Share this Post:

unEARTHED. The Earthjustice Blog

Collusion in Kansas Force-Feeds Coal Power

    SIGN-UP for our latest news and action alerts:
   Please leave this field empty

Facebook Fans

Related Blog Entries

by Brian Smith:

While much has been made of the $535 million loan guarantee made to the failed Solyndra Corporation in 2009 to encourage alternative energy, you may h...

by Liz Judge:

President Obama won the White House on a platform of hope and change – promising an end to dirty corporate influence over our political system a...

by Terry Winckler:
Kansas Keeps Getting In The Way of Big Coal

After four years of trying, Big Coal’s national ambitions have again bogged down at the Kansas state line.  A federal judge this week agre...

Earthjustice on Twitter

View Brian Smith's blog posts
21 June 2011, 1:52 PM
"This is not how government is supposed to work"

Americans are worried about their government. We imagine backroom deals are cut, fates are foretold and the little guy always gets shafted because powerful interests own the cops.

Recent events in Kansas prove these fears can be spot-on.

The Kansas City Star has unearthed emails showing the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), the agency responsible for enforcing the federal Clean Air Act, had an “improper relationship” with an air permit applicant.

That permit would allow an 895 MW coal-fired power plant to be built by the Sunflower Electric Power Corporation. Opponents say this plant isn’t needed and will pollute Kansans while most of the power will go to Colorado.

The emails show that 6,000 public comments were summed up into 275 questions. KDHE sent these questions to Sunflower to get their take on how to respond to public opposition. Some of the responses KDHE produced as their own work were nearly verbatim copies of the responses suggested by Sunflower. KDHE even helped Sunflower set up a computer program to process the questions.

A Lawrence Journal World editorial today concludes that KDHE “failed miserably” at their duty to be the independent, unbiased analysis body of public concerns with the permit.

An editorial in The KC Star lays the blame for this scandal squarely at the feet of former governor Mark Parkinson, and his fellow coal advocates.

"The permit process is a shameful legacy of former Kansas governor Mark Parkinson. The Democrat reversed the refusal of his Democratic predecessor, Kathleen Sebelius, to grant a permit for a coal-burning plant in western Kansas. Sebelius and her secretary of health and environment, Roderick Bremby, said the plant would pollute Kansas air while generating most of its power for Colorado. Parkinson fired Bremby in early November after Sunflower officials said they thought he was slowing down the permit process. With Bremby gone, regulators worked nights and weekends to process Sunflower’s permit."

In response to the mess, Republican state legislators defended the agency’s collusion with an applicant as simply pro-business.

"Being cozy with business is not necessarily bad,” said Rep. Scott Schwab, an Olathe Republican. “Kansas needs to be open for business. We don’t have mountains. We don’t have oceans. If we don’t allow for people to make it easy to make a profit in Kansas, there really is no reason to come here."

Sadly, Kansans are learning that even when they speak up, it may not matter if state agencies are in bed with the very industries they are supposed to regulate. The Star suggests a way out of this mess that could help restore the public’s faith in government:

"Either the courts or the EPA should put the brakes on the Sunflower project. A coal plant that will affect air quality for decades is too important to be the end result of a polluted process."

We agree. Legal steps by Earthjustice may help that process along. As described by Amanda Goodin, Earthjustice attorney representing Sierra Club in this case.

"EPA has the obligation to enforce the Clean Air Act and protect air quality and public health throughout the country; specifically, EPA has the obligation to object to permits that don’t comply with the Act, like the Sunflower permit."

I wouldn't count heavily on the EPA saving the day. They have shown themselves to also be in bed with big business. To me, coal plants are just another nail in the coffin for our country. In my opinion, there is too much greed by those in power and too much fear and resignation by the masses to ever change the downward sprial the world is in. I think the human race is much more likely to experience death and rebirth than recovery.

