Environmentalists condemn coal-plant agreement as bad deal for Kansas

Parkinson defends agreement with Sunflower Electric Power Corp. as a victory for state

? As details of the coal-burning power plant settlement between Gov. Mark Parkinson and Sunflower Electric Power Corp. emerged, environmentalists condemned the deal as bad for Kansas.

“While the country is moving away from polluting fossil fuels, Kansas has opened the door for outdated, dirty technology other states are rejecting,” said the Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club.

Sunflower will be able to build an 895-megawatt coal-fired electric generation plant under the agreement signed Monday by Parkinson and Sunflower President and CEO Earl Watkins.

Sunflower had been fighting for nearly two years to build two 700-megawatt plants in southwest Kansas. But Gov. Kathleen Sebelius fought the plants, citing CO2 emissions.

Last week, Sebelius became secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, elevating Parkinson, who had been lieutenant governor, to the governor’s job.

Parkinson said reducing the project to one plant while getting renewable energy provisions made the settlement a win for Kansas.

Construction of the plant is contingent on the Legislature adopting green energy provisions sought by Parkinson, and Sunflower instituting a number of measures to offset the plant’s carbon dioxide emissions.

The Sierra Club, however, said the proposed offsets cited in the agreement “are generally questionable, unenforceable and won’t result in a reduction in global warming pollution.”

Parkinson and Watkins said that 10 percent of the plant’s fuel source will come from biomass. But the agreement spells out that Sunflower doesn’t have to use biomass if it is technologically or economically unfeasible.

And under the settlement, Sunflower may apply for more coal-burning plants after April 30, 2011.

Also, two units that Sunflower agreed to decommission as part of the offsets haven’t been used in more than 20 years.

The 4-megawatt and 8-megawatt units in Garden City have not been used because they are inefficient to run, said Sunflower spokeswoman Cindy Hertel. But, she said, they are available for use in case of an emergency.

The units can use either oil or natural gas to produce electricity, she said.

The bottom line, the Sierra Club stated, is “the new coal plant actually increases Kansas’ contributions to global warming.”