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Challenging The Sunflower Coal Plant Permit

Wind turbines in a Kansas wheat field.

Kansas is already making important strides to develop clean energy like wind, with more than 2,600 megawatts of wind power currently online in the state.

Photo courtesy of Joseph Novak

What's at Stake

Earthjustice is fighting to prevent the construction of an unnecessary and polluting new coal-fired power plant in Kansas. Earthjustice won a big victory in 2013 when the Kansas Supreme Court agreed that the air permit for the proposed plant was illegal and struck it down, sending the company back to the drawing board.

Case Overview

Sunflower Electric is still heavily in debt to the federal government from building its first coal plant in Holcomb, Kansas. Even though there is no need for the power, Sunflower is proposing to build another, even bigger coal plant at the site of its existing plant. If built, the massive new plant would spew huge amounts of greenhouse gases and other dangerous pollutants into the environment for decades to come.

Sunflower has been greasing the wheels in every way possible to try to push this misguided project ahead—from back room deals with state politicians, to a huge write-off of its federal debt, to lawsuits trying to undermine the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the many dangerous pollutants the plant will emit. Sunflower got an air permit and a green light from Kansas officials to build the plant, but Earthjustice challenged the permit as lacking necessary protections under clean air laws.

Thankfully, the state Supreme Court agreed with Earthjustice and its clients in 2013 when it invalidated Sunflower’s air pollution permit for the new plant. With new environmental standards in effect since the project was first proposed, the likelihood of the expansion plant legally meeting those standards or finding financial backing for unneeded coal-fired generation are dim.

Case ID

1944, 2777


Case Updates

June 27, 2014 | Blog Post

Suit Filed to Stop Kansas Coal Plant

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has given Sunflower Electric the green light to build a massive, dirty coal fired power plant.

November 13, 2013 | In the News: NewsOK

New Coal Plant Permit Reversed by Kansas Court

The Kansas Supreme court reversed a state agency decision to issue a permit to the Sunflower Electric Power Corporation for the construction of a new coal-fired power plant in Southwest Kansas. The court ruled that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment failed to apply one-hour emission standards that were issued by the EPA before the permit was granted.

October 4, 2013 | Legal Document

Kansas Supreme Court Decision

Court Decision: Kansas Supreme Court Issues Unanimous Decision to Reject Air Permit Issued for Proposed Holcomb Coal Plant in Southwestern Kansas

July 22, 2013 | In the News: Lawrence Journal-World

House-approved farm bill provision promotes construction of controversial coal-burning Sunflower plant

The farm bill recently approved by the U.S. House of Representatives includes a provision that may allow Sunflower Electric Power Corp. to circumvent a federal court decision suspending their construction of a coal-burning electric power plant in southwest Kansas. A U.S. District Court judge had previously ordered the Rural Utilities Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to conduct an environmental review of the project before approving Sunflower Electric Power Corp.’s proposal.

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