Topeka The battle over building a coal-burning electric power plant in western Kansas is likely to arise again soon.
Early this year, Sunflower Electric Power Corp. plans to submit to the state a new application for a permit for an 895-megawatt coal-fired plant, a company official says.
“We are still in the process of making those revisions,” said Cindy Hertel, a spokeswoman for Hays-based Sunflower Electric. “We are hoping that will be completed early (in 2010) and fully submitted to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.”
The new plant would have the capacity to meet the electrical needs of nearly 500,000 people, according to one state estimate. Much of the power would be sold to out-of-state customers. Hertel said the new plant would cost $2.5 billion to build.
Sunflower previously wanted to build two 700-megawatt units near Holcomb in Finney County. But in October 2007, KDHE Secretary Roderick Bremby denied the permits, citing the effects of the plants’ potential carbon dioxide emissions on health and environment.
Bremby’s decision was hailed by environmentalists across the nation, but produced a bitter political fight in Kansas as Republican legislators blocked “green” energy legislation in an attempt to override the permit denial.
When former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who stood by Bremby’s decision, left office to lead the federal health and human services department, Gov. Mark Parkinson brokered a deal in May to allow Sunflower to build one coal-fired plant in return for legislative approval of the so-called renewable energy legislation.
But environmentalists say they believe the plant won’t be built.
The Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club recently put out a news release that said in 2009, not one coal-burning plant broke ground in the United States and 29 proposed projects were shelved.
“Among the coal plant cancellations, in many cases developers voluntarily walked away from coal plant projects citing financial risks to ratepayers and the uncertain future of coal with looming federal environmental regulations,” the group said.
Recently, the EPA declared that carbon dioxide emissions could endanger human health and would be subject to federal regulation. That proposal, however, will likely be fought over in Congress.
Hertel said Sunflower Electric is always evaluating whether the coal-burning plant is in the best interests of its members.
“If ever it is not in the best interest of our members, we will pursue another path,” she said, but added that currently Sunflower believes it is the correct move.
Once an application is filed, a process of public hearings on the proposal will begin.