Why do we have a system that caters to business and not people? Why is the quality of life not more important than the quantity of profit? It's like wanting a fatter child than a healthier one.......oh maybe we have those as well as asthmatic and sick from the bad air of coal produces and dirty political it not short sighted to think we can pollute and consume in perpetuity; more than that it is simply not possible

Isn't the root problem that the legislature's are bed with industry because their funds get them elected in our "polluted political process"? Who in turn pressure local regulating agencies or fill them with cronies that do what they are told?

Keep up the good work EJ we want People Power to govern not Coal Power!

Unfortunately as I sit hear there is a "clean coal" ad green-washing their industry & brainwashing the public - fight back, speak up - go see Last Mountain...............

Be persistent, call your reps, send letters and emails,be a pain in the a__. We cannot afford to be complacent. In southeast TX, where I live, they want to put in a nuclear plant. We are now in drought and these plants need lots of water. Plus the pollution, danger of toxic fumes as in Japan. And where are they going to bury the pink elephant in the room - toxic waste generated? People in this town (as many others) as giving up their health for money. A chance for a job, no matter the cancer rate has risen and our beaches have slime from the offshore oil rigs causing ucky sores. We cannot give up! And lots of coal plants around here, plus uranium mining.
These corporations do not want us to have individual solar panels on our homes, electric cars, or other alternative energy sources therefore making the prices high. So I purchased a DIY info on the internet to build my own panels. My goal is to get off the grid. If we can't work with them, we can work around them. Grassroots groups are changing the world for the better. Co-ops are springing up so we can make a difference. It starts with one person. Thanks, I needed to vent.

I wish you could let us know how you make out with the DIY solar panels. Do they work? I'd give it a go...

What if EPA will not react? Who then can we depend on or hold accountable?

Sad to say, the very same plan is being played out in New Mexico. Building codes are being rolled back, coal plants are given a pass on installing clean scrubbers, etc, etc. etc. All in the name of "being good for business". This being said despite many business leaders agree with environmental standards. I believe our country is in deep trouble.

This illustrates the miserable failings of state regulatories in protecting our environment. If the GOP's goal of abolishing the federal EPA and placing sole regulatory power to individual states is realized, the people will have absolutely no right to clean air and clean water. States are desperate for money and will cave in to industries easily, state environmental protection is very lacking and easily manipulated and the GOP knows this. Governors can just fire whoever is not on board with his plans and place people that are willing to look the other way while their people are being poisoned. This system is not much better than China's corrupt local government system. We just better at doing it more discretely.

Just a few examples is the Cheasapeake Bay, for years the bordering states have fail to come up with any real plans to clean it up. MD caves in to its' chicken farmers and waste water plants so it does basically nothing to stop the Bay from dying. PA's land and water is being poisoned with gas fracking and this is completely OK with their state environmental protection department. Then there's West VA's coal plants and the raping of the mountains and dying of the people from the polluted air and water, it's all cool with the state of WV.

Why??? What is it going to take to make people understand? We know what's happening in China with all the coal plants. Do we really want that here? Wind energy doesn't make people sick, and the wind mills are silent and effective and they don't pollute. And, they are stunning to look at. Ask the people what they want and let their voices be heard.

This is yet one more example of crooked politicians lining their pockets with cash,when will the people be heard in this country.picture this Rep. Schwab, you are living in a State that burns coal you watch in horror as your little child who is very sick
blows her nose and you see the black mucous coming out and realize the real price of burning coal.I was that little girl you see I lived in a country that used to burn coal now they do not,the health issues are grave think again long and hard before you allow this to happen.

Kansas does not have the inside on interparty political corruption the criminal there are hard working business men out make a profit from our blind desire to to have more power at the expense of humanity. Are there not attorney generals there to protect the people from the physical assault of coal fired power plants? If not why not?

Re: State Attorneys General

Current KS AG is Republican Derrick Schmidt who beat Democrat Steve Six who was appointed to replace elected Democrat who resigned due to sex affair while married. He had beat Phill Kline who was widely disliked by almost everybody but the far right conservatives for spending all his time on trying to subpoena records of abortion doctors and eventually unsuccessful prosecution of Dr. George Tiller who preformed late-term abortions. Tiller was murdered outside his church last year by fanatic.

