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Archive for Monday, October 25, 2010

Dozens voice concerns at final coal plant hearing

Karin Pagel-Meiners, Lawrence, speaks during public comment hearing on the proposal for an 895-megawatt coal-burning power plant in southwest Kansas. The hearing was held Monday at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Topeka.

Karin Pagel-Meiners, Lawrence, speaks during public comment hearing on the proposal for an 895-megawatt coal-burning power plant in southwest Kansas. The hearing was held Monday at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Topeka.

October 25, 2010, 4:02 p.m. Updated October 25, 2010, 5:53 p.m.

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— The Colorado-based electric supplier that has been a major force in trying to get a coal-burning power plant built in Kansas sees the 895-megawatt unit as simply an option in its long-term plans.

Jerry King, Spearville, director of marketing and communications at The Victory Electric Cooperative, a supporter of the proposed coal-burning plant in southwestern Kansas, left, and Dane Zahorsky, of Kansas City, Mo., an opponent of the proposed plant, visit after each testified during hearings in Topeka. Final public comment was taken Monday on the proposal for an 895-megawatt coal-burning power plant near Holcomb.

Jerry King, Spearville, director of marketing and communications at The Victory Electric Cooperative, a supporter of the proposed coal-burning plant in southwestern Kansas, left, and Dane Zahorsky, of Kansas City, Mo., an opponent of the proposed plant, visit after each testified during hearings in Topeka. Final public comment was taken Monday on the proposal for an 895-megawatt coal-burning power plant near Holcomb.

Lee Boughey, a spokesman for Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, testified Monday in favor of a permit for its partner, Hays-based Sunflower Electric Power Corp., to build the plant near Holcomb.

In comments made later to the Lawrence Journal-World, Boughey said Tri-State would support the permit process for the plant before the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and in court during the likely future litigation over the proposal.

If a final permit is secured, Boughey said that Tri-State would then decide whether the project still made economic sense for its customers.

Tri-State is “looking at numerous options to meet its resource needs. Holcomb is one of those,” he said.

He said issuance of the permit by the state would be the first step of the process, and then judicial review. If the permit survives, “then we decide whether to do it in the best interest of our customers.”

Tri-State includes 44 electric cooperatives serving 1.5 million people in Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming.

Of the 895-megawatt unit, 78 percent, or 695 megawatts, would be owned by Tri-State and used out of state. At peak capacity, the plant could power nearly half a million homes.

About 150 people attended Monday’s hearing, which was the final scheduled public meeting on the project that has dominated Kansas politics for more than three years. KDHE has received more than 5,600 comments on the proposed project. The number of those for and against hasn’t been sorted out yet, officials said.

Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, repeated many of the issues that supporters of the project have traditionally cited.

The project would provide jobs “at a time when our economy badly needs a lift,” Morris said. A new economic study by coal-producing utilities said the project would produce 1,900 construction jobs generating $400 million in total income, and then 88 permanent jobs with an annual payroll of $6.5 million.

Morris also pointed to the additional electricity and transmission lines that would be built, which, he and others said, would prompt more wind power development.

But opponents noted the health and environmental problems caused by climate-changing carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal.

Karin Pagel-Meiners of Lawrence said Kansas was wasting time debating the issue instead of focusing on renewable energy.

“Other states are moving ahead, and Kansas is falling behind,” she said.

The Kansas Sierra Club voiced its objection.

“If this is purely a ‘place-holding exercise’ for Tri-State, I would respectfully request that Tri-State initiate and undergo this permitting process in Colorado,” said Stephanie Cole, a spokeswoman for the Sierra Club. “Kansas has already spent an inexcusable amount of public time on a coal that is not needed for our state.”

Just over three years ago, KDHE Secretary Roderick Bremby denied a permit sought by Sunflower Electric for a larger project.

“I believe it would be irresponsible to ignore emerging information about the contribution of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to climate change and the potential harm to our environment and health if we do nothing,” Bremby had said.

The denial was touted as the first time a government agency in the United States blocked construction of a coal-burning plant based on its effects on climate change.

The Kansas Legislature, dominated by supporters of the project, tried to overturn Bremby’s decision with legislation, but each time was thwarted by vetoes by then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

In 2009, Sebelius left Kansas to become secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

That elevated Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson into the governor’s job. Almost immediately Parkinson crafted a deal with Sunflower Electric to bless the project — in exchange for reducing it from two 700-megawatt units and getting legislators to approve renewable energy legislation.

The deal was done, and Sunflower re-entered the permit process.

Joe Douglas, a Lawrence resident, testified Monday in opposition to the plant and said that nothing had changed between Bremby’s permit denial in 2007 and now except the political situation.

“The issue is short-term profit versus long-term ill effects,” Douglas said, adding that Bremby should deny the permit. “I call on Secretary Bremby to simply do the right thing, and become a hero to me, my children and my grandchildren and to the people of Kansas.”

