Archive for Thursday, March 6, 2008

Bremby defends coal-plant decision

March 6, 2008


KDHE secretary speaks at lecture series

Rod Bremby, KDHE secretary, spoke at the Dole Institute of Politics as a part of a KU global warming lecture series. Enlarge video

Roderick Bremby, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, gives a lecture for those gathered at the Dole Institute of Politics Wednesday, March, 5, 2008.

Roderick Bremby, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, gives a lecture for those gathered at the Dole Institute of Politics Wednesday, March, 5, 2008.

It was finally a chance to clear the air.

Since October 2007, Roderick Bremby, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, has been under a cloud of criticism for his denial of two proposed 700-megawatt coal-fired power plants.

He denied the plant permits because the project's annual emission of 11 million tons of carbon dioxide would have a negative effect on the environment, he said.

During a Wednesday lecture at Kansas University's Dole Institute of Politics, he touched on several factors in the decision.

Bremby, who has a master's degree in public administration, first described how the spheres of public policy and administration aren't designed to intersect. But often they do, as was the case with the coal-plant decision.

Just hours earlier Wednesday, the Kansas House had approved another coal plant bill, but a veto is still expected from Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

Bremby said it's his role as KDHE leader to determine what is best for Kansans' health.

He also used the lecture as a time to "clear the air" on facts he thinks have been misrepresented to the public about the health department or about the coal-fired plants.

In his October decision to deny the coal plants, Bremby said he wasn't asserting that climate change exists. He even told the audience not to take his word on climate change, but to look to scientists.

"That really doesn't matter as a bureaucrat. What I said is that it would be irresponsible to ignore emerging information about the contribution of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to climate change and the potential harm to our environment and health if we do nothing," he said.

He spoke to a crowd of more than 150 people as part of a University Lecture Series about global warming. The series is sponsored by the KU Honors Program along with the Biodiversity Institute, the Hall Center for Humanities and the Spencer Museum of Art.

In the audience was Karl Brooks, a KU environmental law professor, and about one-third of his class.

"It's always helpful to hear a decision-maker explain the reasons for a decision," he said. "Sometimes it just comes across as a government agency decides a certain thing and you don't really understand the process. I congratulate Bremby for taking the time to explain all the factors that went into the decision."

"Climate policy is something that we're all going to have to wrestle with," Bremby said.

He said a single state agency can't determine the fate of Kansas.

"That is some of what makes this issue so complex," he said. "It touches all of us. It will impact all of us. It needs all of us to engage in the conversation. And at the end of the day, there will be a conversation."


Jerry Stubbs 10 years, 3 months ago

Likewise, it is the job of the legislature to do waht the people want, and the people of Kansas don't want these plants. Bremby has an excellent record, look it up.

CatFan 10 years, 3 months ago

Bremby is simply hoping to get caught up in the Gov's coat tails...and she is riding on the backs of Western Kansas ratepayers in hopes of finding a new job in DC. Western Kansas citizens have lower incomes and already pay higher electric rates. Bremby eliminated the lowest cost option for baseload power in Western Kansas, but he gladly allows Westar to renew permits for its older and more-polluting coal plants. Why the vendetta against Western Kansas? His kind of politics is blind to the arrogance and hypocrisy. Why aren't Eastern Kansans volunteering to help pay power bills for those out West? Why aren't Eastern Kansas utilities buying wind power in the same proportion as those out West? Dilbert was right...saving the planet is easy when you make someone else sacrifice. Bremby can "explain" until he's blue in the face, but he'll never be credible.

deec 10 years, 3 months ago

Actually I pay considerably less for electricity than I did in either Lawrence or KCK.

speedykitty 10 years, 3 months ago

Bremby said it's his role as KDHE leader to determine what is best for Kansans' health.

Curiously, I thought his job was to administer the state and federal regulations. I don't think "Nannie Bremby" is a good fit for Kansas.

toefungus 10 years, 3 months ago

Bremby likes to hurt Kansas. If he did not have the coal issue it would be something else.

preebo 10 years, 3 months ago

What some of you may not realize, what some State House Republicans definitely do not realize is Bremby did in fact act within the law. He exercised administrative discretion in denying the permits. Not to say that there is no recouse for state house and senate leaders to circumvent this action, but simply stating their arguments up 'til now are invalid.

gr 10 years, 3 months ago

When is carbon dioxide, in the amounts expected, bad for your health?

