Archive for Tuesday, February 19, 2008

June 1 deadline set for coal plants

Developers’ comments come after plan gains approval in House

February 19, 2008


How they voted

Here is how local legislators on Tuesday voted on the bill that would allow two coal-fired plants in southwest Kansas. The House gave final approval of the bill, 77-45.

Voting against the bill were:State Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-LawrenceState Rep. Paul Davis, D-LawrenceState Rep. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin CityState. Rep. Ann Mah, D-TopekaState Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence

Voting for the bill were:State Rep. Anthony Brown, R-EudoraState Rep. Lee Tafanelli, R-Ozawkie

— Developers of the proposed coal-burning power plants in southwest Kansas said Tuesday that if the Legislature doesn't approve the project by June 1, it may not go forward.

"In dealing with a lot of people in the project, we have said that we think June 1 is a time when we should take a deep breath, look at the project and see what viability it still has," said Earl Watkins Jr., president and chief executive officer of Sunflower Electric Power Corp.

But Stephanie Cole, a spokeswoman for the Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club, said Watkins was trying to rush the process, which was happening nationwide on proposed coal-burning plants.

"There are desperate attempts to build coal plants because of a looming federal carbon tax and increasing public awareness of the dangers of coal plants," Cole said.

Watkins' comments came after the House voted 77-45 for a bill allowing construction of the two 700-megawatt, $3.6 billion plants near Holcomb.

The measure failed to get the two-thirds support - 84 votes in the 125-member House - it would need to override a veto from Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

Last year, Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Roderick Bremby denied permits for the plants because of the project's 11 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year and effect on global warming.

Sebelius and environmental groups across the nation supported Bremby, and now Sunflower Electric is trying to get the Legislature to overturn the decision.

Sebelius has offered to support construction of one plant, but Sunflower Electric and its partners have said both plants are necessary.

Approximately 85 percent of the project's output would supply electric needs in Colorado.

Brian Moline, chairman of the Alliance for Sound Energy, a coalition supporting the plants, said if Kansas turns down the project, it will be built in Colorado, and Kansas will lose all the construction jobs and accompanying economic development.

Under the proposal, Colorado-based Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association would own one 700-megawatt unit, while Sunflower Electric, Tri-State and Texas-based Golden Spread Electric Cooperative would own the other 700-megawatt unit. Sunflower Electric would run the units near its existing facility near Holcomb.

Watkins noted that Tri-State has purchased property and waters rights near Holly, Colo., for possible development of coal-burning plants there.

He said if Kansas rejects the Holcomb expansion, "They (Tri-State) intend certainly to move ahead on their own if they're unable to move here."

And, he said, Sunflower Electric also has looked at the possibility of participating with Tri-State in plants in Colorado.

"They're looking at alternatives, just as we're looking at alternatives in case we can't move forward at the Holcomb site," he said.

But Cole, with the Sierra Club, said she doubted Colorado officials would approve coal-fired plants.

The bill approved by the House also includes a mandate that utilities generate 5 percent of their electricity by 2012 from renewable resources such as wind. A Senate-approved bill contains no such provision. Both measures are expected to be reviewed in a conference committee.

Views on the bill

Here are statements representing opposing sides on the bill that will allow the construction of two 700-megawatt coal-fired power plants near Holcomb. The measure was approved by the House, 77-45

For the bill

State Rep. Bill Otto, R-Leroy"I was raised with democratic values to stand up for the working people and to not export their jobs to India and China. To protect the poor and not raise their electric rates so high they cannot pay them. To care more about the people than care about the big gas companies who want to build more gas-powered electric plants to back up the wind power that will never do the job. To stand for the rule of law and not for the rule of bureaucrats, I still have my democratic values, so I vote yes on this energy bill."

House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, joined by others:"(The legislation) will stabilize the regulatory uncertainty currently pervasive in our great state. Regulatory uncertainty has already cost Kansas millions in new development. Producers have chosen to establish their operations in more business friendly climates. Surrounding states understand this vulnerability and are actively pursuing those currently planning to build and produce in Kansas. The state is now in jeopardy of losing literally billions of dollars in future development unless a reasonable and consistent policy is established. This bill does just that. For this reason, we vote yes."

