Archive for Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Legislation would pave way for two coal plants

Measure calls for limits on carbon dioxide emissions

January 30, 2008, 10:33 a.m. Updated January 30, 2008, 11:37 a.m.


— The state would impose its first limits on carbon dioxide emissions but allow two new, coal-fired power plants in southwest Kansas under bills legislators were introducing today.

The CO2 standards would apply to new electric generating plants and would make Kansas among a growing number of states attempting to address global warming, linked by many scientists to greenhouse gas emissions.

The bills also would allow Sunflower Electric Power Corp. to build the two coal-fired plants outside Holcomb. The utility's $3.6 billion project has been blocked by the state's top environmental regulator, but it enjoys bipartisan support among legislators.

"We understand that there are people who would love to cram the Holcomb plant down everybody else's throat, and there are people who would love make sure that Holcomb is never built," Senate Utilities Committee Chairman Jay Emler, a Lindsborg Republican and one of the bills' authors, said during a briefing for selected reporters. "If we're going to do what's best for the state, it's somewhere in between those two, obviously."

In October, Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Roderick Bremby rejected the two, 700-megawatt plants, citing concerns about carbon dioxide emissions and global warming. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius embraced his decision. The Lawrence City Commission officially opposed the plants' permits.

Since then, the plant developers, Sunflower Electric Power Corp. and their supporters, who include legislative leaders, have mounted a furious push to reverse the decision.

Supporters of the plants say the units will be among the cleanest coal-burning plants in the nation and provide an economic shot in the arm to Kansas.

Opponents decry the environmental and health effects from 11 million tons of annual CO2 emissions, while 85 percent of the energy produced will be transmitted to out-of-state customers,

Other states, including California, Florida, Hawaii and New Jersey, have taken steps to address global warming.

California has imposed its own auto emissions standards, which some other states have adopted. Western and northeastern states have launched regional programs to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Last year, Florida's governor signed an executive order requiring utilities to use more renewable resources to generate electricity.

But the Kansas legislators said their bills propose what would be the first state laws to tackle emissions by utilities. Their CO2 standards would apply to new plants no matter what fuel they burned.

The initial standards for coal-fired plants would be set lower than emissions for any existing plant. The standard would be 20 percent lower after a plant's first year in operation and 30 percent lower after 10 years.

Utilities could offset their carbon emissions by investing in renewable resources, conservation programs or technology to capture and store CO2 emissions. A utility that didn't reduce CO2 emissions would start paying a $3-per-ton tax.

The bills also would set energy efficiency standards for new state and public school buildings and state vehicles; require utilities to allow customers to reduce their bills by using solar power; and set up a new commission to study issues surrounding electric generation.

The bills also would prevent the Kansas secretary of health and environment from imposing emissions standards tougher than those imposed by the federal government without legislative approval.


snowWI 10 years ago

Wow, another article saying about the same thing as the previous articles. This is getting really exciting....

snowWI 10 years ago

"Since then, the plant developers, Sunflower Electric Power Corp. and their supporters, who include legislative leaders, have mounted a furious push to reverse the decision." Yes, a furious push to sell most of the power out of state, while Kansas relies even more heavily on coal instead of diversifying its energy portfolio. Also, transportation costs of this coal as well as CO2 regulations concerning the old pulverized plants will likely increase costs substantially in the future.

blindrabbit 10 years ago

Fully expect Kansas to cave-in to this, too bad in view of the fact that The State has finally gotten some positive press for being innovative in denying the request. We, The State of Dorothy, flatness, Fred Phelps, creationist theory and a corrupt Lawrence City Commission.

Maybe as a trade-off, it would be required that the Power Plant at Lawrence (Cameron Bluffs) would be required to clean-up its act. My undertstanding is the it is the 7th most polluting power plact in the U.S. per kilowatt hour generated.

d_prowess 10 years ago

Does $3 per ton sound like a low amount to anyone else? I don't know anything about the economics of power plants, but if the proposed plant is very good at only 11 million tons of CO2 per year, could a bad plant be about 15-20 million tons a year? And if so, is a penalty of $15-20 million dollars really bad enough for them or is it still better than the costs with associated with cleaning up their operations? Again, I really don't know, so I am more asking the question.

dirkleisure 10 years ago

1 - the two energy centers you refer to are Westar's. The do not belong to the people of Lawrence. You have this situation confused with the BPU in Wy Co.

2 - absolutely, cleaner power would be a tremendous alternative to the current plants. However, that is again an issue for Westar. The Holcomb plant is immaterial to the power needs of Lawrence or NE Kansas because the utilities, Westar and Sunflower, have no interest in working together.

