EPA leader pledges fair decision on power plant

November 27, 2010


The Sunflower coal-burning power plant controversy has been divisive, complicated — and long-running. Five years on, you can pick a fight by backing or opposing one of the biggest coal-fired plant proposed for this nation.

Each branch of state government — the Legislature, two governors, every level of the state courts — has weighed in. Tens of thousands of Kansans have gone on record for and against permitting Sunflower’s construction.

Me, too! When I was teaching history and law at KU, four years before I took the oath of office to lead EPA in this region, I testified that Kansas had to use a fair, transparent state permitting process to base any decision on law and science.

EPA has not yet been party to the Sunflower controversy. That’s as it should be. Our U.S. Constitution shares federal and state responsibility to protect our nation’s air resource. Our keystone Clean Air Act assigns Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) initial responsibility to decide if Sunflower’s pollutants will damage Kansans’ health too much.

But EPA will soon have to make some important legal decisions. And recent developments in Topeka and Washington, D.C., warrant a brief explanation of this agency’s duties if the Sunflower controversy hits my desk.

You probably know that on Election Day, Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson abruptly removed Rod Bremby, the state’s top environmental-protection official. It’s fair to say these two did not see eye to eye on Sunflower: Bremby denied its permit in 2007 and Parkinson reversed that decision in 2009.

You also should know that this nation’s air-quality laws are changing at the same time a new governor takes the reins in Topeka. Starting in January 2011, the biggest new coal-burning pollution sources will have to limit climate-changing emissions for the first time.

How do these changes — political and legal, state and federal — affect EPA’s work on Sunflower? Rest assured, EPA’s Sunflower decisions in the coming months will reflect enduring legal principles, not shifting political winds.

Both Kansas and EPA agree: Sunflower would burn so much coal that a state permit issued after Jan. 2 must impose greenhouse-gas controls. Even Kansas leaders who back Sunflower concede that national law governs state permits.

While Kansas is amending its air-quality laws to control greenhouse gases, EPA and KDHE are cooperating to make sure applicants proposing new energy projects can still seek needed permits. A good example of federal-state partnership, this “backstop” shows why the Clean Air Act, now 40 years old, works so well.

Personnel changes at KDHE don’t change EPA’s responsibilities, but they do highlight Kansas’ duty, under our system of government, to show its Sunflower decisions are fair, transparent, and consistent with the law.

If KDHE recommends Sunflower be permitted before Jan. 2, EPA will review this initial decision by asking three important questions:

First, does the Kansas permit include public health protection standards required by sound science and federal law?

Second, did Kansas operate all parts of its permitting process as required by the Clean Air Act?

And finally, does a Sunflower permit satisfy public confidence in the impartiality and transparency of Kansas’ system of safeguarding air quality?

Kansas air permitting law gives all three branches of state government important work, and also invites the people of the state to participate. That’s why EPA must scrutinize not just the language of any Sunflower permit, but the whole state decision-making process that produced a permit.

EPA has advised Kansas leaders of their duties many times. And Kansans should rest assured that this agency will make sure the rule of law has been faithfully enforced.

— Karl Brooks, a resident of Lawrence, leads the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for Region 7 which includes Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and nine tribal nations.


Richard Heckler 7 years, 4 months ago

We've got way more sun and wind that does not take out whole mountains. Coal mining is lethal to workers.

Coal Ash Is More Radioactive than Nuclear Waste

By burning away all the pesky carbon and other impurities, coal power plants produce heaps of radiation.

Scientific American http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=coal-ash-is-more-radioactive-than-nuclear-waste

Liberty275 7 years, 4 months ago

Too bad you can't cut and paste us a sun at night or some wind when it isn't blowing.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 4 months ago

What is missing from this discussion consistently is how many tax dollars will be required to build and insure this new plant? Taxpayers are increasingly becoming the financing and insurance for these so very expensive coal power projects. Coal power is simply not the best bang for the tax buck. Plus the toxic aspects of coal power are not being openly discussed.

What causes global warming? Carbon dioxide and other air pollution that is collecting in the atmosphere like a thickening blanket, trapping the sun's heat and causing the planet to warm up.

Coal-burning power plants are the largest U.S. source of carbon dioxide pollution -- they produce 2.5 billion tons every year. Automobiles, the second largest source, create nearly 1.5 billion tons of CO2 annually.

Air pollution

The United States of America is the biggest polluter in the world. A report from BBC reveals that in 1990, the US was accountable for worldwide greenhouse emissions that totaled to 36.1%. Only 4% of the world’s population is represented by the people living in America, but this country contributes about 25% of the total emissions of carbon dioxide in the world.

To see how much the United States is contributing to world pollution, a comparison can be made. In Britain, 3% of greenhouse emissions are released in the atmosphere. India contributes to pollution as much as Britain does, but the population of India is 15 times larger than that of Britain’s.

With these figures, America can only be said to provide greener pastures that are paved with pollutants.


