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


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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.


gudpoynt 2 years, 2 months 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?


FalseHopeNoChange 2 years, 2 months ago

How am I going to plug in my Chevy Volt if there isn't a Coal fired plant to charge it? How am I going to save the planet if I can't charge my car? How will I mow my yard with my electric mower? How am I going to turn on my grow lights for my medical marijuana?


Richard Heckler 2 years, 2 months ago

The court ruling is smart economics.

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


CaptainCholesterol 2 years, 2 months ago

Environmental Impact in southwest Kansas? Is that some kind of weird joke? Has Judge Sullivan ever been to western Kansas? You could drop a nuclear bomb outside of Holcomb and there would be no noticable environmental impact on that God forsaken wasteland (I realize there would be an impact on the good citizens of southwest KS but that is another discussion).


Richard Heckler 2 years, 2 months 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.


Richard Heckler 2 years, 2 months 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.

Machiavelli_mania 2 years, 2 months ago

Let's put as much effort from both side to fix the situation towards something like this:

Free Energy for all!


Clark Coan 2 years, 2 months 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.


bobberboy 2 years, 2 months ago

Too bad Koch Brothers ! Too bad Browncracked !


blindrabbit 2 years, 2 months ago

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


rockchalk1977 2 years, 2 months ago

Another example of the so called "progressives" holding up progress.


fantastic_hollaa 2 years, 2 months 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


Gotland 2 years, 2 months ago

While the experts and lawyers in D.C. and academia are thinking, pondering, waxing intellectual, ect. People need energy and jobs. The professional thinkers are living off the taxes of others and money printed by their buddies at the Federal Reserve and have all the time in the world.


blindrabbit 2 years, 2 months 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!


mustrun80 2 years, 2 months ago

This is great news. We deny this power plant to 'save the planet', causing the supply of electricity to not increase along with an increase in demand - which of course will cause prices to rise for already struggling people.

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

Mmm, libs - do you really think this is about pollution? The anointed one was right when he said he wanted to "share the wealth."

What? You don't have a job or are barely getting by? Paying more for the presidents desire to have electricity prices "skyrocket" will cause you lose that luxurious camping trip to the lake of the ozarks while barry and his wife vacation in Spain?

Get over yourself.


Milton Bland 2 years, 2 months ago

The problem is the libs have no real solution to our energy needs. Wind, solar, and geo-thermal are not viable alternatives. Didn't we learn anything from Obama throwing money at these scams? They are not cost effective and the only ones they benefit are the ones getting rich on government handouts while their business goes bankrupt. Obama has to go! Wake up America!


Gotland 2 years, 2 months ago

Between this and our inability to build a pipe line China is laughing at us and licking their chops. What an impotent country we have become.


blindrabbit 2 years, 2 months 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.


Neomarxist123 2 years, 2 months 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.


Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 2 months ago

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

In my experience, the answer is no.


Ken Lassman 2 years, 2 months 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?


toe 2 years, 2 months ago

Those large homes sure are going to cost a lot to cool. Only a fool would buy one.


LJ Whirled 2 years, 2 months ago

"the alternatives" ... letting China take the rest of our jobs, and relying on them to take good care of the Planet for us.


Carol Bowen 2 years, 2 months ago

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


oletimer 2 years, 2 months 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.


BABBOY 2 years, 2 months ago

Cannot under stand why they cannot build a simple plant.

Oh, yeah, it is the 4 deacades of reseach saying coal burning plants causes acid rain and other stuff that suggests other sources may be better.

Or, perhaps, the stupid people building it are just stupid and keep breaking the rules and need to get their ducks better in line..

I have no dog in the fight. Building the thing actually helps me with work, but I just think it is stupid to burn coal with today's tech


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