Your attempts to make this an argument between NE Kansas and SW Kansas are tired as they are not based in the realities of the situation. I don't think you would find a lot of opposition in Lawrence to shutting down that plant and using power generated from a newer, low emissions plant.

For some reason, you think there would be opposition. That's just silly.

jayhaitch 10 years ago

Wasn't there a poll conducted that determined that two thirds of Kansans oppose these plants? So much for our legislators' respect for the opinion of their constituents.

lounger 10 years ago

Lousy strong arm, pocket lining tacics to supress the wishes of the people of Kansas-Again!!!

ASBESTOS 10 years ago

Do not forget the rule of unintended consequences. Hope you don't like beer, because the production is a CO2 emission.

I wonder what the commercial bread production, beer production, winde production, cracker manufacturer, carbonated beverage producers and bottlers and all the food producers in Kansas are really happy having a "standard" developed for this emission based on a Coal fired power plant regulation.

There needs to be a study of OC2 producing entities, and theri contribution via emissions.

Wouldn't it be funny if they found that these producers actually exceeded the CO2 emissions from coal fired power plants.

ASBESTOS 10 years ago

Nuclear Power plants, no CO2 emission.

dirkleisure 10 years ago

OK, again, you are making this about the people of Lawrence vs. the people of SW Kansas.

Let's say the permits for the two NE Kansas plants were not renewed. They represent the major source of power for this area. How is that comparable to Holcolmb?

It isn't. SW Kansas is not relying upon an expansion of Holcomb for power. So your suggestion has a wrong headed approach.

Additionally, you continue to think I disagree with you. I do not. I disagree with your approach. I 100% agree that the plant in Holcomb would represent a more efficient source of power for Lawrence than the Lawrence energy center. However, I am talking about actually achieving that and I am dealing with the reality that the Lawrence plant provides a power source that is mandatory, the 1.4M megawatts provided by Holcomb are not needed for SW Kansas to continue to have power.

You wanna expand Holcomb to meet the mandatory power needs of SW Kansas? No, you are not taking that position at all.

I'm telling you to alter your position and approach your end solution from a more realistic position. You would rather make smart arse comments and insults about "people in Lawrence." Not productive. Either you want to be productive or you want to carry on your current line of thinking.

toefungus 10 years ago

Bipartisan, Kansas style. Hey, let's tax our citizens in Kansas and say we are doing a good thing. OK, but we have to do it together to appear to be happy about it. Yes, we are very happy about taxing Kansas residents out of house and home. All hail to bipartisanism.

Flap Doodle 10 years ago

Copy/pasting contributes to global warming.

odc213 10 years ago


How about $3,000 per ton

Seriously 3$??? I'm sure that relatively speaking they might produce 20,000 tons so 3$ on that would be a 60,000$ fine but really we need to UP THAT NUMBER. Make them pay.

Western KS air travels east. and we would be the first to breath in the 'tons'

Make them pay for it, which will in turn we hope have them under the emissions

jhawks22 10 years ago

I could be wrong, but don't we all produce CO2 with every breath. I guess we should just start eliminating human life to protect the enviornment that we are hurting so badly.

dirkleisure 10 years ago

Again, you are confused. I 100% agree with you that Westar should supply power from cleaner sources.

Amy Bartle 10 years ago

this is disgusting. I'm writing my legislators to tell them NOT to approve these plants!

ilikestuff 10 years ago

If I'm not mistaken, the United Staets has the greatest quantity of coal deposits in the world.

If we build more coal burning electric power plants perhaps there would be increased possibility of switching to electric cars. If so, wouldn't/couldn't there be a reduction in CO2, as well as, the added benefit of reducing our dependance on foreign oil?

It seems like it would be much easier to monitor and improve technology to reduce point-source pollution from a coal-burning power plant than it is on millions of cars. Wouldn't/couldn't this reduce CO2 in the atomsphere too?

Previously, I haven't followed this issue to closely so please go easy on me.

Thank you.

mick 10 years ago

The Kansas legislature is run by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and other greedy self interests. The people don't matter.

deskboy04 10 years ago

I think that Lawrence should really "go green" and quit using electricity.

snowWI 10 years ago

"I 100% agree with you that Westar should supply power from cleaner sources." I agree with this statement as well.

"But the Kansas legislators said their bills propose what would be the first state laws to tackle emissions by utilities. Their CO2 standards would apply to new plants no matter what fuel they burned. The initial standards for coal-fired plants would be set lower than emissions for any existing plant. The standard would be 20 percent lower after a plant's first year in operation and 30 percent lower after 10 years."

