A pro-coal provision snuck into the House Farm Bill would overturn a D.C. Circuit Court Decision requiring environmental review of a coal plant proposal in Kansas.
Sunflower Electric, a Kansas power company, owes hundreds of millions of dollars to the federal government and has been bailed out from the brink of bankruptcy multiple times. In 2002, the federal Rural Utilities Service agreed to write off hundreds of millions of dollars of Sunflower’s taxpayer debt so that the company would appear financially stable enough to attract private funding for a new coal burning power plant in Kansas. A federal court in D.C. held that the federal agency had to take a close look at the project’s health and environmental impacts before giving away such a huge sum of taxpayer dollars. It’s a close look that this project can’t survive—it doesn’t even meet the federal standards for dangerous pollutants like mercury and ozone constituents. Section 5206 in the Farm Bill would retroactively undo this already-decided case and would shield Sunflower’s squandered federal dollars and poor project planning from badly-needed oversight.
Sarah Saylor, Earthjustice senior legislative representative, denounced this language as classic, special-interest politics, and a taxpayer boondoggle: “House Farm Bill Section 5206 illustrates special-interest, earmark politics at its worst. The section is not only a bad idea, it is entirely unnecessary. The Rural Utilities Service already has a fast-track that lets financially stable companies move ahead with private projects quickly, without significant federal approval or involvement. But that’s only for borrowers that can repay their debt to taxpayers—companies with a long history of financial mismanagement, like Sunflower, aren’t entitled to that fast track. Sunflower wants a shortcut that it hasn’t earned, and it wants the taxpayers to pick up the tab.”