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Archive for Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sierra Club wants to join federal lawsuit against Westar Energy

Lawsuit claims violations of Clean Air Act at Jeffrey Center

The Kansas Sierra Club is unhappy with the pollution coming from a Westar plant in Topeka. The group believes the plant is in violation of the Clean Air Act and is looking to get involved in legal action.

September 29, 2009

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A group of environmental activists is looking to intervene in a lawsuit against Westar Energy Inc., in hopes the state’s largest electric utility will be held to the strictest of standards.

The lawsuit — filed in February by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency — claims Westar is violating federal air-quality laws at its Jeffrey Energy Center, a coal-fired power plant located near St. Marys.

A motion by Sierra Club environmental advocates asks that a broader look be considered when determining whether the plant meets environmental standards, an attorney for the club said at a Tuesday morning news conference in Lawrence’s Riverfront Park. The group used the smoke rising from Lawrence Energy Center as a backdrop for its news conference, but the coal-fired power plant north of Lawrence is not named in the lawsuit.

“We believe that it’s essential that Westar come into compliance” with the Clean Air Act, said Bob Eye, a Sierra Club attorney, as anti-coal supporters stood behind him with signs. “It is the law of the land and the failure to do so diminishes not only the integrity of the act but has (an) impact on the health of the public and our environmental quality.”

The original lawsuit filed in February claims Westar made modifications to the center northwest of Topeka but didn’t do enough to update the plant’s pollution control equipment. The lawsuit claims the equipment is out of date and asks the court to force Topeka-based Westar to install new equipment and potentially pay millions of dollars in fines.

Without upgrades, the feds claim the plant may produce higher levels of such pollutants as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter, which can contribute to smog and acid rain.

But the Sierra Club said the lawsuit is limited in what pollution types are being considered under the federal Clean Air Act and asks that other, finer pollutants and carbon dioxide emissions be scrutinized.

Craig Volland, chairman of the Kansas air quality committee for the Sierra Club, said the group wanted to make sure the finest particles are also regulated.

“We fully expect that our involvement will actually improve the environment in a measurable way,” said Volland, who is also a technical adviser for the group.

Westar has said it believed modifications to the plant complied with federal environmental law when plant modifications were made 10 to 15 years ago.

The company says it has spent $460 million upgrading Jeffrey to reduce emissions and that it plans to invest millions more in coming years.

“We’re not doing this because of their allegations,” said Westar spokesman Nick Bundy. “We’re doing these things now because they need to be done, because we want to be good environmental stewards.”

The Sierra Club announced its anticipated involvement in the anti-coal lawsuit as part of a national campaign against coal-fired power plants, which federal figures show generated 68 percent of the state’s electricity in June.

A federal judge will determine whether the environmental group can intervene in the lawsuit.

Comments

Richard Heckler 4 years, 6 months ago

Hey ratepayers lets's demand more power services from local and cleaner producers. GO Bowersock Dam YES!

Why do some ratepayers love using OUR tax dollars to insure these nasty coal plants then get hosed on our electric bills? Yes the coal power can only be insured by taxpayers so why not nationalize OUR energy sources?

BTW the construction loans are also guaranteed by taxpayers. Nationalize Nationalize Nationalize

BTW the nuke plants are the same as coal plants. Yep and both generate radioactive waste plus mercury which flows through the air and where it lands nobody knows.

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puddleglum 4 years, 6 months ago

i love how boneheads really believe that allowing a dirty coal plant to break federal law is directly related to thier bill... your utility rate and a utility company's profit margin have only one thing in common. the more you are bilked-the more they make. do you really think that if there were an anti-sierra club that pleaded for the government to eliminate all restrictions concerning air pollution (and acid rain) that the utility company would lower their rates? I can hear it now: baby, our electrik bill is twinty dollar cheapur dis munth. Now I can call into work sick on saturdays and stay home watchin' nascar! oh yeah, why are the cows turning green? it that that acid rain thing those dirty hippies were arll talkin bout?

grow up. why not just admit that this lawsuit is coming from the government, and not just liberals, and you are just throwing around sticks in the mud?

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Marion Lynn 4 years, 6 months ago

The Sierra Club sues because it can and in point of fact often does just that.

If you look at the article closely, you will find that the Sierra Club is making claims about both Westar anad the federal lae, essentially claiming that the law is inadequite.

The Sierra Club is seeking "judicial activism"; expansion and tighenting of existing law through the courts.

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nytemayr 4 years, 6 months ago

Now this is funny. If I remember right its the 1990 Clean Air Act thats causing the problem here. I believe at the time EPA said "we don't know what the legal definition of significant modification means at this time." One idea was that repair was not. The black hole was refurbish and replace. If your equipment wore out and you bought an identical replacement would that action alone cause the "best available technology" rule to apply. The industry asked in writing for a ruling from the EPA and EPA declined to respond. No, thats not correct the EPA's offical respond was "It's your responsibility to comply with the law and if we find you are not in compliance then your company is subject criminal fines and or jail if found not in compliance.

Its kinda funny!

