Topeka — Supporters of the proposed coal-burning power plants in southwest Kansas will be back before the 2009 Legislature, trying to push the project through.
“Certainly,” said Cindy Hertel, a spokeswoman for Sunflower Electric Power Corp., when asked about whether legislation would be revived in the session that starts Jan. 12. “We continue to look at the cost (of the project) and believe it benefits our member-owners in a lot of ways.”
Hays-based Sunflower, along with its Colorado partner, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, have proposed building two 700-megawatt coal-fired plants near Holcomb at an estimated cost of $3.6 billion.
Kansas Department of Health and Environment denied permits for the plants, citing health and environmental risks from the projected 11 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.
In the 2008 session, the Legislature three times approved bills to overturn KDHE’s decision and require construction of the plants. Each time, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius vetoed the legislation, and lawmakers failed to get enough votes to override her vetoes.
Since then, Sunflower has sued the state in federal court, alleging the denial of the permits to build the plants violated the company’s rights to equal protection and to conduct interstate commerce.
Most of the power from the project would be used by out-of-state customers. Sunflower also has sought relief before the Kansas Supreme Court.
But Sunflower will resume the battle in the Legislature.
Hertel, the company’s spokeswoman, said she doesn’t know whether the November legislative election results helped or hurt Sunflower’s attempts with votes in the Legislature.
“It’s just hard to gauge,” she said. “It’s all going to depend how the bill is crafted. We are hopeful. We know we have a lot of support.”
During the 2008 session, supporters came within one vote in the House of overturning Sebelius’ veto.
Supporters of the plants also are expected to emphasize that during the economic downturn, the project would produce 1,500 construction jobs. But Stephanie Cole, a spokeswoman for the Sierra Club, said opponents of the project are ready.
“We have been making efforts to educate our state leaders on the importance of clean energy and making a transition away from carbon-intensive fossil fuels,” Cole said. And, she said, the public supports this position.