Archive for Tuesday, January 31, 2012

U.S. court puts up roadblock on Sunflower Electric Power Corp. coal-burning power plant in Kansas

January 31, 2012


Related document

Court decision in Sunflower Electric case ( .PDF )

TOPEKA — Environmentalists on Tuesday cheered a court ruling that the proposed 895-megawatt coal-fired power plant in southwest Kansas cannot be built until there is a thorough environmental review.

“We are confident that once the environmental impacts of this plant are considered in light of alternatives, the project’s impacts will be unacceptable and it will be rejected,” said the Sierra Club’s Scott Allegrucci.

Officials with Sunflower Electric Power Corp., which has been pushing for the project near Holcomb, had no immediate comment.

Cindy Hertel, a spokeswoman for Hays-based Sunflower Electric, said the company was analyzing the court decision.

The ruling was handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Emmett Sullivan in Washington, D.C.

Sullivan’s decision follows a March 2011 ruling that the federal government’s Rural Utilities Service, which was financially supporting the Sunflower project, failed to consider environmental impacts of the plant.

Sullivan has ordered “RUS shall not issue any approvals or consents for agreements or arrangements directly related to the Holcomb Expansion Project, or take any other major federal actions in connection with the Holcomb Expansion Project, until an EIS is complete.”

The decision represents another twist in the project that has rocked Kansas politics for years.

In 2007, Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Rod Bremby denied a permit to Sunflower Electric citing the effects of the project’s carbon dioxide emissions on health and climate change.

The Legislature tried to override Bremby’s decision but each time was thwarted by vetoes by then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

When Sebelius became secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, her successor Mark Parkinson almost immediately crafted a deal with Sunflower to bless the project.

In November 2010, Bremby was removed after refusing to resign as head of the KDHE to coordinate the cabinet transition from Parkinson’s administration to that of incoming Gov. Sam Brownback. Bremby said he was willing to help with the transition, but didn’t want to leave office to do so.

After Bremby’s departure, replacement John Mitchell approved a permit for a proposed 895-megawatt coal-burning power plant, just before new federal regulations on greenhouse gases went into effect.


oletimer 6 years ago

Yeah. Let's just shut down everything and go back to burning wood. Oh wait, no electricity? No Phones? No luxuries as this spoiled society now enjoy? Good luck with that! The tree huggers can keep on wasting taxpayer dollars on court actions, and no one will notice as long as the lights are on. That's how they get away with this and hear nothing about it from the public.

Roland Gunslinger 6 years ago

Seriously? Ever hear of nuclear energy? Wind? Solar? Hydroelectric?

This post of yours just tells everyone how ignorant on the subject you are.

TongiJayhawk 6 years ago

"Ever hear of nuclear energy?" Unfortunately the same groups would and have put a stop to our best source of electricity!

jafs 6 years ago

If we weren't subsidizing oil and gas, you might have a point.

Otherwise, alternative energy isn't competing on a level playing field, and we can't draw any meaningful conclusions.

esteshawk 6 years ago

Environmental groups are funded by members of the public, so they do hear from the public.

Getaroom 6 years ago

You clearly have no place to stand with these comments. Baseless blather, why did you bother?

Getaroom 6 years ago

This comment below was intended for "oletimer" not "esteshawk".

"You clearly have no place to stand with these comments. Baseless blather, why did you bother?"

Carol Bowen 6 years ago

Wasn't the plant rejected in Colorado? And, wasn't the power for Colorado?

Kendall Simmons 6 years ago

Yup. That was my understanding, too.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

The coal industry has spent $million putting those notions in your heads.

chootspa 6 years ago

Are they going to put netting around the coal plant to keep the workers from jumping? Are they going to wake everyone up at midnight when Apple wants a different iPhone design? That's why China's stealing our jobs, and if that's what they expect out of workers, I say they should keep them.

KS 6 years ago

Or those with the money to do it and create jobs in the process of contruction.

Ken Lassman 6 years ago

Isn't the RUS the public agency that gave Sunflower Power a big loan to build the first Holcomb Plant when it was constructed? And that's the same loan that Sunflower Power couldn't pay off after building Holcomb because they weren't selling enough electricity? Even after refinancing and getting more time? And isn't this a scheme to get bigger so they can sell electricity to developers who want to build front range sprawl in Colorado?

Where are the fiscal conservatives in this whole thing? Why is it OK to line local pockets with this pork barrel project and get all upset about some illegal immigrant kids being fed with food stamps or fuss over the amount that Kansas pays in our Medicaid safety net?

