Archive for Saturday, September 29, 2007

A.G. says KDHE can reject coal plants

Some GOP lawmakers claim denial of permits would be ‘all politics’

September 29, 2007


Coal-fired power plant's fate to be decided soon

Kansas may soon decide if a giant coal-fired power plant will be built near Holcomb. Enlarge video

— Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' administration has wide latitude to reject a coal-fired electric power project in western Kansas, according to a legal opinion released Friday by Attorney General Paul Morrison.

The opinion launched a flurry of action surrounding the proposal by Sunflower Electric Power Corp. to build twin 700-megawatt plants near Holcomb next to its existing 360-megawatt plant.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment, which is considering permits for the plant, immediately sought to delay litigation filed by a Lawrence couple who want to stop the plant's construction. And KDHE announced it would make a decision on Sunflower within 30 days.

Meanwhile, Republican legislators who want the plant built said they will appoint a panel next week to find out why the permits for Sunflower Electric haven't been granted yet. And one of them said Sebelius' opposition to the project has politically charged the decision on whether it goes forward.

"The bottom line is that politics has held this up for a ridiculously long time," said Sen. Jay Emler, R-Lindsborg, and chairman of the Senate Utilities Committee.

KDHE is led by Secretary Rod Bremby, a Cabinet official appointed by Sebelius, a Democrat.

"It will be denied and it will be all politics," Emler said.

But KDHE said political considerations would not play into its decision and have had not effect on the length of time it has taken to decide on the permits.

"The secretary is reviewing the permit application and reviewing all the comments that have come in," said KDHE spokesman Joe Blubaugh. Sunflower submitted its air quality permit application on June 1, 2006, and the period for hearings and public comment on the proposal ended in December.

A.G. says KDHE has discretion

Morrison's legal opinion, which was sought by KDHE, allows the agency to consider the effect of unregulated pollutants such as carbon dioxide when granting air quality permits. In other words, Bremby could reject Sunflower's permits "to protect the health of persons or the environment."

And the opinion said KDHE probably couldn't delay the issuance of permits if it decided to try to adopt regulations on carbon dioxide emissions.

Once the decision was announced, Bremby asked a Shawnee County District judge to delay oral arguments scheduled for Oct. 12 in a lawsuit filed by Sarah and Ray Dean. The Lawrence couple sued KDHE to force it to impose restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions, which many scientists believe causes disastrous climate change.

Bremby said KDHE needed more time to analyze whether Morrison's legal opinion would have any impact on the lawsuit.

"Because of the pending litigation and the importance of this issue, we felt it was appropriate to seek an opinion from the attorney general," Bremby said. "This guidance will now be analyzed and deliberated throughout the remainder of the decision-making process."

Rhetoric increases

Absent a decision, however, rhetoric has increased about the proposal.

This week, dozens of Republican legislators wrote KDHE to permit the facility, while Sebelius and Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson continued to publicly state their opposition.

Environmentalists say pollution from the plant will cause health problems and add to global climate change.

Supporters say the plants will be among the cleanest-burning coal facilities in the nation, and help the western Kansas economy.

After speaking at a renewable energy conference earlier this week, Parkinson told reporters that development of the project would hurt efforts to increase wind energy.

And Sebelius has said one reason she opposes the Sunflower project is because about 90 percent of the energy would be sold out of state.

Emler criticized that reasoning, saying, "If that's the philosophy, let's shut down every farm in the state of Kansas, because we send our products worldwide."

And despite Morrison's legal opinion, Sebelius tried to distance herself from any decision from KDHE.

Her office put out a statement that said: "This opinion applies only to the powers granted to the Secretary of KDHE and clarifies the parameters in which the Secretary has to make his decision. There is no reference to the powers of the Governor in the statute, nor in the opinion."


Oracle_of_Rhode 10 years, 5 months ago

It's time we wise up and start using Kansas' fantastic potential for wind power -- renewable clean energy -- and move away from polluting energy sources like these proposed global warming plants in Holcomb. Common sense holds that you don't poison your own habitat -- and Earth is the only one we have.

gccs14r 10 years, 5 months ago

If Colorado wants the power, let them build their own plant. Better yet, build the plant in Wyoming where the coal is. They can get two blights for the price of one.

hornhunter 10 years, 5 months ago

gccs14r, So your saying that when the power grid in our state is lower then the demand that we shouldn't get power from surrounding states. Some of the power we are getting could be coming from Kentucky or even Nebraska, should they not sell us power if we need it. With poeople with your train of thought, lets just make Kansas our own little country and keep every thing we produce to our selves. Know body else needs to eat our corn, wheat, use our power, fly in our planes, ride our motorcycles, hell for that matter keep nascar and the pollution they bring to our state out

snowWI 10 years, 5 months ago

Kansas does not need the coal power plants just to subsidize Front Range sprawl growth. If Colorado has such an increasing demand for electricity it should be their responsiblity to find a way to meet increasing demand. Kansas should not have to pay the environmental price just so we can export diry coal generated electricity to the FRONT RANGE!!!

hornhunter 10 years, 5 months ago

snowWI, It is not just Colorado. Your not a native to Kansas are you? If so you need to travel out side the county line to see what your missing. This growth in power demand is all over so do kid yourself, Kansas is not the only state that produces power for other states for profit or not.

snowWI 10 years, 5 months ago

hornhunter, Yes, I am a native Kansan and travel a lot. Colorado has the fastest growing population in the entire region, and its electricity growth is also growing a ton. My problem that I have with the Tri-state electric cooperative is that it provides power to a very large region, including many states. I think that each individual state should decide how they will meet their electricity demands. Tri-state wants to build it in Kansas because we have fewer environmental regulations compared with Colorado.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years, 5 months ago

If Colorado wants to buy electricity from Kansas, then it should be wind-generated, not dinosaur-coal-generated.

csgblaw 10 years, 5 months ago

I don't understand the geographic discrimination argument. Someone please explain why the Kansas economy should not be allowed to benefit from the increasing electricity demands of other states. If tomorrow it was announced that the Nebraska market was going to have a 1000% increase in demand for wool and a northeastern Kansas farm operation earned a contract to supply the wool to Nebraska, would the same people argue that the farm operation should not be allowed to supply the wool to Nebraksa? Surely not...

snowWI 10 years, 5 months ago

csgblaw, You are comparing apples and oranges. The proposed coal plants affect everyone in the world based on the carbon dioxide emissions alone. Individual states should decide what energy sources they are going to use to generate electricity. Tri-state electric is just taking advantage of the lack of environmental regulations that Kansas has compared with Colorado. Colorado already has the RPS in place.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.