Schimdt seems OK (still too early in his term to evaluate) but lacks experience and was "given" the election simply because he was on the Republican ticket as Six was far more experienced and doing a good job.

Kansas has no business polluting the air, streams, water, and earth like this to help boost usage of energy in Colorado.

If it is to go down this path, then it should produce with clean energy--wind, solar, organic, fuel cells, and new technologies--GOD HELP US IF WE DON'T DO BETTER.



This is yet another tragic display of the abuse of power by elected officials. Shame on the Kansas governor and the KDHE. The complete lack of regard for the health of the citizens of Kansas should not be taken lightly by the citizens of Kansas. Most certainly, Rep. Rick Schwab, should be recalled for his comments. They always try to play the "job" card like it's something that will benefit the people. The only people benefiting are the politicians and the corporations.

"'Being cozy with business is not necessarily bad,' said Rep. Scott Schwab, an Olathe Republican. 'Kansas needs to be open for business. We don’t have mountains. We don’t have oceans. If we don’t allow for people to make it easy to make a profit in Kansas, there really is no reason to come here'."

That's very true, Mr Schwab; Kansas has only two things of value: farmland and people. If that land and water are fouled by the emissions from coal-fired power plants, the crops on which Kansas's economy depends will be adulterated and find fewer markets in which farmers can sell them.

That other asset, the people of Kansas, will consume the bulk of those filthy crops, whose lead content will devastate the nervous systems of the state's children. Many parents will be unable to afford medical treatment for their affected children because the unemployment rate will increase, and the tax base will shrink because there will be fewer gainfully employed Kansans paying taxes.

Keep Kansas "open for business?" What kind of business are you referring to, Mr Schwab, the kind that built this nation's economy, or the kind that's passed under the table to crooked politicians by Big Business?

From my perspective as a somewhat interested opponent of plant was that Lead (nor most other particulates) was not a big factor in local opposition to the plants as the generator was to be "state-of-the-art" in terms of compliance with scrubber technology.

Main issue (again from my limited perspective) was that then Gov. Sebelius and Sec. Bembry thought it would generate too much CO2 and wasn't necessary for KS power needs and showed that we as a State weren't moving towards alternative energy future.

Seems that "rush for approval" under Gov. Mark Parkinson (who declined to run again even though he was very popular as former head of state GOP who switched to become Lt. Gov. for Sebelius which was admirable to demonstrate unity) was because time was running out before EPA requirements on CO2 standards took effect which would have made construction/operation of Sunflower much more expensive if not unworkable.

Real issue in state house was that Eastern 1/3 of KS was against project, and western 1/3 of state's population was eager for construction jobs in midst of downturn in beef processing industry.

Legislature had failed (twice maybe?) to overturn Bembry's decision. I think Bembry knew his effectiveness in government was gone when Sebelius went to D.C. to be Sec. of HHS. Parkinson got a decent compromise for KS citizens which avoided continued lawsuits by Sunflower against State. However, if these emails had come out back then it's probable that the project would have been sunk by the bad publicity.

this is insanity! Being cozy with business is not necessarily bad,” said Rep. Scott Schwab, an Olathe Republican. “Kansas needs to be open for business. We don’t have mountains. We don’t have oceans. If we don’t allow for people to make it easy to make a profit in Kansas, there really is no reason to come here."
what kind of logic is this? who is going to come? their send the power out of state and who wants to go to a place that will have bad air bad water and that does not care about the enviorment? who is profiting from this? what are the medical cost from beathing bad air and have the water polluted.
and if people keep on burning the coal no one will have mountains and the oceans will be dead.
if they spent the money on green energy instead we might not be lossing 5000 form of live every year and the cancer rate might drop from 10.000 a week. but all they see is dollars.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <p> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <blockquote>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

Type the characters you see in this picture. (verify using audio)
Type the characters you see in the picture above; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive.