Posts tagged: Sunflower Electric

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Everyone has The Right To Breathe clean air. Watch a video featuring Earthjustice Attorney Jim Pew and two Pennsylvanians—Marti Blake and Martin Garrigan—who know firsthand what it means to live in the shadow of a coal plant's smokestack, breathing in daily lungfuls of toxic air for more than two decades.

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unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders.

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View Brian Smith's blog posts
02 February 2012, 10:03 AM
Taxpayers took a bath with Kansas plant

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 have missed the court decision this week, halting expansion plans for a Kansas coal plant facing similar problems.

The ruling underscores how deadbeat coal plants can be even more costly for taxpayers.

Back in 1980, Sunflower Generation Corporation in Kansas received $543 million in federal loans and loan guarantees (taxpayer money). Like Solyndra, they were not able to pay that money back. So they arranged deals with the federal government to “restructure” the loans, multiple times. Sunflower was unable to repay taxpayers due to financial strain related to over-built Holcomb I, the existing coal plant Sunflower owns.

Sunflower now charges ahead with plans for an even bigger facility. The proposed multi-billion dollar, 895-megawatt coal-fired power plant expansion is designed to serve the western grid through a deal with Colorado-based Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association. Kansas gets the pollution, Colorado gets most of the power.

2 Comments   /  
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.

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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
31 March 2011, 11:56 AM
Judge rules against fed's approach to Sunflower coal-fired power plant

After four years of trying, Big Coal’s national ambitions have again bogged down at the Kansas state line. 

A federal judge this week agreed with Earthjustice that the federal government failed to consider  environmental impacts of the proposed Sunflower plant expansion. The government has a financial stake in the plant because of loan arrangements made with plant owners by the federal Rural Utilities Service. The ruling could force the government to conduct an environmental impact review process on the proposed plant.
This is great news for clean energy advocates, because – at least for the time being – the ruling takes Sunflower’s future out of the hands of state politicians and their industry pals, who used backroom tactics to approve this polluting and unneeded behemoth.

View Brian Smith's blog posts
10 February 2011, 5:30 PM
New study challenges marketing campaign
Rod Bremby

A study released today by MSB Energy Associates calls into question claims that the new Sunflower coal-fired power plant expansion near Holcomb, Kansas will be the “cleanest” in the country.

Among the report’s findings:
- 669 coal-fired power generating units have lower emissions of particulate (soot) air pollution
- 321 coal-fired units have lower emissions of mercury
- 53 emit lower rates of sulfur dioxide, and
- 18 emit lower rates of nitrogen oxides

These findings are based on a controversial air permit approved by the Kansas Department of Health and the Environment in December 2010.

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View Brian Smith's blog posts
07 February 2011, 5:06 PM
Rushed-through process finally gets scrutiny

Tom Gross, an official with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, is frustrated with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Gross has been publicly complaining that EPA requirements to use the latest pollution-mitigating technologies are annoying. "The whole process was incredibly frustrating," Gross told the House Energy and Utilities Committee. "We told them a few words we can't repeat," reported the Lawrence-Journal World.

Late last week, the EPA issued a letter questioning KDHE’s air-quality permit issued in December, which will allow expansion of the coal-fired power plant by Sunflower Electric. The permit generated massive public opposition. For one thing, three-quarters of the new capacity, or 695 megawatts, would be reserved for use in Colorado while Kansans get all the pollution.

View Brian Smith's blog posts
14 January 2011, 5:19 PM
Controversial proposal back in the news

The proposed expansion of a coal-fired power plant near Holcomb, Kansas has been the center of controversy for several years. And now the issue is back in the news.

On Friday, Earthjustice attorney Amanda Goodin went to state court to challenge the recently granted air permit allowing the facility.

Our client, Kansas Sierra Club, believes the permit issued last month by the Kansas Department and Health and Environment did not do enough to regulate air pollution and that the process for approval was suspect, considering all the political influence well-documented by Kansas media.

7 Comments   /  
View Terry Winckler's blog posts
16 December 2010, 1:13 PM
A bitter climax to three-year fight over major pollution producer

Three years ago, Kansas became the poster child of the nation's clean energy movement, thanks to a pair of stalwart political leaders who refused to approve a coal-fired power plant that would have increased America's global warming gas emissions by millions of tons each year.

Today, in the absence of those strong leaders, Sunflower Electric Co. finally got state permission to build its pollution producer. Under a new administrator, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment granted the permit after department workers spent nights and weekends processing the permit, presumably so they could beat a deadline that would have forced the new plant to meet stringent pollution standards kicking in Jan. 2.

The permit likely would not have been issued if former KDHE chief Rod Bremby hadn't been forced out a few weeks ago after refusing since 2007 to allow the permit. Supported by then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Bremby disallowed the permit because of its global warming gases output. It was the nation's first such permit rejection. But, Sebelius eventually left to join President Obama's cabinet, leaving Bremby to fight the good fight in the face of highly politicized, industry-friendly opposition. Earthjustice had a strong hand in that fight.

Not all is lost, however—not by a long shot. The Environmental Protection Agency last month warned that it is taking a careful look at the whole permit process. Here's what a top EPA official wrote:

6 Comments   /  
View Terry Winckler's blog posts
02 November 2010, 4:42 PM
Official fired by governor for refusing to permit dirty power plant
Rod Bremby

A pollution issue that made a hero out of a Kansas governor and helped propel her into Obama's cabinet has made a martyr out of the public servant who actually took the courageous action at the heart of the controversy.

Today, three years after he drew a line at the state's border and refused to let a coal-fired power plant greatly expand its operations and the pollutants/greenhouse gases it would bring,Kansas Dept. of Health and Environment Sec. Rod Bremby was fired by the current governor.

For those of us who have closely followed the issue—often marveling at the courage Bremby displayed—his dismissal by Gov. Mark Parkinson is a political tragedy. Bremby deserves a medal, not a cashiering.

Here's why anyone who cares about our nation's clean energy future should care about Bremby and this issue.

5 Comments   /  
View Brian Smith's blog posts
20 January 2010, 5:07 PM
Solar and wind options ignored
The current coal-fired plant in Holcomb, Kansas. Photo: DOE

Proponents of an 895-megawatt coal-fired power plant expansion project in Holcomb, Kansas have resubmitted an application for an air permit. The first application was rejected by the state environmental agency in 2007 due to concerns over air and global warming pollution. This was the first coal plant air permit rejected on those grounds in the United States.

With the new filing, Sunflower Electric Power Corporation will try again, with the backing of climate change denialists in the state legislature.

But the project still faces a number of obstacles.

8 Comments   /  
View Terry Winckler's blog posts
03 August 2009, 2:02 PM
Government has right to force environmental review, says legal action

A troublesome new chapter has opened in the matter of Sunflower Electric's attempt to more than double the electrical output at its existing coal-fired plant in Holcomb, Kansas.

After digging through 10,000 pages of documents, Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman discovered that Sunflower in the past had defaulted on its debt service payments to the federal government, and that as a consequence the federal government now has effective oversight over Sunflower's business decisions, including the attempted expansion of its existing plant.

That means that you and I and all other American taxpayers have a major stake in how that plant performs, financially and environmentally. We have long known that the expansion was a thoroughly bad idea because of the enormous amounts of greenhouse gases it would produce for decades. The revelation of Sunflower's indebtedness to the public could be a key to stopping the expansion.

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