At least it is more "progressive" than other states like MO. I still think IGCC would be a better technology to use, and capture and sequester the CO2 emissions. Pulverized coal technology will be prone to increasing federal regulation regarding CO2 emissions.
If the the two utilities from the west and east work TOGETHER I think it would be beneficial for our state in terms of closing the oldest and most polluting coal plants.

ASBESTOS 10 years ago

SnowWI said:

"I still think IGCC would be a better technology to use, and capture and sequester the CO2 emissions."

The "IPCC" is a "Think Tank" not a "technology". Geez.

YEs, I have read the IPCC stuff, I even bought the very first IPCC study on this published in 1990.

What to know why I bought that book?

The geologists at that time all stated that we needed to paint greenland and antartica black because we were in a "mini ice age" because we got so much snow over those 5 years prior.

1990 to know and we have not only an air of certianty about "climate change" but it's source as well?

Give me a break.

There is a certianty of an environmental problem that is plastic ocean pollution. One study has shown that for every pound of zooplankton in the ocean uper layer 10 ft., there is 6 pounds of plastic. Just google "plastic ocean pollution" no quotes. You will find the study.

IF we cannot control big plastic bits in the oceans that we can reach realitively easily, there is no hope to control CO2 in the atmosphere, especially when China and India are now the biggest CO2 polluters on the plante. The only reason they are not now is that most of their CO2 emissions are so called "exempt".

IF CO2 is such a problem, then ALL sources must be eliminated, not just the ones in the United States, and there should be NO "trading" of CO2 emission credits.

That is if it is really an environmental problem. Otherwise, it is just wealth distribution to poor countries.

hornhunter 10 years ago

The initial standards for coal-fired plants would be set lower than emissions for any existing plant. The standard would be 20 percent lower after a plant's first year in operation and 30 percent lower after 10 years." This could be a real possibility with all the external add ons Sunflower is planning to do. (algae reactor, biofuel).

snowWI 10 years ago

ASBESTOS, IGCC refers to a Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle Plant, not the IPCC report.

Bill Griffith 10 years ago

It will be interesting to see what the hearings on the two bills bring with regards to testimony and the number of people attending. The proponents will be doing their advocacy on Monday and Tuesday morning and the opponents on Wednesday and Thursday morning. The press should have a field day(s). I have enjoyed some of the give-and-take in the forum so far and would like to add some points that have not been brought up as of yet and welcome your comments. First, with McCain probably wrapping up the GOP nomination and the two Democrats that are still left standing, we will have a cap-and-trade bill on fossil fuels by Spring/Summer of 2009 at the latest. If we get a very low 10 dollar a ton tag on CO2, then Hocomb II will have to pony up 110 million dollars a year,unless they get a partial pass as Warner-Lieberman now contains some of these "credits". At a more likely 20 dollars a ton, we are talking 220 million dollars. Who will pay for that? The customers of course, since Sunflower and Tri-State are unregulated cooperatives. So my question posed is "Is this large new plant economically viable in a carbon-constrained world?" While my crystal ball is partly cloudy today with a mild chance of showers, I will say that Hocomb II still has an uphill fight to get built. First, the legislature has to round up enough votes to get by a veto. Second, there will probably be lawsuits filed if it passes-more delays. Third, there are 4 or 5 lawsuits pending now that will not go away because the legislature would wave its almighty wand. Since Tri-State is the economic force behind this project, let's examine their problems: Colorado has passed a Renewable Portfolio Standard and Tri-State has had to increase its wind development and natural gas purchases in lieu of some coal. The RPS gets ratcheted up over time. Next, environmentalists in Colorado will file lawsuits over transmission projects related to Holcomb II. Also, it is rumored that enviros in Colorado will do a petition drive to put a measure on the ballot that would not allow new power to come from coal. If and when all the dust settles from the litigation and the lawyers can sail off into the sunset with their retirement check(s), and that Holcomb II has survived all the legal challenges, what will be the cost of carbon? I am hearing that 25 dollars a ton will kill all new coal projects in the United States (I have not confirmed that number, but it is not off a great deal if it is not right on the money). So, I am not sure that this plant actually existed except on paper. I could be wrong of course, but.......

hornhunter 10 years ago

snow, The way I read it on the link you posted, is that this IGCC plant will not do any better on CO2 emissions, "Emissions of carbon dioxide are comparable to emissions from a conventional coal plant. However, should future environmental regulations require the removal of CO2, an IGCC plant can separate and sequester CO2 from the process at a significantly lower cost than conventional technologies."