Against the bill

State Rep. Annie Kuether, D-Topeka:"I represent a district that is interested in renewables, real net metering for solar and wind, and the original bill also banned merchant plants and had a carbon tax that made mitigation real.I am not ready to let Washington decide our energy policy. I'm here to continue the discussion and look forward to continuing the debate. I vote no."

State Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, and joined by others:"For the past five years, KDHE has issued 1,883 permits for construction and 919 permits for operation for a variety of facilities that require regulatory oversight. Thirty-eight operating permits and 69 construction permits have been issued since the Holcomb denial. The reality is that the denial of the Holcomb application for a huge new coal project with significant health and environment impact on Kansas is the exception and not the rule. Holcomb is the only permit denial issued in the last five years by KDHE. The claim of regulatory uncertainty does not ring true."

State Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence." ... In committee, I successfully offered an amendment to create the Kansas Energy Science and Technology Commission to review available medical and scientific data on the impact of smokestack emissions and examine the technological capability to reduce those emissions cost-effectively. The commission would further provide scientific - not political - recommendations to the governor and the Legislature on what mix of fuel sources, including conservation, is best for Kansas so we can develop a comprehensive long-term energy policy. Because the Committee of the Whole removed the Kansas Energy Science and Technology Commission from the bill, I vote no ..."


snowWI 10 years, 4 months ago

Waxman from California also raised the red flag regarding the likelihood of looming CO2 regulations regarding the Holcomb Plant. Sorry, but the new algae reactor is not a good solution. Pulverized coal plants can not capture nor sequester CO2 emissions. IGCC, a more expensive coal plant type, can do those things. Strict fed regs will affect all pulverized coal plants nationwide. Another aspect is the more stringent controls on mercury emissions. This affects older coal plants the most once again.

The costs to ratepayers will increase if an outmoded plant with little to no ability to manage CO2 goes online. This will affect both newer and older plants.

Matt Toplikar 10 years, 4 months ago

I'm living in Nevada now, and I recently did a news story for the Las Vegas Sun on one of the proposed power plants here and the opposition to it. Here's a link to the video. (Sorry if this is a repeat for anyone)

Kaw Pickinton 10 years, 4 months ago

"Developers of the proposed coal-burning power plants in southwest Kansas said Tuesday that if the Legislature doesn't approve the project by June 1, it may not go forward."

Sounds great! In fact, turn it down on June 2nd just to piss em off!

KEITHMILES05 10 years, 4 months ago

I'd love nothing more to see the legislature demand the plant outside Lawrence be brought up to standards. Oh, that won't happen as it will cost too much.

Maybe the tree huggers and do gooders would wake up when they have no electricty and have to get on their bicycles to peddle and peddle and peddle to make the power they need to live.

If any of you think for a MINUTE wind power is going to be enough to sustain life as we know it now in Kansas you are more stupid than a rock.

Oracle_of_Rhode 10 years, 4 months ago

Kansans reject these money-grubbing polluters and their dirty plant.

KsTwister 10 years, 4 months ago

Just say No to corporate blackmail. We don't need your dirty air or money that badly.

Jerry Stubbs 10 years, 4 months ago

Why don't they take a deep breath and take a look at the stupidity of the project


Why wait til June?

Why take a deep breath, for that matter?

greyhawk 10 years, 4 months ago

Let's see....Sunflower is offering contingent bribes ($2.5 million over 10 years to K-State) and setting a 100-day deadline or the whole thing goes away because, as one might reasonably infer from Mr. Watkins' comments, it doesn't make economic sense after June 1.

I support our representatives who have taken a reasoned and principled stand against this ill-considered legislation.

Frank Smith 10 years, 4 months ago

I thought bribery and extortion was against the law. Apparently not so in Topeka.

