened nearly every industry in Kansas that emitted CO2.
At the time, House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, said, "This action ... sends a clear message that economic development is not welcomed in rural Kansas."
But Bremby used the approval of the ethanol plant on Wednesday to tout the need for more renewable energy sources, and point out that much of the state's ethanol production is occurring in western Kansas.
Bremby noted that the Dial Energy ethanol plant in Dodge City has the potential to emit 600,000 tons of CO2 per year, compared with an estimated 11 million tons per year by the proposed Sunflower plants.
The $150 million ethanol plant is expected to produce 124 million gallons of ethanol annually.
KDHE is reviewing permits for four more ethanol plants and one biodiesel plant.
Even though Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' administration has been supportive of ethanol production, some environmentalists have said ethanol requires too much water and causes too much pollution.