Depletion of the ozone layer and the environment in general means the depletion of human health and life. What good is a life full of wealth if you breathe air that is killing you?

Three Wall Street banks announce funding restrictions for new coal power plants http://www.grist.org/article/coal4/

gl0ck0wn3r 7 years, 4 months ago

What is missing from your spam is a discussion of how much solar and wind power costs to produce relative to other forms of power. Whatever, as long as it is green, right? Just curious, when will you be switching to push mowers and a hybrid truck?

monkeyhawk 7 years, 4 months ago

"The cat is out of the bag as UN admits cap and trade is wealth redistribution"

Governments and environmentalists like to say global warming and climate change is about saving the planet. Uneducated and ideological people will follow what the media or celebrities say without ever studying the classic philosophy... that of follow the money.

On Friday, an official from the United Nations (Ottmar Edenhofer) in an interview with Germany's NZZ online came out and explicitly said the policy of cap and trade is to "...redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy."

(EDENHOFER): Basically it’s a big mistake to discuss climate policy separately from the major themes of globalization. The climate summit in Cancun at the end of the month is not a climate conference, but one of the largest economic conferences since the Second World War.

In an article in 2007 from the online publication Human Events, Al Gore is shown to not only be a hypocrite when it comes to lowering his carbon footprint, but that he intends on profiting on others pain.

In today's world, governments do not do things for the benefit of their citizens, but instead to create methods by which they can enrich themselves, or instill new tax structures. The UN, Al Gore, and the EPA have undeniably said and written that global warming is about money and wealth redistribution. It has little to do with changing the climate, or lowering greenhouse gasses as the worst polluters (China and India) will never commit to this program. http://www.examiner.com/finance-examiner-in-national/the-cat-is-out-of-the-bag-as-un-admits-cap-and-trade-is-wealth-redistribution

Bill Griffith 7 years, 4 months ago

Monkeyhawk, could you source your comment, "....the EPA have undeniably said and written that global warming is about money and wealth distribution..." ? Thanks.

monkeyhawk 7 years, 4 months ago

belexus, just follow the link at the bottom of my post - sorry about the lack of those quotation marks (not really trying to be a merrill): http://www.examiner.com/finance-exami...

Here are more:

"IPCC Expert admits UN goal is Wealth Redistribution One need read no further than the U.N. International Climate Accord [PDF] ultimately shot down at Copenhagen’s climate summit last year to understand the organization’s international wealth redistribution goals. The failed treaty actually contained as many paragraphs outlining the payment of “climate debt” reparations by Western nations as it did emission reduction schemes.

Indeed, for nearly 50-years the U.N. has formulated its own unique brand of “social justice” under the guise of “saving the planet” by demonizing one byproduct of Western economic growth or another. Carbon Dioxide is, of course, merely the devil’s derivative du jour.

Now, a high-ranking member of the U.N’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has admitted that climate policy has little to do with environmental protection. " http://inquisitionnews.wordpress.com/...


Here's a good one:

"Last December, at the UN International Climate Accord in Copenhagen, international leaders agreed that the developed world would come up with $100 billion per year by 2020 to help alleviate the affects of climate change in the developing world. They couldn’t agree on how the money would be spent but they did agree on who it would come from.

Guess who?

Via The New York Times -

UNITED NATIONS — After grappling with a fundamental deadlock between rich and poor nations over climate change, a high-level United Nations panel on Friday proposed a smorgasbord of ways to raise $100 billion annually to help developing countries cope with global warming.

The standoff over who should pay the bill for environmental degradation has bedeviled efforts to forge an international agreement to address climate change. The panel did not fully answer the question, but said potential revenue sources included raising up to $10 billion from some manner of tax on airline flights and international shipping, $10 billion from a tax on financial transactions and $10 billion taken from the fuel subsidies provided by some developed nations.

You may be familiar with some of the names on this UN Panel.

The 21-member United Nations panel included Lawrence H. Summers, the White House’s departing national economics adviser; the billionaire financier George Soros; Ernesto Cordero Arroyo, the finance minister of Mexico; and Christine Lagarde, the French economic minister." http://gatewaypundit.rightnetwork.com...

Bill Griffith 7 years, 4 months ago

I agree that following the money can be at times a constructive exercise. I encourage one and all to follow the funding trail of the main professional client deniers- Richard Lindzen, Fred Singer, and Patrick Michaels. Also, delving into the history of the Marshall Insitute can be instructive as well.

Let me also state that many informed people who do accept the climate science do not have a warm and fuzzy feeling for cap and trade and that this strategy is not the only one to tackle anthropogenic climate disruption. Cap and trade is bandied about as a left-wing boogie monster but actually is heavily endorsed by Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse and their ilk-not exactly a Grateful Dead party to say the least. However these facts seem to zip right by folks who have acquired the dogma that climate change is a plot/scheme/conspiracy by a fifth column of leftists bent on wealth distribution. Human reasoning, such as it is, can be a fascinating but exasperating study.

jafs 7 years, 4 months ago


Cap and trade is highly flawed, in my opinion, if we want to prevent environmental destruction.

