The political battle over a proposed new power plant in western Kansas has been gaining steam for more than a year. This afternoon, environmentalists won the first round.
Sunflower Electric Power Corporation asked the Kansas Department of Health and Environment last year for permission to drastically expand its coal-fired power plant in Holcomb, Kanas. Sunflower officials emphasized that the new energy would be a vital boon to the rural economy and the complex would adhere to the highest environmental standards.
As detailed in this cover story in The Pitch, The Sierra Club and hundreds of Kansas citizens voiced strong opposition against the expansion, arguing that blustery Kansas should focus on new wind power, instead of building a dirty, coal-fired complex that would be one of the biggest new sources of global warming pollution in the country.
After months of remaining neutral on the subject, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius came out against the plant, telling The Wichita Eagle that she didn’t believe the plants were in the state’s best interest. Even so, she stressed that the decision was in the hands of KDHE Secretary Rod Bremby.
This afternoon, Bremby denied the permit.
In a news release, Bremby said that, after careful consideration, he believed the health of Kansas citizens was threatened by the air pollution posed by the new plants. Even more significantly, though, he cited carbon dioxide – a key culprit in global warming -- as a factor in his decision.
“I believe it would be irresponsible to ignore emerging information about the contribution of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to climate change and the potential harm to our environment and health if we do nothing,” Bremby said in the statement.
Just minutes after Bremby’s announcement, though, one western Kansas heavyweight promised to fight the decision. Kansas Senate President Steve Morris, a Republican who is a consumer of Sunflower power, released this statement, calling the ruling a devastating blow to the rural economy.
“This politically motivated decision is not consistent with the outcome of the agency’s own review of the application,” Morris said in the statement. “It is devastating to Kansas’ energy future … I am hopeful this effort will not live or die on Secretary Bremby’s decision.”
Get ready for some political fireworks. -- Carolyn Szczepanski