- The proposed and long embattled 895 megawatt Sunflower Electric Power Corp. coal plant in southwest Kansas is once again a source of contention between coal advocates and environmentalists as Republican Governor Sam Brownback’s administration’s state Department of Health and Environment (DEH) considers overriding a state Supreme Court order and granting a pollution-control permit.
- 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, in 2009, Democratic Governor Mark Parkinson traded approval of one 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.
National environmental groups Sierra Club and Earthjustice say Brownback’s DHE Secretary Robert Moser’s amended permit is a “shortcut” through regulations to approval of the $2.8 billion project. The court ordered DHE to set more demanding emissions standards, based on new EPA regulations, but did not invalidate the 2010 permit entirely as Sierra Club attorneys had requested.
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. The environmentalists want DHE, Moser, and Kansas leaders to scrap the Sunflower project in favor of aggressive renewable energy development, arguing the permit should be scrapped instead of amended.
Sunflower Electric Power Corp. is a non-profit supplier of wholesale power to six electric cooperatives serving some 400,000 homes in southwest Kansas. The proposed coal plant would send 78% of its output to Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association Inc., a wholesaler supplying 44 cooperatives in Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming.