Archive for Thursday, November 15, 2007

Legal team to fight for coal plants

November 15, 2007


— Finney County commissioners have hired a legal team to help them decide whether to file a lawsuit over the denial of a coal-plant permit.

They believe that Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Roderick Bremby had no legal basis to deny Sunflower Electric Power Corp.'s air-quality permit for the $3.6 billion project in Holcomb.

Last month, Bremby denied a permit sought by Sunflower to build two, 700-megawatt coal-fired power plants, over concerns that they would harm the state's health and environment by emitting 11 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. Many scientists see CO2 as a major contributor to global warming.

Hays-based Sunflower officials have filed an appeal with the Department of Health and Environment asking Bremby to reverse his decision and to hold public hearings for more discussion. Sunflower's partners in the project are Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association Inc. of Westminster, Colo., and Golden Spread Electric Cooperative, in Amarillo, Texas.

Commissioners voted unanimously Monday to retain the Kansas City, Mo., law firm of Stinson, Morrison and Hecker LLP to advise them whether to take legal action. The firm would file the lawsuit if the county is found to have legal standing on the issue.

Legal action against the Department of Health and Environment must be filed within 30 days, which is Sunday.

County Commissioner Cliff Mayo said the permit denial was a political decision and needs to be identified as such.

Other county officials are concerned that Bremby's decision could have far-reaching effects on future energy policy and the business climate for the state and region. The project was expected to create several thousand construction jobs while the plants were built next to an existing, 360-megawatt coal-fired plant.

"Clearly, Finney County will be affected by the impact on the tax base, which we think gives us standing," County Administrator Pete Olson said. "What do you do if you can't have coal-based power plants?"

The meeting Monday included several local government agencies, economic development officials and state legislators.

Sunflower had planned to build a bioenergy center to capture all but 3.6 million tons of those emissions and use the CO2 to grow algae that could be converted to fuel. Bremby said nothing in its permit application would have guaranteed the center's construction, and environmentalists were skeptical that the technology could work on an industrial scale.


SettingTheRecordStraight 10 years, 4 months ago

As I understand it, there is no legal measure with regard to acceptable levels of carbon-based emmissions. Therefore, the government's denial of this plant was based on an arbitrary assessment. Without a standard, can our government deny the construction of this plant?

tolawdjk 10 years, 4 months ago


That is the billion dollar question, isn't it. From my time at KDHE and how the statutes were set up, I would say that the lack of a "standard" does not prevent the Secretary from denying but it had never and was unlikely to ever happen as no one thought KDHE would ever want that kind of political attention. From a functionality standpoint, it makes sense giving a health and environment office that power to have the abliity to react to pollutants whose effects were previously unknown or undocumented.

CO2 makes it amazingly more difficult because of the scale at which it is emitted, the unknowns involved in transport, regional and global issues, no clear level of what is "bad", "good", or "neutral", and the relatively large areas of blank space in knowing how to categorize and quantify a plant's inventory.

Check out the recent testimony given by EPA Administrator Johnson in front Waxman's Oversight Committee. It gives some interesting insight on EPA's current legal position that I think they are taking on this issue.

Haiku_Cuckoo 10 years, 4 months ago

Since this will provide energy for Colorado, why don't they build it in their own state? Does anyone know? Why pollute Kansas? It would be like me putting my septic tank on my neighbor's property.

preebo 10 years, 4 months ago

"Since this will provide energy for Colorado, why don't they build it in their own state?" simple answer. Amendment 37 to the Colorado Consititution. Now energy companies are looking to place coal-fired plants in bordering states to levy the cost (both economically and environmentally) on other states.

As to the arbitrary claim, the Secretary has Administrative Discretion to approve or deny permits. While his public defense of the rejection was somewhat vague, his ability to do so is provided through Administrative Law.

Also, with the ruling in Massachusetts v. United States (ruling the EPA is required to regulate CO2 under the Clean Air Act) there will be regulation on CO2 with the next five years or so at both state and federal levels.

a_flock_of_jayhawks 10 years, 4 months ago

STRS writes, "Without a standard, can our government deny the construction of this plant?"

Without a standard, can they prohibit smoking in public places? Apparently so.

Dolly writes, "So now we know that 600,000 tons of co2 is the cutoff point to save the planet from global warming."

You're being facetious. I really don't think you believe that. Maybe you can test it out at your residence, meticulously capturing all of the emissions, exposing yourself and empirically testing where the cutoff is.

Wilbur_Nether 10 years, 4 months ago

The Capitol Journal reports today that Secretary Bremby has approved an ethanol plant in Dodge City.

b_asinbeer 10 years, 4 months ago

"Since this will provide energy for Colorado, why don't they build it in their own state?"

Even if it was built in Colorado, we have to keep in mind that CO2 is a gas and does not stand still, it impacts almost everything around it. Kansas still would've gotten a hefty share of CO2 in its backyard.

JSpizias 10 years, 4 months ago

Are people aware how little CO2 there is in the air? Current average levels are about 380 parts per million or 0.038%. Note also that the majority of CO2 released each year is from metabolism and decay of organisms in oceans and on land.

Freeman Dyson, Professor at The Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, puts the amount of CO2 and its role in perspective in an article at entitled: HERETICAL THOUGHTS ABOUT SCIENCE AND SOCIETY

"The fundamental reason why carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is critically important to biology is that there is so little of it. A field of corn growing in full sunlight in the middle of the day uses up all the carbon dioxide within a meter of the ground in about five minutes. If the air were not constantly stirred by convection currents and winds, the corn would stop growing. About a tenth of all the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is converted into biomass every summer and given back to the atmosphere every fall. That is why the effects of fossil-fuel burning cannot be separated from the effects of plant growth and decay. There are five reservoirs of carbon that are biologically accessible on a short time-scale, not counting the carbonate rocks and the deep ocean which are only accessible on a time-scale of thousands of years. The five accessible reservoirs are the atmosphere, the land plants, the topsoil in which land plants grow, the surface layer of the ocean in which ocean plants grow, and our proved reserves of fossil fuels. The atmosphere is the smallest reservoir and the fossil fuels are the largest, but all five reservoirs are of comparable size. They all interact strongly with one another. To understand any of them, it is necessary to understand all of them."

b_asinbeer 10 years, 4 months ago

"Note also that the majority of CO2 released each year is from metabolism and decay of organisms in oceans and on land."

Of course it is, we're not refuting that. But it's the human element that's causing the problem. Duh!

What a tool.

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