Ron Holzwarth 6 years ago

Do people cheer just as loudly when their electricity is shut off?

In my experience, the answer is no.

jafs 6 years ago

But, this isn't a choice between building this plant and losing our electricity.

Virtually none of the electricity from this plant would supply KS, and with some simple conservation, we wouldn't need any new power generation here, even according to local electric suppliers.

Ken Lassman 6 years ago

There is something definitely wrong with this pork barrel project when Sunflower Energy has been unable to pay off their public loan from the RUS because they can't sell enough electricity from the existing plant.

Their plan to get out of hock by expanding should have every fiscal conservative up in arms. Why is it a good idea to build front range urban sprawl in order to get these guys out from under a public loan they can't pay off?

gudpoynt 6 years ago

hey Ron, I'm no Mitt Romney, but I will bet you $10,000 right here, right now, that neither my, nor anybody other Kansans electricity will be shut of as a result of this plant not being built.

Neomarxist123 6 years ago

Delay, delay, delay.

Keystone XL pipeline and it's 20,000 jobs? Delay it.

Power plant with new technology? And jobs for hard-hit western kansas? Delay it.

Delay it all.

Thanks guys.

Joe Blackford II 6 years ago

You lap up every word those PR guys spew out?

chootspa 6 years ago

20,000 jobs? Really? Try 500-1000 temporary jobs and an eventual net LOSS of jobs.

littlexav 6 years ago

No. 6500 jobs for a little more than 2 years. Total 20,000 FTE.

jafs 6 years ago


To get 20,000, you'd need at least another year.


And, what's your source for those numbers?

chootspa 6 years ago

Or, you know, net losses of jobs:

The report concludes that the job estimates put forward by TransCanada are unsubstantiated and the project will not only create fewer jobs than industry states, but that the project could actually kill more jobs than it creates. Main findings include:

The project budget that has a direct impact on U.S. employment is between $3 and $4 billion or about half of what industry claims. 50% or more of the steel pipe, the main material input used for Keystone XL, will be manufactured outside of the U.S. Jobs will be temporary and between 85-90% of the people hired to do the work will be non-local or from out of state. The Perryman study, which estimates around 119,000 (direct, indirect and induced) jobs is a poorly documented study commissioned by TransCanada. Job losses would be caused by additional fuel costs in the Midwest, pipeline spills, pollution and the rising costs of climate change. Even one year of fuel price increases as a result of Keystone XL could cancel out some or all of the jobs created by the project.

Ken Lassman 6 years ago

Oh, yeah: 20,000 jobs. The State Dept. took a closer look at potential jobs for the entire XL expansion project and came up with a much lower figure: 5 - 8,000 jobs, and only 500 - 1250 of those jobs going to locals. Note that not a single job will go to a Kansan since that section has already been built.

If Sunflower Electric would spend more time hiring folks to weatherize the housing stock in Western Kansas, they could create some good jobs for locals. But, wait! They don't want to sell even less electricity, they can't sell what they are able to produce right now. Furthermore, building a new big coal plant in that area will suppress wind power development, one of the really bright prospects for Western Kansas.

So yes, delaying can be the best option. Delay all corporate socialist projects, especially if they are using public funds like Sunflower Electric used.

blindrabbit 6 years ago

Finally someone with brains in this proposed idiocy! These right-wing dittoheads immediately blame Progressives for challenging anything that has the poterntial for creating a few low tech jobs, regardless of the fallacy of the project! The Keystone Pipeline in it's present configuration is another example. I hear Romney, Santorum, Gingy , Fleisher, and the ditto commenters rave about Obama not signing off on this deal, yet never mentioning the impact of a disasterous spill if it were to occur a environmental sensitive area such as the High Plains Aquifer. Back to the Holcomb Power Plant:

Wyoming coal burned in Kansas for Colorado and Oklahoma electricity; both those states rejected building the plant in their state!

Drawing down water from a depleting Kansas aquifer (to the detriment of Kansas farmers) to supply cooling and make-up water for the power plant! They use a lot!

Creating a large fly ash problem for the locals to deal with; any thought been given for the disposal of this material in Finney County!

Creating a air pollution source in a rural area of the State that will create a plume of NOX, CO2, SOX and mercury that will drift Eastward to more populus areas of the State. These plumes do not disperse rapidly; don't believe me, follow the yellow plume drifting to the east from the Jeffery Energy Center north of Manhattan! This adds to increased ozone creation int the Kansas City Air Transport region with those health and economic problems.