Comments

blindrabbit 4 years, 2 months ago

This (Tri-State) group did not want the plant in Colorado; which is closer to coal source in Wyoming. Also did not want the air pollution; remember the prevailing wind moves from Colorado to Kansas, therefore a Kansas located plant would not impact Colorado's air condition. Also, a Kansas located facility will require a water source in Kansas; the only viable source in Western Kansas is to draw down the aquifer; already being rapidly depleted by out-of-place agricultural crops. Planting corn and soybeans in an area suitable for dryland crops such as winter wheat and milo may be profitable but requires a lot of irrigation to the detriment of the aquifer.

Also, most of the electricity consumption which would be generated by this facility would not be by Kansas customers; but to Oklahoma and Colorado users. Also, the overall trend is to move away from coal generated electricity production due to environmental concerns; most of the rest of the country realizes this; apparently Kansas does not. Also, what does added air pollutants generated in Western Kansas do for the Eastern part of the State once EPA introduces new air pollutant standard; we in Eastern Kansas are now almost out of compliance for ozone standards during the summer. Are we ready to be forced into re-formulated gasoline with increased costs to maintain of air compliance status??

Ken Lewis 4 years, 2 months ago

Good points blindrabbit.

My biggest problem with this plant is how the State heavily regulates farmer's use of the groundwater for agriculture. The other surrounding states don’t even regulate the aquifer's agricultural usage, but KS does. Yet Kansas gave an open check to a power company to pull 8000 acre feet of year of water out of the Ogallala Aquifer annually. All of it will be evaporatively lost. I guess the farmers just don’t have the lobby pull of the power company.

Kansas also has at least one engineering firm with the horsepower to execute such a project and the governor did not even bother to secure those jobs for Kansas when making this sacrifice.

kansastruthteller 4 years, 2 months ago

You need to do some fact checking. First, CO and NE do regulate water and second, KS regulates ag use and industrial use equally and fairly.

The water to be used by the power plants is not new water. It is water that has already been allocated so only the use is changed and the amount of water that the plant can use has been decreased to compensate for the differences in ag and industrial use. Hence, the net consumption will not increase.

KEITHMILES05 4 years, 2 months ago

So what if the majority of power is exported? Do you think the planes made in Wichita are only sold in Kansas? LOL.

The assertion Kansas is being left behind in finding other sources of energy is a lie and preposterous. There are numerous wind farms built and being built.

Also, the first poster said planting corn and soybeans in W. Ks. needs irrigation. Yes, that is true but the poster has NO IDEA whatsoever that DRYLAND corn is HUGE in W. Ks and there are many more acres to dryland than irrigation. Please, know your facts before spewing the political line.

The bottom line is this state and other states need energy and they need it now; not 10-20 years from now while all the do gooders are wringing their hands over the less than adequate supplies of energy.

This is a good project and should be approved.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 2 months ago

"The bottom line is this state and other states need energy and they need it now;"

No, we don't. What we need is greater energy efficiency and conservation. It's only Sunflower that needs the coal plant to bail themselves out from their bad investments.

eagle1a 4 years, 2 months ago

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puddleglum 4 years, 2 months ago

keith, so do we need the energy, or does colorado, I thought you said it makes no difference. your post makes no sense.

dryland corn is huge, but it is not the only crop out there. when you state stuff such as: " Please, know your facts before spewing the political line." you should take your own advice.

KEITHMILES05 4 years, 2 months ago

Oh yes I Know what I speak of. Corn this year is almost equal to wheat. I never once said it was the only crop. I have lived out there for years and have family in farming so yes, I know what I speak of.

Joe Blackford II 4 years, 2 months ago

"Of the 895-megawatt unit, 78 percent, or 695 megawatts, would be owned by Tri-State and used out of state. "

"This is a good project and should be approved." kmiles

IF we take your presumption to heart, it seems logical for Kansans to negotiate mitigating factors into an agreement to approve a permit:

Colorado & Nebraska should be eager to swap surface water in the Arkansas & Republican Rivers = to 78% of the usage from Ogallala aquifer, NO?

All states using the power should be eager to accept KS' increase in air pollution, by asking EPA to divide 78% of that increase & assess it to the air quality standards of the other states based upon % electrical usage. I'm sure those Coloradans will be particularly eager to walk to work in exchange for us breathing more pollutants, NO?

I'm sure Tri-State can come up with mitigation measures to put a happy face on ALL Kansans in exchange for this "good project," NO?

Jefferson_County 4 years, 2 months ago

That's right, the do bad-ers want their coal plant now.

blindrabbit 4 years, 2 months ago

Keith:. I am the "first poster" and I know full-well the acreage comparison of dryland crops to irrigated ones in Western Kansas. Winter wheat and milo production in Western Kansas far exceeds the acreage devoted to corn and soybeans (Kansas usually leads the U.S. in wheat and nearly so in milo production, not so with corn and beans); the fact that the latter two are planted out there is due to irrigation. I travel across Western Kansas frequently and have observed the increase in center pivot and flatland irrigation that have ballooned in the past 5 years. The attempt at cotton plantings out there a few years ago is in now in decline partially due to water issues. Otherwise, my initial comments cannot be refuted

I have no problems with "clean" sources and especially wind; having visited Spearville, Montezuma, Salina etc.

average 4 years, 2 months ago

The really frustrating part about the Sunflower proposal is that the power is guaranteed... locked in by contractual obligation... to be sold to Colorado.

