Archive for Friday, October 19, 2007

Coal plants denial stuns state

Rejection leads to hot reaction

October 19, 2007


KDHE denies coal plant permit

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Rod Bremby denied Sunflower Electric Power Corporation a permit to build a large coal-fired power plant in western Kansas. Enlarge video

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Sunflower Electric Power Corp. and its partners plan to construct two 700-megawatt coal-burning electric power plants near Sunflower's current 360-megawatt facility near Holcomb, shown in this rendering. Developers of the proposed plants said Tuesday that if the Legislature doesn't approve the project by June 1, it may not go forward.

Sunflower Electric Power Corp. and its partners plan to construct two 700-megawatt coal-burning electric power plants near Sunflower's current 360-megawatt facility near Holcomb, shown in this rendering. Developers of the proposed plants said Tuesday that if the Legislature doesn't approve the project by June 1, it may not go forward.

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— Citing the threat of global warming, Kansas' top environmental official on Thursday rejected permits for two 700-megawatt coal-burning electric power plants in western Kansas.

"I believe it would be irresponsible to ignore emerging information about the contribution of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to climate change and the potential harm to our environment and health if we do nothing," said Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Rod Bremby.

It was a stunning rejection based on the project's expected annual emission of 11 million tons of carbon dioxide - a greenhouse gas that isn't regulated on the state or national levels.

"It's without precedent," said Bob Eye, an attorney from Lawrence who represents the Sierra Club. "It's just one of the most important days we've experienced in a long time in the environmental movement."

Hays-based Sunflower Electric Power Corp., which proposed the plants, and its supporters, blasted the decision.

Sunflower Electric's President and Chief Executive Officer Earl Watkins said the company expected to pursue "legal and legislative remedies to this denial."

Watkins described Bremby's action as "capricious" because it overruled the KDHE technical staff's recommendation to approve the permit, and was based on concerns about unregulated emissions.

"All Kansans should be alarmed by this action since the impact of this denial will be felt across many industries in Kansas, not just power plants," Watkins said.

Sunflower and its partners planned to construct the $3.6 billion plants near Sunflower's current 360-megawatt facility near Holcomb.

Political fallout

Western Kansas legislators promised an investigation into KDHE's permit process and accused Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, of ignoring the region's economic needs.

Senate President Steve Morris, of Hugoton, a Republican but often allied with Sebelius, criticized the governor and called Bremby's decision "politically motivated."

"I am disappointed in the governor's lack of support and leadership for western Kansas on this major development project," Morris said.

The Kansas Republican Party fired away at Sebelius.

"By forcing Secretary Bremby to deny the permit, she (Sebelius) has not only caved to liberal special-interest groups, but she has once again shown her lack of commitment to promoting Kansas economic interests," said Kris Kobach, state GOP chairman.

Decision praised

But environmentalists hailed Bremby's decision.

Craig Volland of the Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club said, "Kansas, and particularly west Kansas, is now perfectly positioned to develop its abundant clean energy resources, help solve global warming and create thousands of new family-supporting jobs."

Wes Jackson, president of the Land Institute, said the Sebelius administration has "shown vision." He added, "Coal has been an important part of our past, but clean and renewable energy is our future."

Sebelius called Bremby's order "the right decision for the well-being of the people of Kansas."

She said rejection of the coal plants will allow the state to focus on renewable energy.

What's next?

As a probable court challenge geared up, Bremby said his decision will start the process of reducing CO2 emissions.

"This is consistent with initiatives under way in states leading the effort to address climate change," he said.

In his statement, Bremby cited the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that carbon dioxide meets the broad definition of an air pollutant under the Clean Air Act.

Ray Dean, of Lawrence, who opposed the project and who with his wife, Sarah Dean, filed a lawsuit to stop it, said Bremby's decision represents Kansas' first step in grappling with climate change.

"The whole state is struggling to get itself re-oriented into the future. It is hard for everyone to do that," Ray Dean said. "Trying to change the way we power ourselves is going to be a long, hard struggle."

He said the public is starting to understand the effects of global climate change because of recent court cases, environmental events and decisions in other states to reject coal-fired plants.

Eye, the attorney representing the Deans and Sierra Club, agreed, saying, "Sunflower got overtaken by events, by the growing recognition of the need to deal with greenhouse gases and global warming."

The Lawrence City Commission and attorneys general of eight states opposed the project.

The opponents had also said the plants would stifle the growth of wind energy. But Sunflower officials maintained it would actually promote wind energy because of new transmission lines associated with the project.