'Bremby breathed on me'

Eric Neuteboom 10 years, 3 months ago

It astonishes me that people are willing to sacrifice their health, their children's health and the environment's health to save, maybe, a few dollars a month on their electric bill (and mind you, most of the power generated from these plants would not stay in Kansas). I don't know Bremby from Adam, but on this issue, I fully congratulate him on standing up for what he believes is right, and most importantly, honoring what most Kansans feel is right.

Laura Watkins 10 years, 3 months ago

The people on this post complaining about Bremby should have attended his talk last night. Maybe you could have learned something rather than choosing to remain ignorant about the decision. He acted within the law. He isn't going to revoke any air permits to any of the plants now, but he's working with plants to voluntarily lower their CO2 emissions and Westar actually agreed to do so last week. Only 15% of the plants' energy would stay in Kansas; the rest would go to Oklahoma. And lastly, large amounts of carbon dioxide are bad for your health because, yes, they lead to global warming. If you think I'm a crazy granola-crunching hippie for believing with, check with the U.S. National Academy of Science, the Geological Society of America, the American Geophysical Union, the American Institute of Physics or the American Meteorological Society. They all believe that global warming is real. If you are going to argue against his decision, you should probably do your best to gather the facts rather than quote Melvin Neufeld verbatim. Sheesh!

hipper_than_hip 10 years, 3 months ago

Westar didn't agree to reduce it's co2 emissions; they said they'd study the problem. I'll "scoop" you on the results of the study: 90% co2 capture will double the cost of electricity to consumers, and there is no viable commerical use for the co2 that they capture.

preebo 10 years, 3 months ago

Theoretically, you're right he could do that, but I believe the procedural guidlines would restrict that possibility. You are creating a false anology. You are comparing new permits versus existing and operating permits. In administrative law the focus is procedural due process rather then substantive due process in civil and criminal law. Simply put, it is the process that matters. He was able to reject the permits based on the idea that these permits were not existing and the process had not yet begun. Once a facility has an approved permit it could be considered an abuse of administrative discretion and a violation of procedural due process if an official acts against the facility if it is acting within the limits of its permit.

All that being said, the process as it is unfolding is also within the law. This is the legislative process at its most quintessential. They probably will overturn the decision through precise legislation. My view is to let the process unfold. At least there is a dialogue on the subject.

Centerville 10 years, 3 months ago

We're going to have much higher electric rates because utiltities have been released from having to justify any of their costs if they throw up a few windmills. And, we'll have to back up wind with a lot of increasingly expensive natural gas. As we eliminate coal for baseload, we lose a lot of reliability even while Wolf Creek's up. During the scheduled outages at Wolf Creek, we will have almost no reliability. The legislature was wise enough not let Subeelious raise taxes. They're wise enough not to let her destroy our power supply. Bremby is totally inconsequential.

b_asinbeer 10 years, 3 months ago

I applaud Mr. Bremby. The negative health and the environmental impacts of these plants far outweigh anything. Until it is proven that CO2 is not as harmful or it does not contribute to global warming, I suggest being on the safe side.

preebo 10 years, 3 months ago

"...what you are forgetting is that the Clean Air Act requires periodic review and renewal of the permits."

Actually I haven't forgotten the CAA. As for renewals, you have just played into my argument. The criteria for establishment of a permitted right is different then a renewal. With a renewal there is an established practice on the part of the facility, whereas, in a new permit there is no established right. This is why in the case of Westar Jeffrey, there is an established right in play. If KDHE does go against that right and claims administrative discretion then there is a clear argument for a violation of procedural due process and an abuse of discretion. Here, I wasn't advocating a procedural due process claim on behalf of the state or environmental advocates but on behalf of Sunflower (all the while I support the denial). What KDHE has done here is play the bureaucratic shell game. They believe that they can stretch this issue out for at least 3-5 years (through legislation lag-time, veto, and return) and by then Sunflower has moved on. What they are attempting to do with this issue is raise the issue for debate, gauge the public interest and establish a precedent.

