The secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment acted properly last year when he rejected a construction permit for the massive Sunflower coal-fired power plant expansion in western Kansas, a state hearing officer has concluded.
Agreeing with conservation groups, the officer said KDHE Secretary Rod Bremby has the authority to deny the permit because the plant’s global warming pollution poses a threat to public health and the environment. Sunflower Electric Power Corporation had urged the officer to overturn Bremby’s decision.
“The people of Kansas are a step closer to avoiding the harm that would result from Sunflower’s massive, polluting coal-plant expansion,” said Stephanie Cole of the Sierra Club, a conservation group that intervened in support of Bremby.
The proposed Sunflower expansion would have emitted 11 million tons each year of CO2 — a gas which is the single biggest contributor to global warming — and it would have blanketed the region with unhealthy particulate matter, Cole said.
The parties involved now have 15 days to petition Bremby to review the hearing officer’s decision.
Following any requests for review, Sunflower’s appeal will likely be heard by the Kansas Supreme Court, said Nick Persampieri, the Earthjustice attorney who represented the Sierra Club. The court previously refused Sunflower’s request for appeal until after it had gone through the administrative hearing process.
“The Kansas Supreme Court will have the final word, and we plan to ask the court to reach the same conclusion as the administrative officer,” Persampieri said.
The Bremby decision created a political firestorm that pitted Gov. Kathleen Sebelius against the state Legislature. She successfully vetoed three bills that would have granted the plant permit.
“The heroic fight by Sec. Bremby and Gov. Sebelius drew national attention and made Kansas this country’s symbolic battleground over the future of clean energy,” Persampieri said.
Read the decision (PDF)