Under the proposal, 85 percent of the energy produced at the plants would be sold to customers in Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma.

Sebelius was critical of that. "Why should Kansans get 100 percent of the pollution and threats to our health," she said, "while only getting 15 percent of the energy?"


Feb. 6, 2006: Hays-based Sunflower Electric Power Corp. applies to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment for three 700-megawatt coal-burning generators.

Nov. 16-17, 2006: The project gets a cool reception during a public hearing in Lawrence.

Nov. 21, 2006: Lawrence City Commission votes 3-2 to formally oppose the complex.

Dec. 3, 2006: About 100 people rally outside the Capitol to oppose the project.

Dec. 15, 2006: Public comment period on the air quality permits ends. Eight states - including California, New York and Wisconsin - oppose the plants. Plant developers and many west Kansas residents support the project.

Dec. 29, 2006: Westar Energy postpones a decision on whether to build a coal-burning plant because of skyrocketing construction costs.

Feb. 3: A proposal before a Kansas House committee for a two-year ban on construction of coal-burning power plants dies.

March: Coal-burning suffers setbacks in unrelated events. Texas utility TXU announces it is for sale and reduces plans for 11 new coal-fired plants to three; and in Kansas, Westar Energy Inc., the state's largest utility, announces plans to produce 500 megawatts of renewable energy power.

April 6: One of the three coal-fired power plants scheduled to be built is put on hold. Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association Inc. announces it will delay construction of the second of two units it planned to build, deciding to pursue natural gas and renewable energy plants.

April 2: The U.S. Supreme Court rules in a 5-4 decision that greenhouse gas emissions are an air pollutant and orders the EPA to reconsider its refusal to control those emissions.

May 25: Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and leaders of the state's major electric utilities set a goal of using conservation and energy efficiencies to reduce energy consumption 10 percent by 2020.

May 29: Sarah and Ray Dean of Lawrence file a lawsuit against KDHE, seeking to stop the Holcomb project. The suit is consolidated with a similar lawsuit by the Sierra Club.

September: Sebelius starts to criticize the project, although she maintained she would have no influence in KDHE Secretary Roderick Bremby's decision on whether to approve the proposal.

Sept. 28: Attorney General Paul Morrison issues a legal opinion that Bremby has latitude to reject the project. The opinion, which was sought by KDHE.

Oct. 8: KDHE staff recommends approval of the plants' air quality permits. But Bremby says he has yet to make a decision on the issue.

Oct. 18: KDHE Secretary Bremby rejects the two 700-megawatt coal-fired electric power plants. Sunflower vows to pursue legal remedies.


oldvet 10 years, 7 months ago

Just like the Walmart fiasco, you can expect an expensive legal battle that the state will lose and the plant will be built... by the way, if you are really concerned about the effect of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere... don't breath... you are a polluter who emits carbon dioxide!

average 10 years, 7 months ago

Oldvet again fails at math. A fully-grown human breathes out less than a kilogram of CO2 per day. 2.6 million Kansans * a kilogram * 365 days a year is less than 1 metric ton per year. The Sunflower expansion is 11 to 12 metric tons per year, for the benefit of Colorado.

Jerry Stubbs 10 years, 7 months ago

Colorado wisely rejected this same power plant proposal.... it uses too much precious water.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 7 months ago

Yes to New Economic Growth!!

Wind,solar and new technology hydropower = NEW jobs across the state.

gckjhawk 10 years, 7 months ago

Some of the comments on here against Western Kansans are the very example of the same kind of narrow mindedness that they claim Western Kansans have. The people of the state of Kanas should look at clean power like wind, or nuclear, as you have at Wolf Creek. The people in Lawrence and Eastern Kansas will now have to step up and help to pay for the cost the state will have to take on to build the infrastructure to support major wind power production in Western Kansas. Eastern Kansans will also have to reconsider putting up wind farms in places like the Flint Hills. Lastly, Lawrence needs to do more to prove that they are environmental leaders. You need to call for all students to revise how they get to school, reducing co2 emissions from the cars they drive to get to K.U., and Lawrence needs to do a lot more to reduce the amount of co2 that residence put out driving to their jobs in Overland Park, and Topeka. The new buses that K.U. has bought for the bus systems are nice, but do they burn biodiesel? As a K.U. grad, and a football season ticket holder who spends money in Lawrence each home game, I love both Lawrence and Western Kansas, where I was born. But some in Lawrence need to learn how to actually talk to other people in the state about thier position on issues, and not take such a high and mighty attitude that they know better than everyone else on issues, while promoting a livestyle in Lawrence that directly contridicts thier stated values. All the people of Kansas also need to learn to sit down and work together on how to deal with the issues of economic development. We are one state, and it is time members of Lawrence reach out to the rest of the state to deal with these state issues, or they are not going to get state funds to support K.U. from the legislature. That is the political fact of the matter. You can not deny economic development for the rest of the state, and then expect them to support K.U. with thier tax dollars.

oldvet 10 years, 7 months ago

Actually, average, you need to relook at YOUR math... using your numbers, and your assumptions (since I didn't introduce any math in my statement)...