Relying on old technology to solve a non-existing problem.

Ken Lassman 6 years ago

The pipeline to the Pacific ocean to ship tar sands to China is no more certain than the Keystone XL project. There is big time opposition building for that project too, and for even bigger reasons. The local indigenous tribes remember when tsunamis have swept their coastline and don't want a big oil port to clean up after that happens again, and Canadians are becoming more and more skeptical about the short term gains of a few outweighing the rest of the country.

Ken Lassman 6 years ago

What are you talking about? I'm not spoon feeding you; if you are smart enough to type such a comment, then you are smart enough to go do you homework and find out how we can meet our future energy needs through a combination of reducing energy waste and developing a network of renewables.

Get to it.

littlexav 6 years ago

That works in theory until the baseload coal plants that are 55-60 years old need to be retired in 20 years when it's no longer possible to maintain them within EPA regulations. Or in another 40 years when the NRC won't extend nuclear permits for plants that are almost 100 years old. We'll always need coal. We just won't ever need this coal plant.

Ken Lassman 6 years ago

Agreed, littlexav, Baseload is a challenge to any part of our grid, and yet if we invest in an upgraded grid, distributed power generation can provide a greater and greater percentage of the total needs with no loss in reliability. If, for instance, solar shingles became affordable, wouldn't it be cool to have every new subdivision provide its own power, with excess generation or needs going to/coming from the grid? Bidirectional batteries in electric vehicles are being investigated for providing significant excess capacity storage, and small scale fuel cells could also do the same if hydrogen can be cracked from water using solar/wind technologies.

Just as computers have developed away from centralized mainframes to microprocessors, I suspect energy generation will follow a similar path--if we want it and plan for it.

Ken Lassman 6 years ago

Agreed, littlexav, Baseload is a challenge to any part of our grid, and yet if we invest in an upgraded grid, distributed power generation can provide a greater and greater percentage of the total needs with no loss in reliability. If, for instance, solar shingles became affordable, wouldn't it be cool to have every new subdivision provide its own power, with excess generation or needs going to/coming from the grid? Bidirectional batteries in electric vehicles are being investigated for providing significant excess capacity storage, and small scale fuel cells could also do the same if hydrogen can be cracked from water using solar/wind technologies.

Just as computers have developed away from centralized mainframes to microprocessors, I suspect energy generation will follow a similar path--if we want it and plan for it.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

This plant has absolutely nothing to do with jobs, or helping the working and middle class-- this plant is all about tying up all our resources in a plant that relies on coal reserves whose investors want to keep us addicted to.

gudpoynt 6 years ago

you're right.

We can't allow China, India, or Brazil to usurp us as the worlds #1 emitter of greenhouse gasses.

That would be tragic.

We absolutely cannot afford to become anything less than the worlds biggest polluter, lest we should become anything less than the worlds largest economy, and/or have anything smaller than the worlds largest and most powerful military.

Any of that would be tragically unacceptable on a global scale.

Get over yourself. Idiot.

And furthermore, it actually IS all about pollution. You know how I know? Because if Sunflower Electric can prove to the court that their coal plant will not product unacceptable levels of pollution, then guess what? They can build it.

Too much pollution = no can build.

Sounds pretty much like its all about pollution to me.

Now... what was that "anointed one" nonsense were you talking about again?

littlexav 6 years ago

Demand is down. If you've heard anything other than "demand is down," you've been lied to. It's also growing slower than expected, and we won't be at 2008-2009 demand levels again until 2014, and we won't be at 2005 prices until 2020-2021.

This is all about pollution. And water, which is like gold in western Kansas.

Jimo 6 years ago

"All the while China, India, and Brazil go full speed ahead using much dirtier power plants and laughing at us."

You're confusing choking on the fumes with laughing. Or maybe a final death rattle from mercury poisoning.

Get over yourself. If you love Chinese communism so much, move there. You should love it: powerful party leaders make decisions in quiet rooms, whatever regulations that do exist are ignored, there's no wealth "redistribution" at all (all the benefits of civilization but without any cost!!), the will of the people is irrelevant, and a thousand Mitt Romney's loot their way to wealth every year. Sounds like Tea Party catnip.

cato_the_elder 6 years ago

This from the kittycat who has previously said on this forum, "The only feudalism we have in America is the concentration of the nation's wealth in the hands of a few."

blindrabbit 6 years ago

No gotland: Just trying to do it right rather than doing something that has not been well thought out, both from a jobs standpoint as well as long term impact. I'll bet an emerging China will be considering these very issues as it becomes more modern. In our capitalistic system, it is the dollar that ovetrsteps logic! Let's try to do things that make sense for the benefit of society as well as monetary gains!

fantastic_hollaa 6 years ago

And all the while the state of Kansas remains the best wind energy resource outside of TX.

