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EPA: Kansas Coal Plant Needs New Permit

Victory: Federal agency agrees with Earthjustice, Sierra Club request
July 1, 2009
Topeka, KS —

The federal Environmental Protection Agency notified the state of Kansas and Sunflower Electric, in a letter sent today, that a new air permit will be required before Sunflower can build a proposed dirty coal plant near Holcomb. The EPA letter echoes a letter Earthjustice and the Sierra Club sent to the state and Sunflower on June 19 stating a new permit would be needed. Inadequacies in the permit application identified by EPA casts doubt on the ability of Sunflower to obtain a legal permit to build the massive new dirty coal plant. 


"Investors should take notice that this proposed dirty coal plant probably can't be economically built or operated," said Felix Revello of Western Kansas. "This project becomes more and more expensive for ratepayers in Colorado and Kansas," said Revello.  


The Earthjustice and Sierra Club letter to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said the public has a legal right to review and comment on any new permit for the 895 MW coal-fired power plant. The letter was prompted by a closed door deal struck between Kansas Governor Parkinson and Sunflower Electric in May seeking to guarantee the power company a permit. The deal sought to illegally circumvent the public. 


An EPA spokesman recently reminded an interviewer that EPA can give states implementation authority under the Clean Air Act, and Kansas has opted into the process, but EPA still maintains review authority over permit decisions.


"We fully support EPA's position and agree the public is entitled to an opportunity to voice their concerns on a project that has implications to our health and environment," said Stephanie Cole of the Kansas Sierra Club. 


The EPA agreed with the conservation groups that the law requires Sunflower Electric to submit new environmental analyses for the recently proposed power plant in it's permit application. The EPA points out that the permit should contain limits on a type of dangerous particulate air pollution common to dirty coal-fired power plants that the draft permit from 2006 failed to include, and that the application should consider the benefits of new, cleaner technology the coal plant rejected in its 2006 application. The EPA also emphasized that the coal plant will require a separate permit application process for the most dangerous pollutants it will emit, such as mercury and acid gasses. The governor's private agreement with Sunflower attempted to exempt the dirty coal plant from this application process. The EPA also says the plant's operators would need to review the  best available control technology to minimize pollution since it may have improved in the past three years since it was last considered.


"EPA is correct to require a new permitting process because this will bring out into the light of day the danger posed by this dirty coal plant which the governor and the coal power company sought to keep from the public," said Amanda Goodin of Earthjustice. "When you're dealing with such a large source of air pollution as a dirty coal plant, you want to be careful in your consideration of the threat it poses to the public's health."  


Read the letter from the EPA

Contacts

Stephanie Cole, Sierra Club, (913) 906-9332, (402) 984-1122
Amanda Goodin, Earthjustice, (206) 343-7340,  ext. 20

About Earthjustice

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.