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New Sunflower power plant permit open for public comment

By TREVOR GOFF
KHI News Service

TOPEKA — Kansas utility officials and state environmental regulators say they remain uncertain of the consequences from expected new federal air quality regulations, particularly with respect to Hays-based Sunflower Electric’s efforts to build a new, 895-megawatt generating unit at its coal-fired power plant in Holcomb, near Garden City.

Sunflower Electric

Tom Gross, air monitoring and planning chief for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said agency officials don’t know yet the exact language of the standards EPA will propose — probably by June — but that they know the possibilities.

“They’re not going to give us a rule that says do this, this and this,” Gross said. “They’re going to give us a framework and say here are some means by which you can do that.”

Gross said the new rules might include new energy efficiency requirements for generation infrastructure, transmission system improvements and a focus on renewable energy.

Gross spoke at a hearing today held by the House Energy and Environment Committee.

Also today, KDHE officials announced they are accepting public comment on an addendum to the permit they issued for Sunflower to build the new generator. The addendum was the result of a court decision that sent the permit back to agency for retooling after its challenge by an environmental group.

The proposed modified permit was posted today by KDHE, which will accept comments on it through Feb. 19:

• email at SunflowerComments@kdheks.gov,
• mail to Christy Thurman, KDHE Bureau of Air, 1000 SW Jackson, Ste. 310, Topeka, KS 66612-1366, or
• in person at a public hearing scheduled for 5 p.m. Feb. 19 in the Garden City High School Auditorium (map).

The Kansas Supreme Court ruled this fall that KDHE’s original permit didn’t adhere to federal clean air regulations.

The ruling stemmed from a 2011 lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club alleging the air quality permit for the facility was the result of a tainted process after then-Gov. Mark Parkinson struck a deal with Sunflower to settle the company’s lawsuit against the state filed after KDHE’s initial rejection of the company’s permit request in 2007.

EPA is scheduled to issue new proposed standards for electrical generation plants in June 2014. But a September 2013 draft proposal set an emission limit of 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour of generation, which several legislators voiced concern about during the hearing.

EPA seeks a 17 percent cut in carbon pollution from 2005 levels by 2020. The goal, included in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, has officials looking for ways to better regulate emissions.

“They have always regulated inside the fence,” of electrical generating stations, said Wayne Penrod, executive manager of environmental policy for the Sunflower Electric Cooperative. “The problem is they can’t get 17 percent by regulating inside the fence so they have to be expansive in thinking about how they can get more.”

Penrod said that could include adding existing wind energy units to utility portfolios and programs assisting consumers improve energy efficiency in their homes, but that regulating those kinds of programs would be costly and difficult.

Gross said KDHE’s Air Bureau is working on a comment letter to EPA asking for state flexibility in determining how the federal standards are to be met so that utilities aren’t put in the position of finding it impossible to comply with new regulations.

“They need to make sure that they…address how the state agencies can deal with say an existing unit that just dropped several million dollars into improving a thirty-year old power plant. Don’t come out with a rule that gives that plant no opportunity to comply with the rule.

“I tell you what,” he said. “It’s a tough question to answer because we don’t have a rule to react to. Until then it’s just total speculation.”

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  • BobOil

    Build the darn thing already.

  • Sierra guy

    At least wait until drought is over….then you can start polluting again!

  • Chief59

    This is terrible! I don’t know why capitalist are allowed to create power plants! This just makes energy cheaper! We shouldn’t be doing that! We need to shut down as many power plants as possible and make it the wonderful country from my wet socialist dreams!

    • Chief59

      Yet again, Hays Post moderators, please block this imposter. Maybe if you didn’t use an anonymous comment system, people like this hate filled bigot wouldn’t have the balls to post what he does.

      • passin_threw

        I don’t see anything bigoted in this post. Are you just mad he’s mocking you?

        • Chief59

          I said he is a bigot, not this post necessarily. I could care less about Homm mocking me. However, I post here regularly, and do not want my user name associated with the drivel that he posts under it.

          • passin_threw

            Seems the more whiney attention you give him the more he will do it. Starting to think you need a life coach

          • Chief59

            Nope, just wanting Hays Post to actually enforce their own rules.

          • JesusChristThisGuysAPussy

            Cry to your mommy, you little girl. Remember when you said you could easily find me and I can’t hide? How’s that going, crier?

          • Chief59

            Yep, that wasn’t me. Stalker.

          • Reality hurts libs

            Ya, it was. The fluoride page when you were two PEW shills’ lap dog

          • Chief59

            Hey, whatever makes you feel better about yourself. I’d be confused too if I was you. Hard to think straight with so much hate in your heart.

          • TypicalLib

            Oooo a lib said “hate” next is “greedy” then “racist” ie: every lib talking points handed down by screwball Matthews

          • Chief59

            You’re repeating yourself again.

          • passin_threw

            Talking to yourself chief?

          • Chief59

            Seems like I have no life at all, huh? That’s ok though, I’m really a chomo!

          • Cheif59HasAMicroPenis

            Seems like you care an awful lot, dumblib

  • Sierra guy

    98% of the world’s scientist believe the burning of fossil fuel is polluting our environment! That comment alone should be enough! Look out your windows today and see our soil/dust blowing away!

    • CallinOutLibTards

      Libs like you would die without electricity

  • Dean

    The Holcomb power plant can be built without any (zero) pollution. That is the only way it should be allowed. Any thing less means the State government does not care about its people.

    • Callinoutlibtards

      If you can’t live without creating 0 pollution, you should kill yourself

  • A_citizen_patriot

    I am all for reducing emissions. But you right now there are not better alternatives. You have to have some fossil fuel plants.

    • Bring back the horse and buggy

      Nuclear. I am no energy expert, it just sounds cool. When in doubt, go nuclear.

    • Wendy

      We don’t need any NEW ones or adding on to what we currently have in service.

      • A_citizen_patriot

        Well I would assume if they are wanting to build it, they must have a reason.