- Republican Governor Sam Brownback’s Kansas Department of Health and Environment approved changes in the 2010 pollution-control permit that will allow construction of an 895-megawatt addition to Sunflower Electric Power Corp. coal fired plant complex in Western Kansas.
- Sunflower has persistently proposed new coal-fired capacity at the site since 2001, even after Democratic Governor Kathleen Sebelius’ administration rejected its permit application and, finally, in 2009, Democratic Governor Mark Parkinson traded approval of the coal-fired unit for a state renewable energy mandate.
- Sunflower obtained a permit in December 2010 but the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal attorneys challenged the permit in court and, eight months ago, the Kansas Supreme Court ordered DHE to revise the permit with tougher air-quality standards which, Brownback-appointed DHE Secretary Robert Moser said, it will meet.
Brownback and Sunflower backers say the $2.8 billion project, which will send 78% of its output to Tri-State Generation and Transmission consumers in Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Wyoming, will create jobs and boost the southwest Kansas economy.
According to DHE staff, environmental modeling done for the Sunflower plant in 2010 found the proposed coal plant would meet more rigorous standards for nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, mercury, and particulate matter than required.
Sierra Club and other environmentalists say the permit review has been too cursory and expect the plant to make it more difficult for Kansas to meet new federal carbon dioxide emissions limits.
The environmentalists want Brownback, DHE, and Kansas leaders to scrap the Sunflower project in favor of aggressive renewable energy development.