TheBurf 10 years, 4 months ago

I thought Lawrence was full of hippies. Guess I was right.

Bill Griffith 10 years, 4 months ago

What puzzles me on the deadline of June 1st, is that even if the legislature passes a bill that the governor's veto cannot stop, Sunflower will still have to go through the permitting process, get the RUS litigation stopped, I assume stop any further litigation, and I also assume the litigation going on now will have to be gone by the wayside. So my thinking is that the plant would still be a couple of years away from turning a spade in the ground. So, again I am puzzled by this. It seems that Sunflower has a 50-50 (I am not a lawyer so......) of doing ok in the courts, so why would they be throwing in the town. Of course, it could be to put pressure on the legislature-but again, they may think throwing in with Tri-State out at Holly and just purchasing power as I mentioned on another thread may be the way to go. Fascinating stuff.

fetch 10 years, 4 months ago

Belexus: I tend to agree. Except I would also assume that even if KS Supreme Ct resolves the legal issue in their favor, it would could require another permit cycle, and might leave other issues hanging which would require '09 fixes from the Legislature.

I imagine they have been asked a lot about a drop-dead date, so I think this is their response. But notice that it is a "soft" response... a time for "deep breathe and review viability" which can imply a whole set of responses.

Other than the litigation they undertook, how many other legal actions are out there? The Deans. What else?

I think this is a story without a story, really.

JSpizias 10 years, 4 months ago

Colorado is building coal plants. See the presentation by Paul Komor at the web site below.
Paul Komor, Center faculty affiliate, lecturer for CU's Department of Civil Engineering and project director of E-source, gave a talk on Tuesday, January 23 on "Meeting Colorado's Future Electricity Needs: One Question, Many Answers".

Andrew Revkins in an article in the NY Times on his blog dot earth asks the question, what if everyone in the world had equal emissions. February 15, 2008, 11:55 am Imagine Everyone Was Equal, in Emissions By Andrew C. Revkin

Roger Pielke, Jr, one of the leading climate scientists, responded with some very interesting data. To achieve an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions for the world, assuming the same level for all countries on a per capita basis, would require levels of CO2 emission currently equal to two countries: Haiti and Somali.

Is this where we want to go? I have basically been there and I don't want to go back. I was raised on a farm with no running water or electricity and farmed with mules. We cooked and heated with wood cut by hand. I have no desire for a reprise. I believe strongy in energy conservation. I live in a small home, have had R36 attic insulation for decades and several years ago installed triple paned Krypton windows. I think many, if not most, of those most enthusiastic about cutting CO2 emissions have no idea of the possible consequences of cuts the size being proposed, most especially the effect on our economy.

Here is what two leading researchers had to say in a paper entitled "Thermodynamics of energy production from biomass". "We want to be very clear: solar cells, wind turbines, and biomass-for-energy plantations can never replace even a small fraction of the highly reliable, 24-hours a day, 365-days a year, nuclear, fossil, and hydroelectric power stations. Claims to the contrary are popular but irresponsible".

jafs 10 years, 4 months ago

It would be interesting for someone to do a computer analysis of what kind of consumption would be sustainable.

If we continue to use non-renewable resources, they will run out at some point. And, if we continue to pollute the air, water, and land, they will become unusable.

While I am a big fan of conservation also, it seems to me that we need to find a way to use renewable resources and cut way back on pollution if we want our species (and others) to survive in the medium-long term.

Perhaps a combination of cutting back on usage and using renewable resources would prevent our having to go back to more primitive lifestyles.

cato_the_elder 10 years, 4 months ago

The current fad of man-made "Global Warming" is the biggest mass fraud ever perpetrated on the public. The lemmings are everywhere, from the tired anti-capitalists all the way to the boardrooms of corporate America. Aided by the media and opportunistic politicians, they are all falling over each other to see who can be "Green." The tendency of human beings toward gullibility in all things is remarkable.

sjschlag 10 years, 4 months ago

why hasn't the idea of Nuclear energy been brought up?