If a great industrial opportunity or growth boom came to Garden/Dodge, they'd have to build another plant. If they can get the water rights for another plant. If there aren't cap-and-trade considerations at that time.

Colorado wants power. They don't want the plant. We could get more out of the deal.

Chris Golledge 4 years, 2 months ago

Well, if the plant proponents are arguing that we need the power, but we will get very little of it regardless... Obviously, building the plant will not solve whatever energy shortage you think we have.

KEITHMILES05 4 years, 2 months ago

Why do you think that? Where is your proof?

blindrabbit 4 years, 2 months ago

Keith: I'm sorry I made a comment about grain production in my initial post; my comment there was to point out aquifer depletion, not grain production. The newspaper story was about the coal fired facility at Holcomb; we all seemed to drift off of that subject.

But if you insist: Kansas 2009 wheat vrs. corn

Wheat acreage: 8.2 million acres Wheat yield: 369 million bushels, @ 45 bu/acre average Wheat $ yield: $2,487,000,000 (based on today's market price)

Corn acreage: 4.7 million acres Corn Yield: 607 million bushels, @ 129 bu/acre average Corn $ yield: $3,447,000,000 (based on today's market price)

These two crops account for about 5.9 billion dollars of revenue out of a Kansas total of about 9.2 billion dollars in agricultural production.

Kontum1972 4 years, 2 months ago

and what are the green solutions...?....any?

what happened to all this solar panel hype?

Randall Uhrich 4 years, 2 months ago

Les, trees cause accelerated erosion. If you don't believe me, go walk around in a wooded area and notice that there is almost no grass covering the ground, and that the roots of older trees are more and more exposed with age. It has long been a fallacy that any vegetation retards erosion, but in fact it's primarily grasses, not trees. Trees are also heavy consumers of groundwater. That is why during a drought farmers often sacrifice their trees. This point notwhithstanding, it is still foolish to sacrifice the limited and finite supply of Kansas' groundwater for a polluting and economically unsound coal plant construction.

Steve Miller 4 years, 2 months ago

Facts do not really matter, it is the one with the most money that will prevail. Trust me , the coal people will prevail, they have money and corporate greed on their side. And one other fact you may want to digest, renewable fuels, ethanol for example, it's production leaves a larger carbon foot print to produce , it is not green by any means at this point. Plus the fact that the competition of food for fuel weighs in heavily also.

Moderateguy 4 years, 2 months ago

Let me first state that I do not like burning coal for electricity. Some of the opponents however would simply just dictate that we all live in tee-pees and eat nothing but organically grown vegetables. That isn't going to happen. If you are against coal, you need to be ready for nuclear power. Solar technology simply isn't there yet. Wind is a good supplement to other sources, but cannot replace it all. Right now, I'm an "all of the above" guy. The Picken's Plan is a good start. Investments need to be made into energy research to create a long term solution for us all. The sooner we can make the middle east irrelevant, the better. Until then, "all of the above."

Moderateguy 4 years, 2 months ago

Let me first state that I do not like burning coal for electricity. Some of the opponents however would simply just dictate that we all live in tee-pees and eat nothing but organically grown vegetables. That isn't going to happen. If you are against coal, you need to be ready for nuclear power. Solar technology simply isn't there yet. Wind is a good supplement to other sources, but cannot replace it all. Right now, I'm an "all of the above" guy. The Picken's Plan is a good start. Investments need to be made into energy research to create a long term solution for us all. The sooner we can make the middle east irrelevant, the better. Until then, "all of the above."

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 2 months ago

"Some of the opponents however would simply just dictate that we all live in tee-pees and eat nothing but organically grown vegetables."

Straw man.

"If you are against coal, you need to be ready for nuclear power."

Pure assertion. The downsides to nuclear are many, first among them its expense. Why else do you think none have been built in the last 30 years?

"Solar technology simply isn't there yet. Wind is a good supplement to other sources, but cannot replace it all."

Neither needs to replace it all. The single biggest leg to improving our energy situation is efficiency and conservation. If we pursue that vigorously, developments in wind, solar and other alternatives will allow us to dramatically reduce our dependence on coal and nuclear.

"The Picken's Plan is a good start."

It relies heavily on increased use of natural gas, which in turn relies heavily on "fracking," a process that appears to have serious environmental impacts.

"Investments need to be made into energy research to create a long term solution for us all."

Agreed.

mr_right_wing 4 years, 2 months ago

Ahh....the day we have the technology to harnass lightning. Our problems with electical power will be over.

Now that's the research we need to fund my friends.

Clark Coan 4 years, 2 months ago

What agency or bank would give them a loan in this environment?

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