Columbia, Mo. A proposed new power plant in rural Carroll County is drawing interest across the border in Kansas, where a utility battling state regulators over construction of two coal-fired plants has asked for a share of the Missouri-generated energy.
Associated Electric Cooperative Inc. of Springfield has received preliminary state approval to build a 780-megawatt coal-fired plant just north of Norborne, a town of fewer than 800 residents about 60 miles east of Kansas City.
The $1.7 billion project would provide power to the 57 rural electrical co-ops the large utility serves in Missouri and parts of Iowa and Oklahoma. A final decision by state regulators is expected within the next month.
In Kansas, the state's health and environment secretary recently rejected an air-quality permit for the plants Sunflower Electric Power Corp. wants to build in Holcomb.
Sunflower hopes state lawmakers will reverse that decision. The company has also appealed the ruling to the state Supreme Court. In the meantime, utility officials have asked a regional power group to approve the purchase of 125 megawatts from the Norborne plant.
"We think the Norborne plant is the next best opportunity," said Stephen Miller, a Sunflower spokesman.
The company has also written a letter of support to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, noting that "the interests of the people of Missouri are appropriately and adequately protected by the proposed permit."
Local residents and environmental activists who oppose the cooperative's project call the overtures by Sunflower an attempt to circumvent the rigorous regulatory climate in Kansas in favor of more utility-friendly Missouri.
"It's just another opportunity to pass off the pollution and its consequences to Missouri," said Melissa Hope of the Sierra Club's Missouri chapter. "The utility companies keep pushing it off to the states that offer the least resistance."