Archive for Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fair fight?

Apparent attempts to mislead the Kansas Supreme Court don’t reflect well on the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

November 9, 2011


You might call it stretching the truth or misrepresenting the facts, but many would simply call it a lie.

The regional administrator for the federal Environmental Protection Agency was a bit more polite, saying last week that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment had “incorrectly informed the court” in written arguments last month to the Kansas Supreme Court.

The court filing was made in connection with the ongoing dispute between the EPA and KDHE over a permit that would allow construction of a coal-fired power plant in southwest Kansas. KDHE attorneys asserted that the “EPA has no substantial objection to the issuance of the construction permit.”

It’s not clear exactly what they meant by “substantial,” but the EPA certainly has objections as verified by Karl Brooks, EPA Region 7 administrator, who cited three letters from the agency telling KDHE the permit issued to Sunflower Electric Corp. was not strong enough and needed to include federal standards for nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide emissions.

After the dispute was reported last week, a KDHE spokeswoman said that the officials in that office would have no comment.

Whether people are opposed to or supportive of Sunflower’s coal-fired plant, the regulatory trail this project has traveled over the last four or five years raises questions and concerns.

The permit originally was denied while Rod Bremby was serving as KDHE secretary under Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. After Sebelius left office to lead the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, new Gov. Mark Parkinson bartered a deal to allow the plant’s construction. As he neared the end of his term, however, the permit had not been issued. Bremby abruptly was removed from his post, and, shortly thereafter, in December 2010, the permit was issued by the acting KDHE secretary.

Several months later, a Kansas City newspaper traced a trail of emails that detailed some disturbingly cozy dealings between KDHE and Sunflower, which got to pick out and answer questions that were supposed to help shape requirements of the permit. KDHE then passed Sunflower’s responses off as its own.

KDHE has a new secretary now, Robert Moser, but the Sunflower permit process still is raising questions. Last June, Moser granted an unusual permit extension to Sunflower in an apparent attempt to allow the plant to skirt new, stricter federal pollution standards. Now, it appears KDHE attorneys were trying to mislead the Kansas Supreme Court by ignoring EPA objections to the permit.

This is a contentious fight, but it doesn’t help KDHE or Kansas to be caught misrepresenting the facts of the case.


Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

"It’s not clear exactly what they meant by “substantial,”

That reminds me of something:

"It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is."

Localeyes 6 years, 6 months ago

Of note, the attorneys who filed the brief on behalf of KDHE and misled the Kansas Supreme Court include the Kansas Attorney General (that would be the state's highest law enforcement official).

In a previous report (compiled by Black & Veatch for Sunflower), there is clear indication that the project will be phased for the western grid. There is also a presumption that the electricity produced by the plant will be phased for the western grid intrinsic to Dr. Gamble's (of FHSU) economic calculations of the value of electricity provided to Colorado.

Additionally, there is information contained in portions of the permit application that indicates electrical energy production at the project will be phased for the western grid and delivered via high-voltage direct connections to Tri-State's service area. These materials are publicly available on KDHE's website (

And, Sunflower's own newsletter specific to the Holcomb Expansion project indicates a WAPA project that "would build 600-800 miles of new high-voltage transmission lines to deliver energy from the new Tri-State generating units in Kansas and provide additional transmission capacity in eastern Colorado." (

Public records from the federal district court case involving Sunflower and RUS contain a lot of interesting (and unreported) details regarding the project, including the declaration of former Sunflower CEO Earl Watkins which explains in detail how Tri-State is the exclusive owner of the currently proposed and a potential additional coal-fired generating unit at Holcomb Station. As Mr. Watkins explains, if only one unit is ultimately proposed for the expansion, that unit will be "Tri-State's unit." He also explains that Tri-State has the right to develop the unit without participation by Sunflower or any Kansas utilities.

The currently proposed project will, if it becomes operational, generate electrical power phased for the western grid (where Tri-State's service area is located), and not for the eastern grid (where Sunflower's service area is located). The federal court documents, including Mr. Watkins' sworn affidavit are publicly available.

According to its own reports, Tri-State has spent somewhere in the range of $70 million to fund the Kansas coal plant battle. According to its own modeling, Tri-State has no need for the Holcomb coal plant. Tri-State is on record stating that construction on the plant will not begin before 2016 at the earliest.

The pervasive lying and corruption reaching every branch of Kansas government through repeated attempts to get this unnecessary and polluting plant built in Kansas, has been funded by and for the benefit of an out-of-state utility that is under absolutely no obligation to provide power, jobs, or value to Kansas. Ever.

kenos 6 years, 6 months ago

The EPA has declared carbon dioxide, one of the building blocks of life, a dangerous pollutant. They have declared the dust farmers must necessarily raise, as something that must be obliterated. They have tried to stop farmers from burning off the dry grass, as they have for many years. It would be a shame to mislead the EPA in any way. Thank you LJW for showing them proper subservience.

JustNoticed 6 years, 6 months ago

Yes, CO2 is a "building block of life". So is water which can be pretty harmful if what you are trying to breathe has too much of the stuff in it.

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