1 Kg of CO2 * 2,600,000 Kansans * 365 days = 949,000 metric tons per year

just a pinch more than "less than 1 metric ton per year"

average 10 years, 7 months ago

Mucha mea culpa. Yes, monkeys at 1 million metric tons, Sunflower 11 million. Same ratio. Sorry.

Soup2Nuts 10 years, 7 months ago

If Kansas is going to get the pollution from this plant, then it also ought to get the benefit. 85% of the generated power is going out of state.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 7 months ago

Where did the number 16,000,000 wind generators come from? Sounds exaggerated?

Economic Development from energy is certainly not restricted to coal or nuclear. Perhaps politicians enjoy painting that picture however too often politicians are influenced with money rather than facts.

Why keep generating radioactive waste that costs billions upon billions to store plus needs to be hauled from everywhere?

According to the Wall Street Journal one of the reasons Nuke Plants have not been built is because they were declared a risky investment due to radioactive waste,too expensive to construct and constant cost overruns.

If energy is to be subsidized why not something safer and cleaner while at the same time creating a new industry that cannot be outsourced? Hydro power with new technology,solar power and wind power.

Renewable energy basics

No single solution can meet our society's future energy needs. The answer lies instead in a family of diverse energy technologies that share a common thread: they do not deplete our natural resources or destroy our environment.

Renewable energy technologies tap into natural cycles and systems, turning the ever-present energy around us into usable forms. The movement of wind and water, the heat and light of the sun, heat in the ground, the carbohydrates in plants-all are natural energy sources that can supply our needs in a sustainable way. Because they are homegrown, renewables can also increase our energy security and create local jobs.


Germany shines a beam on the future of energy Nation gambles on amped-up push for renewable power Robert Collier, Chronicle Staff Writer Monday, December 20, 2004

(12-20) 04:00 PDT Muhlhausen, Germany -- A solar-power project built by a Berkeley company may point Germany toward a pollution-free future. Set in the heart of Bavarian farmland, the 30-acre facility went online earlier this month, becoming the biggest solar energy plant in the world. For the government of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, the Muhlhausen solar farm represents a gamble that Germany, the world's third biggest economy, can replace its principal energy sources -- coal, natural gas, oil and nuclear power -- with clean, safe and renewable alternatives. "There's a huge amount of opportunity here in Germany because the government has created a system that encourages large installations," ======

kneejerkreaction 10 years, 7 months ago

Average & Oldvet, and what about the cats and dogs breathing? The deer, the rabbits, the coons and the field mice?! Let's declare open season on household pets. I'll do my part this evening with my neighbors two big barking poop factories.

pace 10 years, 7 months ago

What a headline. Since most of the state expected kdhe to turn it down, Maybe just the headline writer was stunned.

That baby is an outdated and dirty method. Short term profits for long term nightmare. Profits for a few, nightmare for us and our neighbors. . Look at the Farmland site here, They robbed the corporation, declared bankruptcy, closed shop and left a seeping mess that no local government wants to address. The coal plant was a bad investment. We will probably get it anyway.

kneejerkreaction 10 years, 7 months ago

Of course Sunflower's CEO will fight this. He stands to make a lot of yearly bonus by selling power from those plants.

outdoor55 10 years, 7 months ago

For everyone who is pissed off about the coal fired power plant being denied... Go to China! Go see what unchecked pollution looks like. Also, I hope you are looking forward to your kids having skin cancer.

Flap Doodle 10 years, 7 months ago

I've begun holding my breath to reduce my carbon footprint..........


Oh jeez, now I have a headache.

Janet Lowther 10 years, 7 months ago

merrill wrote: "Why keep generating radioactive waste that costs billions upon billions to store plus needs to be hauled from everywhere? "


So far as I am aware, nuclear fuel from civilian nuclear power plants is the only waste product the US government absolutely FORBIDS recycling.