FYI - The review period you are referring to revolves every four years, so good like on a timely resolution from the EPA on this matter.

ralphralph 10 years, 3 months ago

Bremby is a trained bureaucrat. Shouldn't scientific matters be decided by scientists? ... or, at least, by lawmakers?

I thought Dems wanted the government to follow the law, not just the whims of those in power ... or does that just apply to phone calls?

BigDog 10 years, 3 months ago

I would like to know what happened to the KDHE employees, who after reviewing the application using previous rules, recommended the application?

gr 10 years, 3 months ago

"It astonishes me that people are willing to sacrifice their health, their children's health and the environment's health to save, maybe, a few dollars a month"

CO2 is not bad for your health. CO may be. Other things may be. But, not CO2. Now, lack of O2, could be bad for your health, but there is no indication of that.

"And lastly, large amounts of carbon dioxide are bad for your health because, yes, they lead to global warming."

If A=B, therefore C=D.

Wrong. CO2 may or may not cause global warming (or "climate change" as the "granola-crunching hippies" have started changing over to since they fear there may not be global warming). But, let's say for argument it did. Global warming has not been shown to be bad for your health. In fact, it may be very good. Ever ask yourself how people at the equator can deal with such hot temperatures? For that matter, ever ask yourself if there has been any temperature difference at the equator?

"check with the" How about How about other number of scientists?


"and there is no viable commerical use for the co2 that they capture."

Hmmmm. Hmmmm.

Don't they use CO2 in soft drinks?


Of course not the same stuff from smokestacks. But, don't people drinking soft drinks lead to global warming?

If 'our earth is dying' then 'we must do everything, even if it's a small thing'. Save the earth! Ban soft drinks!


"Until it is proven that CO2 is not as harmful"

Take a science or health class. CO2 is NOT harmful. Lack of O2 is. You put a rat in a container filled with only CO2 and it will not die any sooner than one put in with no O2.

" I suggest being on the safe side." So, you suggest any crazy thing, just to be "on the safe side"? I still say you just as well hop on one foot to stop global warming. You do want to be "on the safe side", don't you?

on the safe side

on the safe side

on the safe side

on the safe side

on the safe side

on the safe side

on the safe side

'we don't know if aligning your treadmills with the equator will stop the earth from spinning out of control, but let's be "on the safe side".

on the safe side

on the safe side

RedwoodCoast 10 years, 3 months ago

All those cows in Garden City, Liberal, and Dodge City passing gas... So let's make western Kansas a producer of atmospheric methane AND a buttload of CO2 to boot. I think this coal plant thing is short-sighted. We're a society of instant gratification and acheivement. A couple of guys working for an energy company want to have the accomplishment of building new coal plants in Kansas under their belts before they die. We tend not to think outside of our own lifetimes, which will probably ruin us eventually.

Landon Alger 10 years, 3 months ago

Global warming must not exist. Our president has said that it does exist, and because he cannot be trusted, we know that it must not exist.

RedwoodCoast 10 years, 3 months ago

Hey Centerville, are you from Centerville? My dad's family came from Parker (as did the great Sammy Brownback).

hipper_than_hip 10 years, 3 months ago

"Don't they use CO2 in soft drinks?"

90% co2 capture from a 650 MW coal plant is 700 tons/hr. how many soft drink users are there in KS, and how much co2 do they use annually? i'm not in the soft drink bottling industry, but i'm guessing that one weeks worth of capture will carbonate one years worth of soft drinks. i'm search for the amount of co2 soft drink bottlers use on an annual basis....

dirkleisure 10 years, 3 months ago

Nitrogen is good for you, too. But if you come up too fast, you're still gonna get the bends.

As for western Kansas electric rates, that is a tired lie.

Take a look at this map.

And baseload power? Well, in 2002 it was predicted an additional 36,000 MW would be needed to meet baseload needs by 2007. 2007 is in the books, and only an additional 4,500 MW was actually built. And everybody's lights are still on.

