Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Kansas officials totally not rushing coal power plant permit to beat end-of-year deadline

Posted By on Tue, Dec 14, 2010 at 7:00 AM

click to enlarge Kansas state employees have been busting their humps to get another coal plant in Holcomb.
  • Kansas state employees have been busting their humps to get another coal plant in Holcomb.

People in Kansas Department of Health and Environment are really hard workers. In fact, the bureaucrats are so devoted their job of approving or denying a permit for a proposed coal-fired power plant Sunflower Electric Power Corp. that they're working late and on weekends this month.

The Star reported that the mysterious end-of-year vigor might have something to do with new power plant rules that go into effect on January 1 requiring them to have pollution controls, which would add millions to the plant's price tag.



The Bureau of Air employees need to read and respond to 6,000 public comments about the plant before KDHE can either issue or deny the permit.

Sunflower has been hankering to build the plant in Holcomb for four years. Former Department of Health and Environment head Roderick Bremby rejected their permit request in 2007. And former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius vetoed legislation approving the idea twice. But when she went off to Washington, new Gov. Mark Parkinson was much more apt to let Sunflower get its plant.

Bremby was forced out of his job in November, with critics alleging he

was made to resign because he wasn't as high on the coal idea as

Parkinson. The governor never really got around to explaining why Bremby was shown the door.

Now Air Bureau employees are working themselves to the bone in order to,

in all likelihood,  approve the air-quality permit. From The Star:

For several weeks, nine Kansas state employees

have been voluntarily working weekends and late into the night to finish

a review of a permit for a power plant.

But according to the new head of the Department of Health and

Environment, it's just because they're good worker bees.

John Mitchell

told The Star, "We have a dedicated staff in the Bureau of Air." Sounds

like he's in charge of the Bureau of Hot Air. Oh, snap! But

seriously, the workers are probably even more dedicated after seeing Bremby get

the boot for allegedly fighting the plan.

Opponents to the plant -- which will primarily send power to Colorado --

aren't convinced this is just a matter of public employees sprinting

through the finish line. From The Star:

"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."

Mitchell insisted to the paper that there nothing strange about the rush

to finish the process by the end of the year. He notes the permit

process began four years ago, and maybe his staff is just sick of

working on it.


For his part, Parkinson denies pulling the strings at KDHE. In November, he blogged:

When evaluating the permit application, what I have told the acting Secretary is simply this: I don't care whether you approve the permit or not, but I do care that Kansas follows the laws and regulations governing the process. If following those regulations leads to approving the permit, that is fine. If it results in KDHE denying the permit, that is fine too. What matters to me is that we follow the law.

So, see? He doesn't care either way. But surely he's pleased that the Bureau of Air employees are in love with their jobs. 


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