There are new, much safer nuclear reactors which have been developed. They don't dump massive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, they are nearly squeaky clean if you look past the radioactive waste. Nuclear powerplants have the potential to generate much greater amounts of electricity than coal plants ever will, and will have much less impact on the environs of western kansas than a coal plant will. Additionally another nuclear plant in Kansas will generate professional engineering jobs, bringing professionals to western Kansas.

I say build another nuclear plant in Kansas.

lounger 10 years, 4 months ago

We-DO-NOT-WANT-THESE-FILTHY-PLANTS-PERIOD. What it the Hell dont you pocket lining law makers understand about this???????????

Bill Griffith 10 years, 4 months ago

Fetch, I know that the Sierra Club has suits in state and federal court. I am not sure how many in state-maybe two or three. Yes, there would have to probably be a new permit hearing, except KDHE could not rule adversely based on CO2.

Bill Griffith 10 years, 4 months ago

Jspizias, and others: I read Paul Komor's presentation on Colorado's energy needs. It does not say that Colorado is building coal plants. It is Komor's recommendation that they do-big difference. Prof. Komor makes a couple of assumptions that I will take issue with: first, he mentions energy efficiency and then gives no investment amount or amount of generation that it will displace. Vermont as an example has actually reduced the electricity demand in their state this year while increasing their gdp by adopting an agressive energy efficiency program. Secondly, it is easy to see that Prof. Komor does not believe that climate change will be serious or possibly that he is a skeptic. This is a key point right here-it doesn't matter what he believes, you believe, or I believe (sad as that last point is), Congress is going to enact climate change legislation in the next 18-24 months that will have a real impact on coal. He does not factor that in his powerpoint presentation. Also, he does not allow for the fact that new technologies are coming on line or about to (utility scale solar for sunny Colorado, vehicle-to-grid technology, and wind with compressed air storage back-up. All of these could/will have serious application in a state like Colorado. I have left out biomass as it will have less of an impact in the arid states. This is Prof. Komor's scenario, and I am skeptical that it will come to fruition.

Bill Griffith 10 years, 4 months ago

Some of you have seen posts that describe a future where in the next 40 years we move away from coal, possibly nuclear, and reduce our natural gas usage for electricity and direct it for heating only. Many of you have not. To imagine this scenario, one has to look at the energy puzzle as pieces of a pie rather than A vs. B. Wind and solar do have their limits, however combined together they can give some nice baseload power with a very small amount of natural gas back-up. In the near future we can easily replace the natural gas with methane from biomass. Next, and a very exciting technology undergoing testing this year by Pacific Gas and Electric and Google is Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) technology. Passenger and commercial vehicles are only in use about 7 percent of the time. When they are plugged in they can send power back to the grid. Example: at 10 Kwh per vehicle, 10 million vehicles would supply a steady (baseload) capacity of 100,000 MW-the same as 100 large nuclear power plants. The Lithium-ion batteries can be recycled. Space does not permit a full blown report on this soon-to-breakthrough technology. Capacitor technology and compressed air storage also should play a part in baseload power. More testing needs to be done, but these technologies do work, but they need to be improved upon to some degree-but they are not pie-in-the sky. Wave techology is beginning to prove itself and should be economic soon and offshore wind can provide baseload power more than onshore wind-there are siting issues that will have to be fought through here. And of course, energy efficiency is the hidden gem that remains invisible to so many people because of its stealth in saving wealth. We can flatten and reverse our electricity growth by aggressively investing (1-3 % of gross utility revenues per year).

Bill Griffith 10 years, 4 months ago

As far as putting a nuclear plant in w. Kansas that will not happen due to water issues. If you look at a map of where nuclear plants are located, you will see a blank area in the Great Plains. The reasons are water and low demand in these areas. Since most of the power would go to Tri-State and there is more water nearer to the Rockies, a nuclear plant would be sited over thar'. Of course, certainly Sunflower and probably Tri-State would not have the financial wherwithal for one of these leviathans anyways. Also, it takes 8 or 9 years to get them up and running and I believe both companies time frame is less than that.

