America's energy policy is at stake in Kansas, conservation groups declared today, as they challenged attempts to get state supreme court approval for a coal-fired power plant expansion previously rejected by state regulators.
The Sunflower power plant expansion –- which would have emitted 10 million tons of carbon dioxide each year –- is the first ever denied because of its contribution to global warming. It would have been one of the dirtiest plants built in decades, posing serious health harms near and far away.
The air permit required for the expansion was denied in October by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The department has begun an administrative hearing on the denial. Sunflower and its allies are attempting to bypass the administrative hearing –- at which details about the harmful impacts of its dirty coal plant expansion will be disclosed to the public -- by appealing the rejection directly to state court.
"Sunflower coal plant developers have no legal right to appeal the rejection to state court," said Nick Persampieri, attorney for Earthjustice, a public interest environmental group that filed the challenge on behalf of the Sierra Club. He described Sunflower's action as part of a larger ploy to force dirty, coal-fired power plants on the state and nation.
The groups are seeking dismissal of three appeals by Sunflower Electric Power Corp. at the Supreme Court level, and of two at the district court level in Finney County. Persampieri said state law clearly says that Sunflower must first go through a full hearing before the Kansas Department of Health and Education before filing court appeals.
"The industry is desperately clinging to old technology, pushing the Sunflower plant forward by any means available in an effort to beat the wave of change that is sweeping the nation," said Bruce Nilles, Director of the Sierra Club's National Coal Campaign. "State after state across the country -- including four states in the past two weeks -- have rejected new coal in favor of cleaner, more economically beneficial energy options, like wind, solar and efficiency."
A recent study by economists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado, found that investing in a combination of wind and clean-burning natural gas in Kansas could create more than 23,000 construction jobs and 3,000 new long-term jobs, adding over $7.8 billion to the rural economy.
"Kansas is ranked third in the nation for wind power potential," said Craig Volland, spokesperson for the Kansas Chapter of the Sierra Club. "Our state legislators should be applauding the decision to reject another dirty coal plant and looking for ways to begin benefiting from our incredible renewable resources."
"The people of Kansas want the state to be a leader in the fight against global warming. We have the technology and the know-how to be part of the solution. Now we just need the political will," Volland said.
Nick Persampieri, Earthjustice, (303) 358-5284
Stephanie Cole, Sierra Club, (913) 906-9332
Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.