Archive for Friday, January 14, 2011

Sierra Club files legal challenge to coal-burning power plant in southwest Kansas

Holcomb 1, pictured above, is operating at 85 percent capacity. The Holcomb Station Project proposed by Sunflower Electric Power Corporation would add a second plant that would operate at 90 percent capacity.

Holcomb 1, pictured above, is operating at 85 percent capacity. The Holcomb Station Project proposed by Sunflower Electric Power Corporation would add a second plant that would operate at 90 percent capacity.

January 14, 2011


— The Kansas Sierra Club on Friday filed a legal challenge to the state permit for an 895-megawatt coal-burning electric power plant in southwest Kansas.

The lawsuit alleges that the permit issued last month by the Kansas Department and Health and Environment fails to adequately control hazardous pollutants. It also says that the permitting process was improperly influenced by special interests.

"When it comes to millions of tons of pollution for a coal plant that is not needed for Kansas, there is no place for mistake or misconduct," said Stephanie Cole, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Sierra Club.

The proposal by Sunflower Electric Power Corp. to build a coal-fired plant near Holcomb has been at the center of controversy for several years.

In 2007, then-KDHE Secretary Roderick Bremby rejected Sunflower Electric's proposal to build two 700-megawatt plants, citing the threat of greenhouse gas emissions on environment and health.

When Gov. Mark Parkinson took office in 2009 he brokered a deal with Sunflower that would allow one 895-megawatt plant.

As the permit process neared Bremby's desk, some supporters of the project complained that Bremby was dragging his feet.

In November, Bremby was no longer secretary. Parkinson had said he asked Bremby to take a job to help manage the transition of incoming Gov. Sam Brownback and Bremby refused.

Shortly after Bremby was gone, the new permit was issued.

Under the proposal, Sunflower's partner Tri-State Transmission and Generation Association Inc. of Westminster, Colo., would get 75 percent of the power for customers in Colorado.

The lawsuit was filed in the Kansas Court of Appeals by attorney Robert Eye and attorneys for Earthjustice.


kenos 7 years, 3 months ago

With a little investigation, as well as common sense, you will find powerful families like the Rockefeller's behind political non-governmental agencies posing as environmental agiences like the Sierra Club. These families are the creators/promoters of Agenda 21 through the UN, with a mandate to de-industrialize the United States. China is building lots of coal-fired coal plants, with fewer regulations than we have, and we're paying for them through the GATT treaty. Meanwhile we're losing our tax base and being encouraged into an austerity, also branded as sustainability.

littlexav 7 years, 3 months ago

That's quite the conspiracy theory you've got going on there. Deindustrialization? Aside from the fact that there would be no money to be made in that process, I'm willing to bet that it's not even possible. We're a consumer-driven economy, and likely will be for the foreseeable future.

littlexav 7 years, 3 months ago

And have you even read Agenda 21 or have you just heard about it somewhere? First of all, it's an incredible piece of prose. Second, by my reading, the goals are to increase global trade (Sec 2.1), not to foreclose it. The overarching principle is market-led capitalism, which America used to have a world monopoly on. Encouraging trade liberalization--with an eye towards preserving ever-scarcer resources as the world population edges upwards of 7 billion people--seems perfectly reasonable.

nobody1793 7 years, 3 months ago

You mean the Rockefellers, as in the family that invented 'big oil', are now hippies?

dontsheep 7 years, 3 months ago

That does seem a bit out of character. But don't forget...the Rockefellers are also behind big pharma and medical education/research. All in the name of philanthropy.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 3 months ago

If only you had Glenn Beck's chalkboard, I'm sure you could prove this theory. Especially the part about the Rockefellers, and especially about that Senator Rockefeller dude from W. Virginia who supports coal not because it's the biggest industry in his state, but because it's a good cover for the grand conspiracy you've so brilliantly uncovered.

Way to go!!!

Matt Bowers 7 years, 3 months ago

What industry is this going to kill in Western Kansas? As a person who spends their summer in Upstate New York, I can tell you first hand the damage to the environment from coal burning power plants in the Midwest. Acid rain is devastating the East.

At some point Americans need to grasp the same ingenuity that made this country great and start creating alternative energy. Why are so many people so reluctant to change? Hopefully the Sierra Club can turn this into a positive.

KEITHMILES05 7 years, 3 months ago

The stupid sierra club thinks special interests were involved? That is high comedy since they are sqwaking loudly and every step of the way they have attempted to influence things. They have had their say and need to STFU and allow the process to move forward. BTW, the sierra's could care less about what this means for future needs of SW and NW Ks. There are real needs and they need to be met and YES production is going to be sold to out of state to meet their needs. So what! Does this club really think everything made in Ks. has to be consumed here? The sierra people are the short sighted and sore losers in this deal.

bluehorse22 7 years, 3 months ago

It has nothing to do with consumption and everything to do with pollution. Why should Kansans have to live with the pollution this coal plant will produce when 75% of the energy is going to Colorado? Let them build the plant in Colorado and live with their own pollution if they really need the additional energy source so much. We obviously don't need it if we are not using the energy it will produce!!