What about projected growth? Kansas growth in demand is about 1.5% a year. However, look at Vermont. There, the state of Vermont contracted with a firm to implement statewide energy efficiency measures. Compensation to the firm was based upon reduced demand.

During the first 5 years, efficiency measures succeeded in cutting load growth in half. Last year, demand increased 0.00000000000%.

Face the facts - 200MW of Kansas power the Holcomb plant would provide isn't needed to lower rates. It isn't needed to meet any reasonable future baseload need. And it isn't needed to sustain the financial viability of Sunflower Electric.

Clickker 10 years, 3 months ago

"They all believe that global warming is real"

Really? There is no doubt about this? Hmmmm ,,,,,,,me thinks not.

The myth of global warming will prove to be one of the costliest boondoggles of our generation. Amazing what a few vocal nutjobs can do with a bully pulpit.

CatFan 10 years, 3 months ago are mistaken on the rate comparison. The map you show ignores the number of customers. Far and away, KCPL, Westar and KGE/Westar serve the bulk of Kansas customers, they are in eastern Kansas and they have the lowest rates. Check the DOE website for yourself: Download table 10 (all rate classes, sort for Kansas only and then by average rate.) You'll see that about 2/3 of Kansans pay rates equal to or less than the average KCPL rate. Virtually ALL western Kansas coops and municipal utilities charge higher rates, some of them much higher. Perhaps the eastern/western Kansas comparison is too broad. A more accurate statement is that western Kansas AND rural areas pay far higher rates than the big utilities in eastern Kansas who are dependent on coal. Much of that is due to differences in wholesale power supply, not customer density. The Legislative Research Service produced a report much more detailed than the map you reference. It also shows similar rate disparity in favor of the eastern Kansas coal-dependent utilities. If you are really against coal, why do you use so much in eastern Kansas? Is your CO2 less potent?

supercowbellninja 10 years, 3 months ago

What the hell is wrong with so many of these commenters?

I agree with ihatejohntravolta - you people have no legs to stand on unless you were there. Anyone who thinks he's just a trained politician should walk a mile or two in his shoes.

No decision is ever easy and kudos to him for making the right one in light of all you clueless a$$hat$ out there just whining to hear the sound of your own voices.

He's got a great record, so why railroad him for just this one decision?


CatFan 10 years, 3 months ago

The question remains unanswered: What are all you eastern Kansas "do-gooders" willing to do now to reduce your own CO2 emissions in a meaningful amount? And if it includes burning more natural gas (which still produces CO2), how will anyone afford their winter heating bill?

dirkleisure 10 years, 3 months ago

I think when it comes to rates per kwh, I'll go ahead and trust the KCC.

And the KCC shows that in terms of rates per kwh, Western Kansas is paying at the same rate as Eastern Kansas. They should know, they set the rates.

Of course, CatFan and his ilk would prefer for legislators to do that, too.

CatFan 10 years, 3 months ago

And dirkleisure "and his ilk" would prefer to ignore facts. The DOE website data comes from exactly the same reports that are submitted to the KCC. The KCC map simply is not weighted by customer numbers.

hornhunter 10 years, 3 months ago

hipper_then_hip Don't go there cause snowWI will chime in and say that that amount of CO2 will not add up to the same amount as a coal fired power plant, that has been his argument in the past. BTW he'll also tell you he doesn't drink soft drinks. But what about BEER?

ENGWOOD 10 years, 3 months ago

Westar 3683 Megawatts existing !!!!! KCPL 2033 Megawatts existing !!!!!!

All Eastern Kansas locations and no CO2 how did they do that. HMMMMM

Fred Whitehead Jr. 10 years, 3 months ago

Bremby and Sibelius are becoming pawns of the wacko environmentalist extreame left. This decision is very short-sighted, fear-mongering, anti-growth, and downright stupid and destructive. Environmental issues are important, but the far left and it's converts are out for a political agenda and this is their current soap box. A whole lot of nothing. And Kansas and Kansas residents will take the problems that are created by these ill-fated, highly emotional, politically motivated positions. And the left will cheer as the lights go out somewhere.

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