KDHE staff supports coal plant project in western Kansas

Secretary says he hasn't made up his mind

The staff of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment has recommended approval of two 700-megawatt coal-fired electric plants in western Kansas, officials said today.

But KDHE Secretary Roderick Bremby said he has yet to make a decision on the issue.

And Bremby declined today to say whether he would consider the effects of carbon dioxide emissions in his decision-making process. CO2 emissions are blamed for global warming.

The information came up during an unprecedented legislative probe into KDHE’s review of permit applications from Sunflower Electric Power Corp. for the project near Holcomb.

During the meeting, lawmakers on the newly appointed Electric Generation Review Panel leaned on Bremby to approve the permits.

House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, said rejection of the project would wreck the western Kansas economy.

State Rep. Carl Holmes, R-Liberal, and chairman of the committee, criticized KDHE for taking 15 months to make a decision.

But Bremby responded, “There has been no delay.”

He said that under state law the agency has until Dec. 1 to issue a ruling, but that it will announce a decision later this month.

He said KDHE has been diligent in working on the case, knowing that whatever decision is made probably will be attacked in court.

While the staff has recommended approval, Bremby said that recommendation first will be considered by Ron Hammerschmidt, director of the division of environment. Bremby then will review it before a final ruling is made.

While many legislators have voiced support of the project, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has criticized it. And numerous environmental groups oppose it, saying emissions from the proposed plants will harm the environment and Kansans’ health.

Bremby has said he will make an independent decision on the matter and Sebelius has denied trying to exert any influence on the case.