The amount of radioactive waste and its average half-life would be vastly less if they simply reprocessed the expended fuel by chemically separating out the remaining Uranium and Plutonium, diluting it with fresh U-238 and putting it back in the core. As I understand it, Once you get rid of the Uranium and Plutonium from the waste stream the only long-lived radioactive element is a not-very-hot but long-lived isotope of Iodine.

I'd like to see how they would react is someone applied to build a French-style fast breeder reactor and building a recycling facility on-site. . .

Of course, the government is terrified of the concept of there being ANY Plutonium in private hands for any reason.

kneejerkreaction 10 years, 7 months ago

The biggest year round user of electricity in most people's homes are lights. If you haven't changed out ALL your lights with flourescent curly bulbs, then get off your computer and get busy.

MariposaUnfolding 10 years, 7 months ago

In response to Merrill's comment - History has shown that when a need was great, humans invented something to satisfy it. Instead of complaining about lack of infrastructure for newer/healthier technologies, why not do what you can to build it? Changes take time - the more positive support we have, the easier it will be the make them.

Continually building on old infrastructure just creates more of the same problems. Try something new.

  • Mariposa

kneejerkreaction 10 years, 7 months ago

As for Lawr. being progressive in environmental issues, we're getting our first biofuel station at 9th & Iowa St.

jayhawklawrence 10 years, 7 months ago

I think (with improving technology and research) it may be possible to get an acceptable level of clean energy from coal, but I have never seen any published reasonable discussion on that possibility. What I have seen is that the status quo for coal companies is to avoid investing in cleaner technologies until they are forced to do so and since the Bush Administration took office, these regulations have been drastically reduced. How can anyone believe the Bush Administration or people like Neufield when they have such a narrow and consistent disregard for other points of view and and continue to make polarizing statements about Western and Eastern Kansans. No wonder Americans have become sick of politics.

gckjhawk 10 years, 7 months ago

Cool, if you read my comments I said I was FOR clean power sources. We just have to be willing in the state of Kansas to vote for those who support government action to promote and support the building of the infrastructure to make wind, solar and nuclear power happen in Kansas. As for Neufield, he is an idiot, but I do not live in his district! I would not vote for him if I did. Kneejerkreaction, it is great that Lawrence is getting ONE biofuels station. But again, where is the work being done to support more of these being build around the state! Biofuels would be a major economic boom for ALL of Kansas, but Kansas can not become more agreessive with it until Kansas environmentalist start to learn to talk to the PEOPLE of all of Kansas and rationally discussing ways to get these things to start happening while making people MONEY. Even Lawrence wants economic development. But how come none of the environmentalist made a big stink, for example, when the K.U. - M.U. game was moved to K.C. Look how much co2 will be put into the air with fans driving to K.C. rather than staying in Lawrence. Every little bit matters. The buisness district of Lawrence made the economic arguement against the move of the game, but where were the environmentalist? Where is the push to offer bus transportation to K.C. for the game in order to cut down on the co2 that would be emitted driving to the game? It all is connect in one way or the other in the issue of global warming.

oldgoof 10 years, 7 months ago

gckjhawk: You hit the nail squarely on the head. Bravo!

shorttrees 10 years, 7 months ago

Average and oldvet--maybe check your math again?

If the average Kansan produces one kg CO2 per day, with 2.6 million Kansans, then the CO2 production is 949 million kg CO2 per year. Turning that into metric tons requires dividing by 1000, for a total CO2 production by Kansas humans of 949,000 metric tons of CO2 per year. The 11-12 metric ton per year projected production of the Holcomb plant would thus be equivalent to the CO2 exhalations of just under 33 people.

So basically, adding 33 more people breathing out CO2 is okay, but adding a coal plant that does the same is not?

Deb Stavin 10 years, 7 months ago

So basically, adding 33 more people breathing out CO2 is okay, but adding a coal plant that does the same is not?

OK, let's also cull the human herd by 33 people every day! (Please, abortion comments.)

shorttrees 10 years, 7 months ago

Sorry and thanks, I lost the million from the article when checking figures from the original post which also dropped the "million". So it actually works out to being equivalent to the exhalations of 32,876.7 people per year. I'm not saying the numbers are good or bad, just that they're numbers, Okay?

kneejerkreaction 10 years, 7 months ago

shorttrees (Anonymous) says: Average and oldvet-maybe check your math again?

It's hard to do math when everyone is looking.

average 10 years, 7 months ago

shorttrees - You might want to check your numbers one more time. Million, not thousand. (Not that I have room to talk after my initial screwup.)

kneejerkreaction 10 years, 7 months ago

This post proves one thing, no bloggers are blogging from the KU Math Department.

day 10 years, 7 months ago

Biological activity (breathing humans) is not contributing to global warming. The carbon we exhale is picked up from the environment. In other words we are simply recycling it.