KEITHMILES05 7 years, 3 months ago

The pollution is negligble at best. Stop spouting off the clubs company line. Unless you live in the area of Sunflower you wouldn't know the first thing about pollution.

JustNoticed 7 years, 3 months ago

False dilemma. You are disqualified for illogic.

tunahelper 7 years, 3 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Bill Griffith 7 years, 3 months ago

Sunflower hosted Sierra Club members on a tour of the proposed site years ago. Check your facts first. Also, as I peruse the air permit comments I note Sierra Club staff and volunteers testifying at the hearing in Garden City. I didn't hear anything in the news right after that hearing stating any violence towards them. But I wasn't there, maybe you were at the hearing holding back the folks attempting to do harm to them. If so, kudos to you.

deec 7 years, 3 months ago

So the people who want to protect human life by protecting the air, land and water don't care about human life? Wow.

Matt Bowers 7 years, 3 months ago

Since when is the air and water not connected to human life? The real problem is the people who continue to support the use of a resource that is not sustainable and then resort to blasting those who speak about change and the environment. Take a trip to the East if you want to see the damage acid rain from the Midwest causes. Why not start considering renewable resources that aren't as harsh on the is that bad and why do you label people hippies who think this way? What are you so afraid of?

Brock Masters 7 years, 3 months ago

Wonder if Rod is still getting paid?

All those against the new plant - are you also for shutting down existing ones too?

jafs 7 years, 3 months ago

I'm in favor of retrofitting all current plants so as to cut as far down on pollution as possible.

And in favor of all of us being mindful in our consumption.

Perhaps the combination of the two will mitigate the destruction of our environment until we can find better ways to provide for our daily needs.

Brock Masters 7 years, 3 months ago

Can't argue with what you stated about retrofitting and mindful of consumption.

But the question I then have and is it is okay to have coal plants in the east, then why isn't it okay to have one in western KS that meets the strictest standards and conforms to all applicable law?

jafs 7 years, 3 months ago

Because we don't need new ones if we're mindful in our consumption.

And, the more we build, the greater our destruction of the natural world.

If there were a better way right now to provide for our needs, I'd be in favor of shutting down all polluting sources immediately.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 3 months ago

You know, if we'd legalize child porn, it would have a pretty good export market, too.

Bill Griffith 7 years, 3 months ago


 A timely answer to your question concerning the shutting down of existing coal plants is found in a request by KCC staff to open a general docket on whether retrofitting LaCygne coal complex (owned by Westar and KCPL) is in the financial interest of the ratepayers or, would it be better to go in a different directions.  So, not only are environmentalists studying this question you pose, but the Kansas Corporation Commission is going to as well.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 3 months ago

Why shouldn't any new coal fired plant meet the strictest guidelines?

We consumers are helping China build new polluters and weapons systems by not demanding that corp america relocate back to america? Billions upon billions upon billions of USA dollars find their way to the Communist Chinese government annually.... with the approval of the USA consumers. It is up to WE consumers and our elected officials to change this situation.

Meanwhile the Sierra Club and it's taxpaying members are within their legal right to challenge the promotion of pollution each and every step of the way. Not only does coal power poluute our air but also drains our pocketbooks. Coal may be cheap and dirty but our rates do not reflect cheap by any stretch of the imagination.

Coal power also puts out a fair amount of radioactive waste.

Now why in the world would any taxpayer want to be forced to guarantee the cost of construction and insurance of new very very expensive coal fired plants and nuclear power plants? Is this fiscally responsible?

Richard Heckler 7 years, 3 months ago

When we receive our energy bills just so we can maintain a reasonable lifestyle we must think of OTHER contributing factors to the cost of energy in the USA:

  1. High dollar CEO salaries plus stock options
  2. Special interest funding of elections at federal and state levels
  3. shareholder dividends
  4. golden parachutes
  5. executive retirement packages which include medical insurance
  6. lawyer fees when corporations get busted for safety violations
  7. lawyer fees when corporations get sued for the deaths of workers
  8. manipulation of available supply

Because electric energy seems like a basic necessity shouldn't items 1,2,3,4,5 and 8 be removed as expenses to we ratepayers?

