Sierra Club wants hearings on new coal-plant proposal

? Environmentalists on Monday demanded that the state hold public hearings on Sunflower Electric Power Corp.’s new proposal to build an 895-megawatt coal-burning power plant in southwest Kansas.

“Building a massive, new polluting coal facility will have serious long-term consequences for Kansas, and the public’s voice should be heard on such an important matter,” said Stephanie Cole, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Sierra Club.

In 2006, Hays-based Sunflower applied for a permit to build three 700-megawatt coal-burning plants near Holcomb. Sunflower then reduced it to two plants. In 2007, Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Rod Bremby denied the permit, citing health and environmental concerns from the project’s climate-changing carbon dioxide emissions.

The issue was fought over for two legislative sessions until Gov. Mark Parkinson took office in April. He negotiated a closed-door agreement with Sunflower to allow one 895-megawatt plant.

The Sierra Club said public scrutiny of the new proposal is needed because it is vastly different from the earlier one, and three years have passed since the initial public comment period. The organization wants hearings to be held in Lawrence, Topeka and Garden City — similar to a public hearing schedule that was undertaken when Sunflower initially applied for project permits.

In the first go-round, the Lawrence hearing was so crowded that KDHE had to hold two hearings.

Cindy Hertel, a spokeswoman for Sunflower, said the company was in the process of re-submitting information to KDHE but didn’t know if there would be a new application process.

“We will do whatever is necessary as the rules require,” she said. KDHE said it received a revised permit application Friday.

Parkinson’s office said the governor believes public input is an important part of the process “and he trusts that KDHE will allow for public input when it is appropriate.”