Views from Kansas: We don’t need coal-fired plant

Editor’s Note: Views from Kansas is a regular feature that highlights editorials and other viewpoints from across the state.

What Kansas really needs is a nice new asbestos plant or metal mine. Maybe we could bring back production of lead paint or the Ford Pinto. Or strictly as a backup, a power plant fired by “beautiful, clean coal” sending beautiful, clean mercury, arsenic and dioxins into the atmosphere, along with a whole delightful mélange of greenhouse gases.

Even proponents of that last one have got to know that The Star’s report of “significant interest” in a new coal-fired power plant in Holcomb, outside Garden City, reflects the very latest thinking from the 1880s.

There is a reason that no such facility has been built in this country in the last four years, and that not one is under construction, either.

Kansas gets more than a third of its electricity from wind energy — more than any other state. Both wind and solar power are getting more cost-effective all the time, and coal ever less competitive.

Going backward in this way would make no more sense than the current federal insistence that California abandon its efforts to set its own emission standards and fight climate change, even as it burns.

Yet Hays-based Sunflower Electric Power Corporation has asked for an 18-month extension of the permit it needs “to finalize the arrangements that would support its construction” of a plant it doesn’t need, according to the request it sent to the state. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) renewed the permit through March 27 of next year.

Twelve years ago, then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius spoke out against the plan, and in 2007, KDHE cited climate change in denying Sunflower the permits it would have needed to build it.

Then Sebelius left office and her successor, Republican-turned-Democrat Mark Parkinson, approved the construction.

By the time the Kansas Supreme Court finally approved the project too, in 2017, it seemed like the moot point that it should have been.

Even in its request for the permit extension, Sunflower Electric admitted that it no longer needs the electricity the plant would produce.

And even some of those you might expect to support it know better: “I’m not sure that the business model can be made for increasing more generation through coal,” said Rep. Russell Jennings, the Republican who represents Holcomb. “It’s a pretty expensive proposition to get into it.”

Unnecessary, expensive and bad for the environment, this project is an idea whose time has expired.

— Originally published in the Kansas City Star


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