Kansas Coal Plant

About this time last year, we wondered whether legislation in the state of Kansas would pass permitting Sunflower Electric Power Corp. to build a new 2.8 billion dollar coal plant near Holcomb. It was essentially the same legislation that former Governor Kathleen Sebelius had vetoed for environmental concerns.

Three years ago, Roderick Bremby, Kansas Secretary of Health and Environment became the first person in U.S. history to deny permits for coal plants on the basis of CO² emissions.

Way back in 2007, he said, “I’m not a scientist by training, but we have at our fingertips results from the nation’s best scientists and the international community. Scientists are by nature skeptical, yet they have stated our impacts on climate change are unequivocal. We have to be responsive to that. I felt that a permit that would stand for 40-50 years should not be taken lightly. I couldn’t ignore the emerging information concerning climate change.”

The legislation to build the new power plant passed this year with the blessing of Governor Parkinson. Now it became essential that air quality permits be approved before January 2, 2011, the day new federal regulations go into effect governing greenhouse gases. Those gas pollution controls could add tens of millions of dollars to the price of the proposed plant.

Thursday, Acting Health and Environment Secretary John Mitchell announced his decision to allow Sunflower Electric Power Corp. to move forward with its 2.8 billion dollar coal plant project outside Holcomb.

So here’s the big question. What happened to former Kansas Secretary Rod Bremby?

Was he removed from office because he opposed the building of the coal plant? Nobody seems to want to answer the question including Mr. Bremby and most especially Governor Parkinson.

“There is little doubt that outside influences are manipulating the process,” said Stephanie Cole, spokeswoman for the Kansas Chapter of the Sierra Club. “I think the concerns are justified that the process has been undermined.”

This battle has been going on for four years. Air pollution is the biggest concern but there is some worry that most of the electricity generated will go to Colorado. I don’t care who gets the electricity but I care a lot about what kind of environment we live in and I hope our new governor and his crew do too.

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