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EPA Puts Kansas Power Plant on Hold

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has thrown a wrench into the expansion of Sunflower coal-fired power plant in Kansas. It's the first hopeful sign out of that state since its new governor cooked up a deal allowing the expansion in May.

In a letter this week, the EPA told the state and Sunflower Electric that it must apply for a new air permit before building a massive, dirty 895MW coal-fired power plant. Agreeing with a position taken by Earthjustice, the EPA said Sunflower must submit new environmental analyses addressing hazardous pollutants, dirty particulates and the possibility of cleaner technology than may exist today.

This means that the state has to use a more public and thoughtful process instead of the backroom private deal-making employed by Gov. Mark Parkinson. The deal poisoned two years of successful efforts by his predecessor, Kathleen Sebelius, to prevent the expansion. She opposed the plant because of its massive greenhouse gas emissions, and pushed hard for wind energy as an alternative.

Of particular interest is how EPA has now asserted its oversight authority in Kansas. Until now, the EPA allowed the state to operate as a kind of surrogate in approving power plant permits. With EPA finally on the case, local politics should play a much smaller role.