Yesterday the governor of Kansas apparently fired his secretary of Health and Environment for refusing to fast-track a permit to build a new coal fired power plant. Health and Environment Secretary Rod Bremby first refused to permit the plant back in 2007 because of the harm the plant’s millions of tons of global warming pollution would cause. This made him the first state regulator to reject an air quality permit for a coal plant because of the health and environmental risks posed by carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide is the predominant greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. The plant would also release significant quantities of other harmful air pollutants including mercury and fine soot.
Secretary Bremby was backed up by then governor Kathleen Sebelius, but when Governor Sebelius accepted a role in the Obama administration, her successor, Mark Parkinson, struck a back-room deal with the coal company to get the plant built. On January 2, a new federal rule regulating global warming pollution from large stationary sources, including coal plants, goes into effect, and backers of the coal plant are demanding shortcuts in the permitting process so they can sneak in under the wire and get a permit before the federal rules apply to them.
Secretary Bremby had overseen the permitting process, which is still in progress, until yesterday, and had made it clear that he intended to follow the law and thoroughly review the coal plant’s application before making a final decision on the new coal plant. The permitting process has been subjected to repeated attempts by political interests to undermine it and limit public participation. Secretary Bremby’s dismissal in the middle of this highly controversial process appears to be calculated to remove him from the permitting process because of his commitment to follow the law and his refusal to illegally fast-track the permit.
Stephanie Cole of the Sierra Club said, “The timing of Secretary Bremby’s departure is highly suspicious with recent reports indicating Secretary Bremby was under pressure to accelerate the permitting of the Sunflower coal plant.”
“The decision is clearly an effort to remove Bremby in an attempt to unethically and illegally expedite the permitting process for the coal-fired power plant,” said Earthjustice attorney Amanda Goodin.
“The time is long overdue for EPA to take over the permitting process for the Sunflower coal plant to restore transparency and fairness,” said Cole of the Sierra Club. “Debate around the Sunflower coal plant has caused many hardships for Kansas, and continued political maneuvering to force permitting of this unneeded coal plant can no longer be justified."
Earthjustice’s Goodin added, “The proposed plant is among the worst of the proposed dirty coal plants. In light of what we now know about the causes of global warming, the state owes its citizens, as well as all Americans, a denial of the permit needed to build the plant.”