I'm ready for nationalized energy and efficiency. Obviously private industry is about everything else but efficiency and clean operation.

ksriver2010 7 years, 3 months ago

And don't forget legal fees defending themselves in court against the Sierra Club et al. The process was crooked, Bremby is an example. Completely messes up Parkinson's cred. BUT the regs still allow a coal plant of that output and magnitude.

ksriver2010 7 years, 3 months ago

You are incorrect. Most raw materials do not belong to the masses. That is why the field across the street from land I "own" in southern KS has an owner of the land, an owner of the water rights, and an owner of the mineral rights. And a person who leases it and farms it. Developers have looked into developing it but they cannot get traction with so many owners.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 7 years, 3 months ago

Why does this surprise anyone? These idiots need to keep their existance in front of the news media, what better way than to continue the stupid notion of how productive and needed electric power production is somehow "harmful" to the country. These people are like the Phelpses. Outrageous and stupid behavior seems to get press.

Jimo 7 years, 3 months ago

Normally, I'd be more sympathetic to the environmental complaints but this is as silly as some of the polar bear ESA efforts.

Taking the science at face value, there is zero legal connection between the GHG emissions and the harm claimed as GHG are a global phenomena for which any local action has a negligible impact. This proximate and discrete harm is a mandatory requirement for a successful lawsuit.

It's a bit like treating a person whose body is riddled with cancer by attacking a single cancer cell. Absent a comprehensive and coordinated effort, you would just be wasting resources and probably harming the patient further.

I have no problem with the EPA implementing such a comprehensive effort nationally if it were coordinated with a global treaty covering all (or virtually all) GHG emitters but short of that, again, you'd be wasting resources and causing human suffering without any positive payoff.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 7 years, 3 months ago

What really bugs me, is that I hear yowling about selling power to people out of state. What is the rub here? These are Kansas jobs. In case you have not been looking for one lately, they are pretty scarce. And I do not hear any yowling about selling GM and Ford cars and trucks (made in Kansas) out of state, airplanes made in Wichita sold out of state, or wheat grown in Kansas sold out of state???

Methinks the liberal loons are stretching a point with their stupid actions.

Ken Lassman 7 years, 3 months ago

Since you asked, here is a partial list of the issues: 1) Build wind, you get lots more jobs than you'll ever get with another coal fired unit at Holcomb. 2) Wind and solar use lots less water, leaving it for other Western KS endeavors 3) Whether you like it or even believe it, the millions of tons of carbon emitted by this size of coal burner is a significant contributor to overloading the planet's carbon sinks (those things like soil, oceans, etc.) that results in long wave radiation being retained for longer periods, i.e. global warming. Physical fact, just like smoking cigs can trigger complex changes in the body that lead to lung cancer. Strong evidence that the sooner we take measures to reduce carbon output, the less extreme will be the consequences. 4) We really don't need the extra power in Colorado either and the trend is strongly against building new coal fired plants: · -For the second straight year, not a single new coal plant broke ground for construction in 2010. · -A total of 48 existing coal plants were announced for retirement in 2010, which is likely the most coal plant retirements announced in a single year. They will be replaced with cleaner burning fuels, renewable energy, and energy efficiency.
· -Colorado, where most of the electricity from the Holcomb II coal plant will go, established a plan to shut down 902 megawatts of existing coal capacity. · -Announced coal plant retirements in 2010 in Colorado, Arizona, Utah and Oregon will result in the retirement of nearly 10% of the entire Western coal fleet. · -The Energy Information Agency now projects that no new coal plants will be built in 2011 without significant incentives.

So, bottom line: it ain't liberal loons, it's the investment community, policy makers trying to grapple with the future, and even the economists who are saying these things. Any more questions?

Richard Heckler 7 years, 3 months ago

What goes up the Coal stacks also goes into your lungs:

*Mercury – Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that causes neurological and developmental problems. Children and pregnant women are especially vulnerable.

Coal Power plants in the United States release approximately 45 to 50 tons of mercury into the air every year. This mercury settles into water bodies, where it works its way up the food chain and contaminates the fish we eat. Even the best controlled new coal-fired utility boiler will emitmore than 100 pounds of mercury each year.

*Sulfur dioxide – Sulfur dioxide in the air can aggravate respiratory problems such as asthma and can worsen heart disease. Some older power plants built before 1970are allowed to operate without the pollution control equipment necessary to control emissions of sulfur dioxide.

*Particulate matter – Particulate matter can cause respiratory problems such as bronchitis, reduce lung function, cause breathing difficulties, aggravate asthma and heart disease, and increase the chance of heart attack and stroke. Particulate matter causes thousands of premature deaths every year.

*Nitrogen oxides – Nitrogen oxides react with other chemicals in the air in the presence of sunlight to form ground level ozone, or smog. Ozone aggravates asthma and causes lung damage and decreased lung function.

Three major investment banks, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan Chase, and Morgan Stanley, will announce new environmental standards today that are expected to make it more difficult for large coal-fired power plants in the United States to get funding.