Bill Griffith 10 years ago

I see there has been some exchanges about Sunflower selling some of the power to Westar and shuttering LEC.
First, I would love to see LEC shut down and an alternative power source(s) used. However, I don't think Sunflower could sell juice from Holcomb II to Westar. All their projected power is being sold to Midwest, Golden Spread, and Tri-State, and then you have Sunflower's own projected needs. According to the info we have, there is nothing left for anyone else. Of course, if these cooperative would aggressively pursue energy efficiency for their own customers and help them cut their bills, then if this plant was built, there could be some juice left in the tank for other utilities.

snowWI 10 years ago

belexus 73, Good thoughts on all of the issues surrounding Holcomb as well as reminding people that Colorado has the RPS in place.

snowWI 10 years ago

hornhunter, At least IGCC is a slightly more "promising" technology compared with conventional pulverized coal plants. However, I am strongly in favor of energy efficiency programs as well as conservation. Yes, I do practice efficiency and conservation to the very best of my ability. The coal plants will always be dirty in terms of mercury emissions. (even small amounts pollute our water bodies.)

bluerapids 10 years ago

It looks, at first glance, like $3 per ton as a penalty for producing CO2 would deter a utility until you find out that the Kansas Legislature has passed previous "pass through costs" legislation. This allows any expense to be passed through to the customer. A utility in Kansas never really has to worry about penalties.

It seems to me a recent poll showed that Kansans reject coal plants 2 to 1. Why doesn't this information have any effect on our legislators in Topeka?

Bill Griffith 10 years ago

Ilikestuff asks if we can use coal and replace foreign oil. First, we have either the most coal or second (China). If we use a plug-in hybrid car with coal as the source of electricity we will emit less CO2 in total because a centralized plant is inherently more efficient than a gazillion autos whizzing around. Also, if the cars are plugged in at night, that works rather well firming up the baseload of the plants when they have to run but aren't sending out much power. An even better solution is getting solar panels on commercial parking areas and having commuter cars plugged in during the day using the sun. There is going to be movement in this area very soon due to more hybrids and nanotechnology being applied to solar panels.

Bill Griffith 10 years ago

Thanks SnowWI for your compliment. Your are obviously a person of good breeding and discernment.

Bill Griffith 10 years ago

As far as "the markets changing all the time", partially true. However, we are dealing in Westar's case with a regulated utility that has been the big dog in Kansas since the merger of KPL and KGE. I am not saying it couldn't happen, but I would remain skeptical at this point. Also, the Edison Electric Institute just put out a report that stated 82% of the canceled power plants in 2007 were coal plants. All the utilities involved have substituted some other source of power and are moving ahead with their construction of new sources of power other than coal.
As for nuclear-we might see something new in Kansas in 10 years or so. My hunch is until solar shakes itself out in the next 5 years and we see how much actually is going to be invested in energy efficiency, this one is hard to project.

Bill Griffith 10 years ago

Oh, I forgot. If Tri-State is not in the mix, then this plant doesn't get built. Tri-State is the key-not Sunflower. Sunflower would be paid a hefty sum to be the owner-operator. Midwest has a contract ending with Westar and is looking for new power (gee, don't they want to be under Westar's benevolent thumb??). I can't comment on Golden Spread's situation.

Bill Griffith 10 years ago

IGW, I do not know the magnitude of the contract at this point in time, but it is fairly easily found out. If you haven't heard from me on this by Monday, send me a note and I should have the info quickly.

As far as some other source of power it is in descending order: wind, natural gas, and solar. Also, most, if not all of the alternatives contain a very healthy dose of energy efficiency.

Bill Griffith 10 years ago

To IGW concerning his skepticism on state level RPS programs being effective. The pressure of many states doing these hodge-podge programs is making Congress attempt to pass national legislation in this area. Probably will happen next year. This year it failed by one vote. Obviously it will set the floor for what each state would be required to do. Just another note, electrons do not necessarily cross state lines as easily as other forms of interstate commerce. Kansas cannot send electricity from our grid to the Western grid due to technical differences in the transmission designs. Also, as an example, an electron flowing from the nw part of Kansas to Kansas City, will probably have to go through Nebraska, down the edge of Missouri, and back into Kansas. Weird, but that is how our grid system was originally designed-for local situations.

Bill Griffith 10 years ago

Well, I did some calculations on the 3 dollars a ton for Sunflower, and according to my ciphering since they would be using efficient new boilers, Sunflower would not have to pay the 3 dollars a ton at all. They would just scoot by based on SB 515 numbers. Doesn't look like a carbon tax would be an issue for Holcomb II. I hate to be conspiratorial, but that does look abit planned from this grassy knoll.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.