Sebelius: Courts deciding coal plant’s fate

? Gov. Kathleen Sebelius on Monday denied telling the state environmental agency how to rule on permits for a coal-fired power project that she has criticized.

And she said the fate of the project in western Kansas ultimately will be decided by the courts.

“There is going to be litigation whichever way this decision goes, that’s very clear,” Sebelius said.

Asked whether she had told Rod Bremby, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, what to do on the issue, Sebelius replied, “I have not.”

Sunflower Electric Power Corp. has proposed twin 700-megawatt coal-burning plants near Holcomb.

Supporters say the project will help the economy, while environmentalists say the plants’ emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants will contribute to climate change and health problems.

Sebelius, a Democrat, has publicly stated she opposes the project, which has raised the ire of some Republican legislators from western Kansas.

GOP legislative leaders have said they will appoint a committee this week to investigate why KDHE, which has been working on a decision since late last year, has taken so long to act on the permits.

Sebelius said she was “baffled” by the lawmakers’ intentions, although she said they were within their rights to appoint a panel.

She said KDHE was following its legal responsibility in considering the permits. KDHE has said it will announce a decision this month.

“What’s important is that we pay attention to the law as well as gather as much information as possible. That is exactly what is going on,” Sebelius said.

Both Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, and House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, support the project.

“This is a ‘win-win’ for our state,” Neufeld said. “Not only will this project be designed, constructed and operated in a manner consistent with all applicable federal, state and local regulatory requirements, but it also will allow Sunflower to continue to provide low-cost electricity to thousands of Kansans,” he said.

But the Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club disagreed, saying the project “would be one of the nation’s largest new sources of carbon dioxide heat-trapping gases.”

Global climate change will intensify drought in western Kansas and accelerate the drawdown of the Ogallala Aquifer, the club said.