The standards anticipate some form of cap-and-trade program becoming law in the U.S. in coming years and seek to force utilities to plan for the inevitable; coal plants seeking funding would first have to prove they can be financially viable under a cap-and-trade system.

The three banks said that they would consider funding energy efficiency measures and renewable-energy projects ahead of coal plants and that when funding coal projects they'll heavily favor plants that can successfully capture and sequester their carbon emissions.

The banks maintain that their primary motivation for the standards is financial; Wall Street bigwigs don't want to be stuck with debt when coal plants are forced to pay for at least a portion of their emission allowances under cap and trade.

Jeffrey Holzschuh of Morgan Stanley paraphrased Melissa Etheridge, crooning, "We have to wake up some people who are asleep."

source: The Wall Street Journal

Richard Heckler 7 years, 3 months ago

The Real Dirt on "Clean" Nuclear Energy

* The mining, milling and enrichment of uranium into nuclear fuel are extremely energy-intensive and result in the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels.

* Estimated "energy recovery time" for a nuclear power plant is about 10 to 18 years, depending on the richness of uranium ores mined for fuel. This means that a nuclear power plant must operate for at least a decade before all the energy consumed to build and fuel the plant has been earned back and the power station begins to produce net energy. By comparison, wind power takes less than a year to yield net energy, and solar or photovoltaic power nets energy in less than three years.

* The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has calculated that collective radiation doses amounting to 12 cancer deaths can be expected for each 20-year term a reactor operates, as a result of radioactive emissions from the nuclear fuel cycle and routine reactor operations. This calculation assumes no unplanned accidents and does not consider radiation releases from high-level nuclear waste "disposal" activities. Nor are nonfatal health impacts related to radiation exposure counted in this tally.

* Thermal pollution from nuclear power plants adversely affects marine ecosystems. "Once-through" cooling systems in use at half the U.S. nuclear reactors discharge billions of gallons of water per day at temperatures up to 25 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the water into which it flows.

The Waste Problem

* A typical reactor will generate 20 to 30 tons of high-level nuclear waste annually. There is no known way to safely dispose of this waste, which remains dangerously radioactive for a quarter of a million years.

* The nuclear power industry has amassed hundreds of thousands of tons of "low-level" radioactive waste (or, in industry and regulatory parlance, "slightly radioactive solid materials"), which has created an enormous disposition problem. The industry hopes to absolve itself from liability for this waste through the insane practice of "releasing" it from regulatory control, whereupon it could be sent to recycling facilities and ultimately end up in common consumer products!

Safety and Security Risks

* Accidents do happen, as history has taught us at Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and, most recently, the Davis-Besse nuclear plant near Toledo, Ohio, which came dangerously close to disaster when acid corroded a hole in its reactor head. Don’t forget reports that the al Qaeda terrorist organization considered an attack on a U.S. nuclear power station.

* The insurance industry won’t insure against nuclear power plant accidents. Nuclear power plant operators rely on a government-backed "Price-Anderson" insurance scheme that limits their liability in the event of an accident or attack.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 3 months ago

No contemporary energy source is as environmentally irresponsible, imposes such a high liability on taxpayers, or is as dangerous as nuclear power. Industry efforts to "greenwash" nuclear energy make a mockery of clean energy goals. Although nuclear reactors do not emit carbon dioxide, promoting nuclear risks to reduce greenhouse emissions is the classic jump from the frying pan into the fire!

AGAIN - The insurance industry won’t insure against nuclear power plant accidents. Nuclear power plant operators rely on a government-backed "Price-Anderson" insurance scheme that limits their liability in the event of an accident or attack. This is WE the taxpayers!

And Expensive Too!

* The Department of Energy admits that "Economic viability for a nuclear plant is difficult to demonstrate." Since the inception of commercial nuclear power in the United States 50 years ago, this industry has been propped up by huge government subsidies.

* Energy legislation before the House would authorize production tax credits for new nuclear power plants, which would cost $5.7 billion by 2025, according to the Energy Information Administration.

* Throwing more tax dollars at nuclear power will not make it safer, cleaner or more economical. Further, these subsidies to a mature industry distort electricity markets by granting nuclear power an unfair and undesirable advantage over safe, clean energy alternatives.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 3 months ago

Citizens in France have become somewhat disenchanted. Nobody wants the toxic radioactive waste that never dies in their backyards. Can we say the poop is hitting the fan?

gccs14r 7 years, 3 months ago

I'd like to know what the folks in western Kansas think they're going to drink after Sunflower pumps all their water away. Farmers out there better brush up on their dryland farming techniques, too. It's not just the air pollution that makes this plant a bad idea.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 3 months ago

Excess copy/paste activity is killing the planet.

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