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remember_username 4 years, 6 months ago

Marion - it's ok to post the link I would have read it. Yes, wind power is an alternative suggested by many in the Sierra Club and my point to dudedog12 is still valid.

The WSJ article you posted does suggest a double standard. I wouldn't deny it, but it may simply boil down to the lesser of two evils. I suspect without investigation that you believe the dangers currently accepted by green house gas production are being blown out of proportion, am I correct? If so, then you would place alternative energy production on a level playing field with traditional energy production. Most scientists believe otherwise and since the policy makers are listening to the majority of scientists green energy use is likely to receive more legal benefits. Although it could also be as simple as the Mr. Lee said one fix "was easy and cheap" the other not so much. I wonder also was Exxon sued after they were warned to correct a problem and they refused?

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Marion Lynn 4 years, 6 months ago

cont'd:

"Somebody has given the wind industry a get-out-of-jail-free card," Mr. Fry told me. "If there were even one prosecution," he added, the wind industry would be forced to take the issue seriously.

According to the American Wind Energy Association, the industry's trade association, each megawatt of installed wind-power results in the killing of between one and six birds per year. At the end of 2008, the U.S. had about 25,000 megawatts of wind turbines.

By 2030, environmental and lobby groups are pushing for the U.S. to be producing 20% of its electricity from wind. Meeting that goal, according to the Department of Energy, will require the U.S. to have about 300,000 megawatts of wind capacity, a 12-fold increase over 2008 levels. If that target is achieved, we can expect some 300,000 birds, at the least, to be killed by wind turbines each year.

On its Web site, the Wind Energy Association says that bird kills by wind turbines are a "very small fraction of those caused by other commonly accepted human activities and structures—house cats kill an estimated one billion birds annually." That may be true, but it is not much of a defense. When cats kill birds, federal law doesn't require marching them to our courthouses to hold them responsible.

During the late 1980s and early '90s, Rob Lee was one of the Fish and Wildlife Service's lead law-enforcement investigators on the problem of bird kills in Western oil fields. Now retired and living in Lubbock, Texas, Mr. Lee tells me that solving the problem in the oil fields "was easy and cheap." The oil companies only had to put netting over their tanks and waste facilities.

Why aren't wind companies prosecuted for killing eagles and other birds? "The fix here is not easy or cheap," Mr. Lee told me. He added that he doesn't expect to see any prosecutions of the politically correct wind industry.

This is a double standard that more people—and not just bird lovers—should be paying attention to. In protecting America's wildlife, federal law-enforcement officials are turning a blind eye to the harm done by "green" energy."

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Marion Lynn 4 years, 6 months ago

Marion writes:

Is this one of the Sierra Club's alternatives?

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203706604574376543308399048.html

"On Aug. 13, ExxonMobil pleaded guilty in federal court to killing 85 birds that had come into contact with crude oil or other pollutants in uncovered tanks or waste-water facilities on its properties. The birds were protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which dates back to 1918. The company agreed to pay $600,000 in fines and fees.

ExxonMobil is hardly alone in running afoul of this law. Over the past two decades, federal officials have brought hundreds of similar cases against energy companies. In July, for example, the Oregon-based electric utility PacifiCorp paid $1.4 million in fines and restitution for killing 232 eagles in Wyoming over the past two years. The birds were electrocuted by poorly-designed power lines.

Yet there is one group of energy producers that are not being prosecuted for killing birds: wind-power companies. And wind-powered turbines are killing a vast number of birds every year.

A July 2008 study of the wind farm at Altamont Pass, Calif., estimated that its turbines kill an average of 80 golden eagles per year. The study, funded by the Alameda County Community Development Agency, also estimated that about 10,000 birds—nearly all protected by the migratory bird act—are being whacked every year at Altamont.

Altamont's turbines, located about 30 miles east of Oakland, Calif., kill more than 100 times as many birds as Exxon's tanks, and they do so every year. But the Altamont Pass wind farm does not face the same threat of prosecution, even though the bird kills at Altamont have been repeatedly documented by biologists since the mid-1990s.

The number of birds killed by wind turbines is highly variable. And biologists believe Altamont, which uses older turbine technology, may be the worst example. But that said, the carnage there likely represents only a fraction of the number of birds killed by windmills. Michael Fry of the American Bird Conservancy estimates that U.S. wind turbines kill between 75,000 and 275,000 birds per year. Yet the Justice Department is not bringing cases against wind companies."

cont'd:

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remember_username 4 years, 6 months ago

dudedog12 - "Marion got it right. Those types like to stir the pot without a solution."

Not correct. The Sierra Club (and members) are involved with development of several solutions to coal fired power plants. Few are currently as cost effective but they are still alternative solutions.

Marion - "Marion writes: Do ya think, Probie? Do you think that the Sierra club could sue the PRC in a US court? Do you somehow think that the 60 or so coal plants that the Commies will build this year will not contribute to your precious “global warming”?

If the Sierra Club, or anyone else, sued China over their environmental policies, would the case even be heard? You may think they're looney but they're not idiots.

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UfoPilot 4 years, 6 months ago

“It is the law of the land"

No, It's a regulation.