Congress allowing the renewable energy Production Tax Credit to simply vanish at year's end is the real detriment to Kansas energy. We are on the cusp of something great (clean domestic energy, an economic boon that could effectively replace Boeing in the Siemens facilities at Hutch and Wichita, a brand new 400+ MW site in 4 southern counties that will be put on new HI-VO transmission lines) and what's the one thing Kansas does to capitalize on the future? We build another coal plant.......? This is ridiculous. Thank you Sierra Club

gccs14r 6 years ago

Don't forget about Brownback imposing a moratorium on wind generation in southern Kansas when no one was asking for it. It's a good thing Siemens set up shop here before Brownback was elected, because they sure wouldn't do it now.

littlexav 6 years ago

SE Kansas, and specifically a few counties that are the heart of the Flint Hills, and one of them had wind proposals. Siemens is in SC Kansas, most of the turbines being produced are going to Indiana (for now--big contract). Kansas has over a thousand wind projects in the "pipeline" but they have to be approved by the power pool organization. Get over your anti-Repub sentiment for three seconds and just agree with someone without adding in some stupid line about how everyone who disagrees with you is destroying the world. Sheesh.

gudpoynt 6 years ago

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

blindrabbit 6 years ago

No rockchalk: another example of your dittohead pandering to the right wing know-nothings. Forget about logic, common sense and raise the rhetoric!

Clark Coan 6 years ago

Predictions: It will take two years to do the EIS and by then the utility will give up on the plant. Keystone pipeline is already built in Kansas and will be approved nationally after a slight detour in Nebraska.

gccs14r 6 years ago

Unless Ottawa tells Alberta that they can't squeeze that sludge out of the ground any more. Eventually sanity will prevail up there and they'll quit strip-mining the stuff.

littlexav 6 years ago

You're half-right. They're trying to heat-shrink it out of the soil now. It's actually pretty promising--albeit resembling a frankenstein side-show spawn between horizontal drilling and geothermal heat pumps.

Richard Heckler 6 years ago

Nuclear Power Is Not Clean or Green!

---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.

---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.

---Safety and Security Risks

* Nuclear power poses unique safety and security threats, relative to other sources of electricity. A severe accident or attack at a nuclear plant could be catastrophic.

* 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.

littlexav 6 years ago

No, no, no. About half of this is about half correct. You're batting .250 (which is great for a ball player but horrible for someone trying to be a responsible advocate for something).

Richard Heckler 6 years ago

===== * 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. =====

---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.

*Nuke Power Plants and Coal Power Plants cost upwards of $$$6 billion

*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.

Paul R Getto 6 years ago

CC: Not nice. Those people help feed you.

Richard Heckler 6 years ago

The court ruling is smart economics.

Why continue to build the most polluting and expensive sources of energy? Where is the logic?

gudpoynt 6 years ago

@ the Great FalseHope:

That's a good point. I think I speak for all environmentalists when I confess we have never considered that. After all, there is nowhere else on the planet that electricity could every come from.

Let me ask you a question, o great FalseHope. Have you every stopped to wonder why coal is so cheap?

Coal energy requires using all sorts of expensive equipment (while manufacturing and using them requires significant amounts of fossil fuels) to move mountains worth of rock and soil to get to the actual coal. Then the coal it is shipped across the continent (significant more amount of fossil fuel) to a centralized power plant where it is burned to make steam, which spins turbines that convert mechanical energy to electricity -- all at a pretty poor efficiency rates, and spitting tens of thousands of tons of green house gases in the process. The electricity then goes out across a fairly inefficient grid, where a lot more energy is lost. The pollution, by the way, oftentimes has to be addressed as a public health concern later on -- which often results in spending lots of money, either in cleanup efforts, or medical costs.

So, considering the processes required to produce electricity from coal... why do you suppose it is cheaper than harnessing the power of the sun and the wind, which require no mining, no shipping of raw materials, much less equipment, and little to no pollution?

Commenting has been disabled for this item.