New Air Permit Application Submitted for Controversial Coal Plant

Sunflower coal plant in Kansas faces uphill battle for expansion


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

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment announced today that the agency has received a new permit application from Sunflower Electric to build an 895 megawatt coal-fired power plant in Holcomb, Kansas.

Among the issues facing the Sunflower proposal are:

  • The air permit for expansion was previously rejected by KDHE in 2007 due to the harm that the facility’s carbon pollution would cause.
  • Former-governor Kathleen Sebelius (before joining President Obama’s administration) vetoed legislation that would have allowed the Sunflower expansion, stating that renewable energy was a better alternative for Kansas.
  • Sunflower still owes around $200 million in taxpayer dollars to the Rural Utilities Service for its previous coal plant, and Sunflower is currently facing a legal challenge because the federal government cannot lawfully allow Sunflower to proceed with the expansion without examining its environmental impacts. Read more.
  • Sunflower has not proven the need for this electricity in Kansas and activists are concerned that the power would be largely exported to suburban development interests in Colorado. Kansans get the pollution, Colorado gets the power.

Locking Kansas in to Dirty Power for Decades

“While we are looking over this new application, we are still convinced that locking Kansas into another 50 years of dirty, polluting coal energy is the wrong choice for our state. Our state is perfectly positioned to develop its abundant clean energy resources that can help solve global warming and create thousands of new family-supporting jobs,” said Stephanie Cole of Sierra Club, Kansas.

Sunflower Already in Debt to U.S. Taxpayers

“This polluting coal plant shouldn’t be built. The costs of building new coal plants have risen enormously since this project was first proposed. Better energy efficiency and improvements in managing energy demand have reduced the need for big new coal plants,” said Amanda Goodin of Earthjustice. “Sunflower already owes the federal government hundreds of millions of dollars for past coal energy plants and the government can’t legally allow Sunflower to proceed with the plant without first considering the environmental harm it will cause.”

Earthjustice has argued the new facility would be a large contributor to global warming through its carbon emissions, and other dangerous pollutants, such as fine particulate matter, which pose grave risks to the health and welfare of nearby residents. Moreover, a legal filing from Earthjustice and the Sierra Club in 2009 found that Sunflower Electric Power Corporation has a history of racking up public debt which never gets paid back.

Another problem Goodin points out is the fact that, “The Environmental Protection Agency, under the federal Clean Air Act, has the power to stop Sunflower until it is satisfied that the issues of air pollution and global warming have been completely addressed.” 

Additional Resources

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.