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Sunflower Electric Power Corporation, Holcomb Expansion, KS

STATUS:  In progress with opposition

TYPE: Coal

OPPOSITION:  Sierra Club

PROSPECTS:  Indeterminate

BACKGROUND:  Sunflower Electric Power Corporation owns and operates the coal-fired Holcomb Power Station in Garden City, Kansas.  In 2006, Sunflower proposed a three unit expansion. In October 2007, Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Rob Bremby denied Sunflower a permit. This set off a protracted battle between then-Governor Kathleen Sebelius and the Kansas legislature, which repeatedly attempted to override the denial. 

On March 21, 2008, Sebelius vetoed a bill that would have permitted the proposed units and stripped the Department of Health of the power to deny permits in the future if they held utilities to standards stricter than those in the federal permits. In November, Sunflower asked a federal court to block the State from denying the plant's air permit and alleging that the State had violated Sunflower's Constitutional rights by unfairly denying the permit application.

On April 13, 2009, Sebelius again vetoed a legislative attempt to allow construction.  Then, on May 4, 2009, as the legislature was preparing an override vote, an agreement was reached between Sunflower and the new Kansas Governor, Mark Parkinson, to allow construction of one 895-megawatt coal plant in exchange for Sunflower investments in bioenergy, wind, and other alternative energy sources and the decommissioning of two older oil-fired units. 

On June 22, Earthjustice and the Sierra Club sent a letter to the Kansas Department of Health Environment calling for public comment. On July 1, EPA stated Sunflower was required to apply for a new air quality permit before the Holcomb expansion can move forward, including a new environmental impact analyses and public comment period.  On July 31, Sierra Club sued in U.S. District Court to force the federal Rural Utilities Service to study the environmental impacts of the Holcomb expansion and look for alternative options to generate electricity. This suit, which is pending, was filed as part of Sierra Club’s strategy of opposing all coal power plants throughout the U.S.  It has been reported that “[e]very time a new coal-fired power plant is proposed anywhere in the United States, a lawyer from the Sierra Club or an allied environmental group is assigned to stop it, by any bureaucratic or legal means necessary” and the Sierra Club’s Chief Climate Counsel has been quoted as saying that the goal is “to clog up the system.”

On January 13, 2010, Sunflower filed a new application with the State.   An initial draft permit was issued June 29.   On September 20, Sierra Club sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asking it to intervene to ensure the State fully considers all comments it receives about the permit. A revised draft permit was issued September 21.  Public hearings have been held. On October 22, Sierra Club submitted extensive comments on the draft PSD/construction permit.

SOURCES:  http://paguntaka.org/2008/01/16/sunflower-electric-power-corp-proposed-coal-plant/
http://www.kdheks.gov/download/Application_Timeline.pdf
http://www.sunflower.net/news/newsdetail.aspx?itemID=9 
http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/jul2009/2009-07-06-095.asp 
http://www.sutherland.com/files/News/25dad3ce-4007-4264-ac0f-063b22802a1b/Presentation/NewsAttachment/49e7482f-5bfd-4974-9eae-0a697bcedc89/LIT%20Alert%208.10.09.pdf http://articles.latimes.com/print/2008/apr/14/nation/na-coalwars14 
http://www.sierraclub.org/environmentallaw/coal/getBlurb.aspx?case=ks-holcomb.aspx 
http://www.kdheks.gov/bar/sunflower/sunflower.html
http://www.kansas.com/2010/09/22/1505083/coal-plant-critics-ask-epa-to.html

LAST UPDATED:  November 17, 2010