Archive for Wednesday, July 16, 2008

2 coal plant lawsuits tossed

A judge dismisses two lawsuits by companies wanting to build two coal-fired power plants in southwest Kansas.

July 16, 2008


— A legal battle over two proposed coal-fired power plants in southwest Kansas has become less complicated and could be resolved more quickly because of a district judge's action Tuesday.

In Finney County, Judge Philip Vieux dismissed two lawsuits filed by companies seeking to build the plants against the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and Secretary Roderick Bremby. He has blocked the plants since October over concerns about global warming, which many scientists link to man-made greenhouse gases.

Sunflower Electric Power Corp., based in Hays, and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association Inc., of Westminister, Colo., didn't fight the department's attempt to dismiss their lawsuits.

Four more legal challenges are pending elsewhere. The companies' attorneys concluded that having the Finney County cases dismissed would result more quickly in a definitive ruling from the Kansas Supreme Court, said Sunflower spokesman Steve Miller.

"We're interested in speed, to get through all these cases so that we can be set back on the course we were originally on," Miller said. "The quicker we can get there, the happier we can be."

Department of Health and Environment spokesman Mike Heideman said the agency needed to review the dismissal and didn't have an immediate reaction.

In October, Bremby denied Sunflower an air-quality permit for the two plants, which would be built outside Holcomb in Finney County. About 86 percent of the new power would go to Tri-State and Amarillo, Texas-based Golden Spread Electric Cooperative.

Sunflower, Tri-State and many state lawmakers contend Bremby overstepped his authority, because the state has no law or regulation setting emissions standards for carbon dioxide.

Vieux said in a telephone interview Tuesday that he concluded he didn't have the authority to hear Sunflower's and Tri-State's lawsuits. He pointed to a 2006 state law that says a challenge to the denial of an air-quality permit goes through the state Court of Appeals, bypassing district courts.

One of the four remaining legal challenges is an administrative appeal from Sunflower asking Bremby to reconsider his decision.

Sunflower and Tri-State each filed a lawsuit with the Court of Appeals. The Finney County Commission and the Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce also filed a lawsuit with the appellate court.

The Kansas Supreme Court stepped in and took over those three cases, but the justices in April said that they wouldn't move forward until the administrative appeal and the two Finney County cases were resolved.

Tri-State spokesman Lee Boughey said his company supports Vieux's decision.

"We believe the proper venue for our case is at the Kansas Court of Appeals and the Kansas Supreme Court," he said.

Meanwhile, the Republican-controlled Legislature tried to enact a law to overturn Bremby's decision, but Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius vetoed three bills. Environmentalists oppose the $3.6 billion project, but it enjoys bipartisan support because many legislators view it as economic development.


Jerry Stubbs 9 years, 6 months ago

Sunflower stated back last spring if the plants weren't approved by June of this year they would build the plants somewhere else. I wonder why these suits aren't dropped.

LeviCircle 9 years, 6 months ago

logrithmic - Has this story been edited since early this morning? In the version I see, there's no poll mentioned.Speaking OF you generally trust "internal" polls? For example, if (pick any race...such as) Roberts released a poll that he paid for, showing he was way ahead of Slattery, would you trust it? How about the reverse? Or would you tend to put more trust in an INDEPENDENT poll, not connected with either side?To my knowledge, only two polls have been done on the Holcomb plant. One was the equivalent of an "internal" poll, released in January by a group opposed the plant. To no one's surprise, it showed that people opposed it. (In related news, diary farmers believe that people should eat more cheese and NRA members believe that guns are generally a good thing.)However, there was an INDEPENDENT poll done by Rasmussen (over the entire state) in one month ago. If you quote any polls - they are, after all, merely a snapshot of beliefs at that moment - this is the only one with ANY credibility.The results of the Rasmussen poll: "Should the State of Kansas allow a power company to build a new coal fired plant in southwest Kansas?" 48% Yes; 32% No; 19% Not sure. (Margin of Sampling Error, +/- 4.5 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.)

yankeelady 9 years, 6 months ago

I think they are having problems getting permits elsewhere. Kansas may have been the last resort.

LeviCircle 9 years, 6 months ago

Well, if - as you say - it is a lie that Western Kansas residents support the Holcomb expansion, then Eastern Kansans must be VERY much in favor of it, if the overall numbers are 48 in favor/32 not in favor/19 undecided.I agree that the 19% undecided and the margin of error certainly allows for movement in the other direction (just as the latest CBS News/New York Times poll showing McCain - 39, Obama - 45, Other/Unsure - 16 should make neither major party candidate comfortable) - but even after all the money spent by BOTH sides of the Holcomb debate, I'm afraid that a good portion of that "unsure" group never WILL "be sure" - because they just don't give a darn about it, and never will.

OnlyLawrenceRepublican 9 years, 6 months ago

What this really means = Sunflower was unsure of where to file the appeal, so to be safe and avoid waiving any rights they filed in district court, with the court of appeals, and with the agency. The district court said that venue was unnecessary, which is no surprise. Merely a CYA.

Bill Griffith 9 years, 6 months ago

One wonders why they ever filed in Finney County to begin with. This only led to a slow down in their case. Their quickest method of some type of resolution within the state cases is to finish their appeal to the KDHE, get turned down, and then seek relief in state court as per our state statutes. I don't believe they were thinking straight for a few months after Bremby's decision. The final state court decision will still be 2-3 years away, so nobody exhale as of yet.

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