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Marion Lynn 4 years, 6 months ago

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (Anonymous) says…

“I notice that the Sierra Club is not suing The People's Republic of China,”

Sierra Club is a US organization, Marion."

Marion writes:

Do ya think, Probie?

Do you think that the Sierra club could sue the PRC in a US court?

Do you somehow think that the 60 or so coal plants that the Commies will build this year will not contribute to your precious "global warming"?

When you are cold and unable to pay your electric bill, call the Sierra Club for support, mkay?

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cowboy 4 years, 6 months ago

Everyone absolutely has a right to a defense , every person has a choice to make , Do I want to have anything to do with this person. To each his own and each of us can choose at what price our morals matter.

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scott3460 4 years, 6 months ago

“We believe that it’s essential that Westar come into compliance” with the Clean Air Act, said Bob Eye, a Sierra Club attorney, as anti-coal supporters stood behind him with signs. “It is the law of the land and the failure to do so diminishes not only the integrity of the act but has (an) impact on the health of the public and our environmental quality.”

What a wacko!

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Tom Shewmon 4 years, 6 months ago

Environmental extremists may look back and reflect when his electric bill is no longer let's say $125.00, but maybe more like $325.00. Between this lunacy and the new cap and trade and letting the EPA run wild on regulation, any and all you do related in any way shape of form to energy will break the back of America, when it least needs it's back broken. But that's what I've been talking about for years and that's what the far-left extremists have pushed for and apparently their wishes have been granted. Get ready to see some times that makes Carter's administration look like an economic boom.


"Frank O'Donnell, who heads the advocacy group Clean Air Watch, hailed the measure, saying it "very well may be the high-water mark for strong action on climate in this Congress" because it would preserve the EPA's regulatory authority."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/29/AR2009092901608.html?hpid%3Dtopnews&sub=AR

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 6 months ago

From now on, cowboy, anyone charged with a crime should have to be evaluated by you first to determine whether or not they deserve their constitutionally protected right to legal representation.

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cowboy 4 years, 6 months ago

Groups represented by a couple attorneys who will represent environmental groups or any pathetic criminal with a lot of cash , Eye and Pedro , How do these people sleep at night.

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Reality_Check 4 years, 6 months ago

"Bunch of wackos!""

Yeah, JesusLand, where people suing to enforce existing laws are labeled "wackos." Where NON-Profit organizations have to defend us from the greed of the Corpratocracy. Sad.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 6 months ago

"I find it highly amusing that all of these environmentalists are going insane over negligible pollution when developing nations like China are literally poisoning our Pacific coast."

Well, first of all, it's hardly negligible. And secondly, you can't demand that other countries, such as China, clean up their acts if you aren't willing to do so yourself.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 6 months ago

"“It is the law of the land and the failure to do so diminishes not only the integrity of the act but has (an) impact on the health of the public and our environmental quality.”"

Just an editorial question-- why was it deemed necessary to insert the parenthetical (an) in the above quote? It makes perfect sense without it.

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Steve Miller 4 years, 6 months ago

Marion got it right. Those types like to stir the pot without a solution.

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barrypenders 4 years, 6 months ago

Sierra Club is just helping the Poser raise electric bills. Thank goodness Mr. El Nino is helping this winter.

Darwin bless you all

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Eride 4 years, 6 months ago

I usually will do whatever I can to disagree with Marion... because let us face it... Marion is bat sh*t crazy. But in this case I cannot disagree. The real danger to the environment is all of the coal plants being built in developing nations using 4 to 5 decade old technology. These plants even have a direct effect on our nation as the particles from them have been proven to be drifting across the nation and depositing themselves on our Pacific coast.

I find it highly amusing that all of these environmentalists are going insane over negligible pollution when developing nations like China are literally poisoning our Pacific coast.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 6 months ago

"I notice that the Sierra Club is not suing The People's Republic of China,"

Sierra Club is a US organization, Marion.

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Marion Lynn 4 years, 6 months ago

I notice that the Sierra Club is not suing The People's Republic of China, which Communist Utopia is building a new coal plant every week.

Wnen your electricty rates double or tiriple, when it is Winter and you are cold, when you are having trouble paying your electricity bill, call the Sierra Club and ask for help.

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Darin Wade 4 years, 6 months ago

Get' em...make sure you get them for the quality of the river water they steal for their PowerPlant they stoled too much water in 98 and almost drained the Kaw River and blamed it on a minor drought. The Cheyenne River is also been drained for powerplant use and cover it up with a drought blame..

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wysiwyg69 4 years, 6 months ago

So we pay twice. Once for the U.S. atty. and again to cover Westars' loss or their atty.

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cowboy 4 years, 6 months ago

Have to read the Capital Journal to get any reporting. Attorney Bob Eye strikes again. I don't have a dog in this race at all I just like to know who the players are.

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Fugu 4 years, 6 months ago

Cowboy,

Who?...Read the article. It's a lawsuit in progress. United States vs Westar.

http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/0/4D929755E71A6D3385257554004D429C

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cowboy 4 years, 6 months ago

who , what , where,

Why don't you name the attorney

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