Key players in the coal plant decision

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius

After her re-election last year, Sebelius indicated she supported the coal-burning project, saying that it was impossible for states individually to make decisions based on global warming.

But in recent months, she was critical of the project while touting the benefits of renewable energy and conservation. Her lieutenant governor, Mark Parkinson, has been even more vocal in his opposition.

Sebelius attempted to distance herself from the decision-making process, knowing that either way the Kansas Department of Health and Environment ruled would anger a lot of people.

Roderick Bremby

Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary

Shortly after taking office in 2003, the governor appointed Bremby – former Lawrence assistant city manager – as KDHE secretary.

After his tenure at City Hall from 1990 to 2000, he worked at Kansas University as an assistant professor and became part of a KU group that promoted development of healthy communities.

When approached by the Sebelius camp, Bremby had said he was surprised and wasn’t even sure what job they had in mind for him when he interviewed.

KDHE has one of the widest reaches of any state agency, regulating areas from pig farms to restaurants and granting a wide variety of permits, including those for power plants.

Last week, a special committee of legislators summoned Bremby to talk about the permit process for the coal plants. Project supporters leaned heavily on him to approve the permits, but Bremby said later that the legislators’ remarks would have no effect on his decision.

Sunflower Electric Power Corp.

Organized in 1957, Sunflower Electric is operated by six rural cooperatives that serve 34 western Kansas counties. Its headquarters are in Hays.

Earl Watkins Jr. serves as Sunflower’s president and chief executive officer. Sunflower’s major plant is the Holcomb Station a 360-megawatt coal-burning plant. The proposed two 700-megawatt plants were for expansion of the Holcomb site.

The Sierra Club’s Kansas chapter

The chapter led the fight against the Sunflower project, saying that carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal will worsen global warming and affect the health and well-being of Kansans for generations.

Craig Volland, chairman of the air quality committee for the chapter, also said coal-generated electricity will be more expensive in the long run than wind-powered electricity because Congress soon will adopt regulations on greenhouse gases.

Sarah and Ray Dean

The Deans, longtime Lawrence residents, filed a lawsuit against the project in Shawnee County.

The lawsuit said carbon dioxide pollution from coal-fired plants is contributing to catastrophic climate changes. The state has a responsibility to regulate CO2, according to the lawsuit.

Sarah Dean is a retired agricultural land manager for organic and sustainable farming, while Ray Dean is a professor emeritus in electrical and computer engineering at KU.

House Speaker Melvin Neufeld

A Republican from Ingalls, Neufeld pushed hard for approval of the Sunflower project. More than 40 House members, mostly from western Kansas, have signed a letter in support of the plants.

A veteran legislator, Neufeld was first elected to the House in 1984 and last year was selected speaker.

Neufeld had said if Bremby rejected the plants, the action would amount to “discrimination” against western Kansas.