Carbon from coal on the other hand is Paleocarbon. This carbon was removed from the biosphere and "fixed" into coal millions of years ago. Burning coal releases this paleocarbon back into the atmosphere.

Godot 10 years, 7 months ago

"As for Bremby's decision, he made it because the statute has not caught up to the research"

Who needs a legislature, anyway? It just gets in the way, it slows down the tyrannical process.

BigDog 10 years, 7 months ago

Here's one of those alternative fuels leaders killing an alternative fuels project in another state ..... guess who this outspoken "environmentalist" is??? Interesting how coal fired plants are killed in Kansas, while wind turbine project is killed in Cape Cod.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 7 months ago

Simply because all is not green yet is no reason to continue polluting. If it were not for politicians influenced with money I have no doubt more would be greener at this point in history. No doubt in my mind voters/citizens/taxpayers are ready for a greener lifestyle including green collar jobs. However in order to make changes 95% of incumbents need to be replaced across the board.

Older Special interest groups throwing money at local,state and federal politicians = the wrong response aka wrong decisions.

Rod Bremby's decision was absolutely correct based on facts no question about it. The bold decision deserves applause and a brew at the Free State, home to great beer and a yumo Chopped Verde Salad. Rod Bremby I owe you one of each. Thanks for the display of spine.

Godot 10 years, 7 months ago

Congratulations to Boog and Rod, you succeeded in contaminating state government with Dadaism.

portstorm 10 years, 7 months ago

Lets all play along shall we?

     900 grams exhaled per person per day (average according to US Dept Ag)

X 2,764,075 People in Kansas (2006 census estimates)

2,487,667,500 grams per day exhaled by Kansans (in theory in Kansas)

OK now lets convert Grams to Kilos

2,487,667,500 grams / 1,000 grams in a kilogram

2,487,667.5 kilograms (per day)

Now lets convert to tons (per day). Since it didn't say metric i'll assume it's Short Tons (US tons)

1 kilogram = 0.00110231131 short tons (1 US ton = 907.18474 kilograms)

Thus 2,487,667.5 kilograms is 2,742.18 US Tons (2487.67 metric tons for those counting)

So 2,742.18 US tons of CO2 each day are exhaled by Kansans

So How many in a year? 2,742.18 US tons x 365 days in a year (most years)

1,000,895.7 US tons per year (907 997.305 metric tons)

Now the article states that Sunflower would put out 11,000,000 Tons per year (not stating what type of ton)

So comparing

11,000,000 tons from Sunflower / 1,000,895.7 from all of us

means that that power plant will put out

10.99 Times the CO2 per year as the people that live here do by breathing.

Yes these numbers are silly and don't mean much overall but I'd HOPE we would at least try to do them right (however it is Friday).

mick 10 years, 7 months ago

There is a lot of Republican party rhetoric about this because big business gives these pols the money to buy the votes they need to get reelected. The GOP doesn't care about the people anymore.

BigPrune 10 years, 7 months ago

What about all the cow poop and the resulting methane from the cattle industry? Will Mr. Bremby be shutting down our cattle industry anytime soon?

toefungus 10 years, 7 months ago

Kansas is a fly over state. The lack of economic opportunities due to the populist sentiments of the state will guarantee flyover status for the foreseeable future. That is not to say it is bad, but it should figure into your plans to find work here. I guess the air will be clear enough you will be able to see the dirt.

stullamerica 10 years, 7 months ago

Best environmental news for Kansas in maybe 10 years. Thanks to Sec. Bremby and Gov. Sebelius.

sourpuss 10 years, 7 months ago

Sebelius was critical of that. "Why should Kansans get 100 percent of the pollution and threats to our health," she said, "while only getting 15 percent of the energy?"

Isn't it amazing that people are actually complaining that they AREN'T going to be poisoned? "We want our children to have asthma for some money!" "We want deforestation for some money!" Grow up, people, and use your imaginations. There are other ways to make money than the tired-old Victorian "let's rape the earth for resources and pollute indiscriminately" game. If Kansas wants to move into the 21st century, let's get our heads out of the 19th.

Bravo, Sebelius.

Sandra Willis 10 years, 7 months ago

So, where will the electricity come from?

Doug Peschka 10 years, 6 months ago

See It Now: This rejection of the Coal-fueled power plant at Holcomb creates the perfect opening for the Nuclear industry to try to shove more nuke plants down our throats.

Good night, and good luck.

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