Bill Griffith 10 years, 4 months ago

GW-Truly a horrible sight, but the moon looks good, at least.

JSpizias 10 years, 4 months ago

belexus73 (Anonymous) says:

"As far as putting a nuclear plant in w. Kansas that will not happen due to water issues. If you look at a map of where nuclear plants are located, you will see a blank area in the Great Plains."

Better take a closer look!

Wolf Creek Nuclear Generating Station, a nuclear power plant located in Burlington, Kansas, occupies 9,818 acres (40 km²) of the total 11,800 acres (48 km²) controlled by the owner. Wolf Creek lake provides not only the name, but cooling water for the reactor.

This plant has one Westinghouse pressurized water reactor which came on line on June 4, 1985. The reactor is rated at 1,170 MW(e).

The Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corporation operates the power plant. The ownership is divided between Kansas Gas & Electric Co. (47 %), Kansas City Power and Light Company (47 %), and Kansas Electric Power Cooperative, Inc. (6 %). The operating owner is the Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corporation (WCNOC), a Delaware corporation.

"We can flatten and reverse our electricity growth by aggressively investing (1-3 % of gross utility revenues per year)."

US population in 2000 was 281,421,906 Pop estimate for 2006 was 299,388,484

data from US Census Quick Facts

If electricity usage was held constant it would require about a 6% decrease in average per capita usage. Yet per capita usage with all our electronics is pushing per capita usage up. I don't think it is reasonable to expect that electric power requirements will decline. The trend line is clearly up, as Komor showed.

Bill Griffith 10 years, 4 months ago

JSpizias, Burlington, Kansas is not part of the Great Plains. The generally accepted line for the Great Plains is the 90th degree of longitude which runs through Salina, Kansas. There is a marked difference in rainfall and drainage in areas west of this line as opposed to east of it. I was replying to a post about putting a nuclear power plant in w. Kansas. Eastern Kansas is of course, suitable as far as water supply for a nuclear power plant. As far as your comment that electric power requirements won't decline, I have mentioned Vermont as the first state to actually reverse the trend. What they did was invest 2% of gross utility revenues in order to do this. They are so pleased by the results that they are now going to 3%(as is California). Other states are now moving towards 2%. It is logical to think that some if not many of them using the same best practices of energy efficiency technologies and applications may have similar results. Plus, you add climate legislation to the mix, adding costs to fossil fuels, energy efficiency becomes very attractive as an even larger investment. Most folks do not realize that the majority of states are just now ramping up energy efficiency investments. This will take a few years to show up on the graphs. You have a point that our gadgets keep adding up to more power usage, however, we are getting more and more of the gadgets to use less electricity. You use the term per capita usage, I will use the term "carbon intensity" but it means much of the same for the sake of this discussion. We can probably agree that the U.S. hasn't done a great deal of investment in energy efficiency from the federal level. Under this "business-as-usual" scenario industrial energy use has stayed about the same between 1973 and 2004 but the value of production has more than doubled. The ratio of energy demand growth to GDP growth has declined by 40% or so and that means the carbon intensity per person had done that as well. It stands to reason with more investment in this area that we can reduce the carbon intensity by a much larger degree. We are just now getting to a coherent ee policy across the nation. When we get our sea legs on this issue we will see a reverse in electricity growth in the U.S. even with an increasing population due to the fact that we really haven't started addressing the issue as of yet. At some point in a couple of decades, ee may not keep the trend of reversal going, but hopefully by this time we will have the renewables, V2G, and other technologies to a satisfactory level of market penetration. Komor is not factoring this into his chart and is assuming more "business as usual". Komor is also not bringing carbon regulation into play in his powerpoint. I would welcome more notes of his with carbon regulated at 15, 20, and 25 dollars per ton as we are going to have and see if his predictions make financial sense for Xcel, Tri-State, etc.

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