Simply requiring all polluters to reduce their pollution would be a better plan.

Bill Griffith 7 years, 4 months ago

Line two should read ..."climate deniers...

Sunny Parker 7 years, 4 months ago

Get rid of the EPA......Problem solved!

monkeyhawk 7 years, 4 months ago

"Given climategate, it is clear that partisan ideologies and cultish environmentalism have replaced prudent science and economic realities in climate policy. What is also clear is that radical environmentalism no longer offers any product or service in support of our future security and prosperity. Militant environmentalism and green-obsessed bureaucrats have become an “axis of antagonism” that we can no longer afford. Maybe we should replace “Earth Day” April 22 with “Climategate Day” November 20 celebrations." http://www.examiner.com/ecopolitics-in-los-angeles/climategate-anniversary-skeptics-science-prevail#parsely

"Every liar justifies his actions in this way; he lied because he believes he is superior to others that need to be talked down to.

Penn State accepted this explanation or else they would lose millions of dollars and Michael Mann would lose hundreds of thousands of dollars out of his pocket from taxpayers. This is unacceptable. Michael Mann should be thrown in jail for fraud. He has cost us more than Bernie Madoff or any other con artist on Wall Street or Washington.

The global warming cult lied about tree ring data, lied about the Himalayan glaciers melting, lied about declining polar bear populations, lied about the Netherlands being half under sea level, lied about global temperatures declining, and lied about the threat and cause of climate change.

Yet Obama clings to this global warming fantasy. He doesn't even question it. He insists on spending billions immediately and trillions in the future to handle this "crisis". " http://www.examiner.com/libertarian-in-long-island/global-warming-con-artists#parsely

Bill Griffith 7 years, 4 months ago

I disagree on the "empty our bank accounts for all things energy related." However, to a larger point on government structure-these officials are put in place under federal law by representatives elected by the voters. No one is going to always agree with decisions made by the "other side" in our type of governance but it is the best design we have come up with to this point in our political history. I guess it is your time for some pain-but it will swing back some day.

tomatogrower 7 years, 4 months ago

No, Tom. It's Brownback. He has appointed an oil executive to his new government expansion bureaucracy, the jobs commission. He will make sure that any alternate energy businesses are kept out of Kansas. And, Tom, why are you so willing for our tax dollars to pay for a plant to sell energy to Colorado, who refused to build a coal plant in their own backyard? You must be heavily invested in this stupid scheme. No tax dollars to this coal plant. If they think it's such a great idea, let them pay for it. Let them take the risk. Let Colorado pay for it. I'm sick and tired of corporate welfare. It will not provide enough jobs to make any tax breaks worth it either.

hornhunter 7 years, 4 months ago

Where do you get the idea that tax dollars are paying for that power plant?

Ken Lassman 7 years, 4 months ago

Here's how: (From "Pay no attention to the taxpayer behind the curtain" which you can find at the www.gpace.org website)

"Nearly thirty years ago, Sunflower Electric Power Corporation took on huge debt, funded by American taxpayers, to build a coal-fired power plant in Holcomb, Kansas. Initially the utility predicted that the plant would act as a significant revenue source and that it would help keep rates low in the Sunflower service area.

Neither prediction came true.

By 1987, Sunflower was forced to admit the plant was generating too much electricity in a market flooded by new coal plants built in the 1980′s. Sunflower raised electricity rates on its customer-owners in an attempt to defray costs from the under-utilized facility. Eventually Sunflower was forced to restructure over five hundred million dollars in federal taxpayer loans on three different occasions. The company was never able to meet payment of the loans that, with interest, totaled nearly a billion dollars by 2002.

The third restructuring in 2007 might leave average Kansans scratching their heads. Sunflower Electric and the Rural Utility Service (RUS), a federal agency that supports rural electric companies, worked out an agreement to pay off some of the debt, and forgive most of what was still owed to taxpayers. A condition of that agreement, however, is construction of up to three more coal plants at Holcomb. The game was on, and the rules were changed again when the RUS freed Sunflower from federal environmental review of proposed new generation facilities."

So we lose our taxpayer's dollars, get a bunch of suburban sprawl in Colorado, spew mercury over eastern Kansas, and contribute to global warming. What's not to like?

hornhunter 7 years, 4 months ago

Like ,I would believe any of that one sided BS.

Bill Griffith 7 years, 4 months ago

Why not check out what Douglas County alleges and see if it is true or false? If it is not true you can call him on it and discredit him. Or do you only believe what is comfortable to your own particular outlook, facts be damned?

Ken Lassman 7 years, 4 months ago

It's a matter of public record, not opinion, unfortunately. I really wish it were not true, but if you don't believe me, like belexus suggests, check out the RUC records for yourself and see what you find.

Stephen Roberts 7 years, 4 months ago

snap - I have to disagree you will need 3,500 more posts not 350 more posts....

Merrill does 350 in his sleep

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