Sunflower Coal-Fired Power Plant Expansion Faces Legal Challenge

For Immediate Release

Contact: 
Stephanie Cole, Sierra Club, 402.984.1122
Amanda Goodin, Earthjustice attorney, 206.343.7340 ext 20
Bob Eye, Sierra Club attorney, 785.234.4040 work

Sunflower Coal-Fired Power Plant Expansion Faces Legal Challenge

Lawsuit cites failure to meet Clean Air Act standards, improper permitting process

TOPEKA, KS - Today,
Earthjustice, representing the Sierra Club of Kansas, filed an appeal
to a permit the Kansas Department of Health and Environment issued to
Sunflower Electric in December 2010. The permit is for the
controversial 895 megawatt coal-fired power plant near Holcomb.

Read the petition filed today, here:
 
“As the mother of two sons with
asthma, I am aware of the correlation between respiratory health and
air quality. Nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, particulates and other
hazardous pollutants threaten the health of those
with respiratory illness, children and the elderly in particular,” said
concerned Kansan, Jennifer Byer. “When the debate centers on the quality
of the air our children breathe, how clean is clean enough?”
 
The proposed coal plant was the
most intensely contested coal plant in Kansas history, as well as one
of the most debated permits KDHE has ever considered. The permit was
rushed through and undermined by outside influences,
which was well-documented by Kansas media.
 
“Kansans who expected to
receive a fair and objective review of this permit will take the issue
to court,” said Stephanie Cole of the Kansas Sierra Club. 
 
The appeal challenges
deficiencies in the permit that could expose Kansans to unnecessary
levels of harmful air pollutants including mercury, acid gases, sulfur
dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide, volatile organic
compounds, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter.  For instance, the
permit fails to set appropriate limits on Hazardous Air Pollutants, such
as mercury, which are the most harmful to human health – even in small
amounts.
 
“KDHE let Sunflower take
shortcuts and ignore available pollution control technology; as a
result, this is one of the dirtiest plants that has been permitted in
recent years.  Public health and pollution controls cannot
be brushed aside under federal law, the Clean Air Act is quite clear on
this,” said Amanda Goodin, an attorney with Earthjustice.    
 
“When it comes to millions of
tons of pollution for a coal plant that is not needed for Kansas, there
is no place for mistakes or misconduct,” said Cole.  “The weak emissions
standards in the permit mean that Kansans
will be exposed to unnecessarily high levels of pollutants that we know
cause serious health problems.”  
 
 
Coal Plant is for Colorado, Other States Planning to Shut Down Coal Plants
 
The majority of the power from
the Holcomb II expansion would serve Colorado, a state that committed
last month to retiring 902 megawatts of existing coal capacity.  It is
highly unlikely a new coal plant would ever
get built in Colorado, and by agreeing to do Colorado’s dirty work,
Kansas will be using billions of gallons of our water annually to
operate the coal plant - despite having fought Colorado for water for
over two decades. 
 
While Kansas rushed to permit a
new coal plant for Colorado before the year’s end, the rest of the
country spent 2010 planning to retire existing coal plants. 
 
  • For the second straight year, not a single new coal plant broke ground for construction in 2010.
  • A
    total of 48 existing coal plants were announced for retirement in 2010,
    which is likely the most coal plant retirements announced in a single
    year.  They will be replaced with cleaner burning fuels, renewable
    energy, and energy efficiency. 
  • Colorado, where most of the
    electricity from the Holcomb II coal plant will go, established a plan
    to shut down 902 megawatts of existing coal capacity.
  • Announced
    coal plant retirements in 2010 in Colorado, Arizona, Utah and Oregon
    will result in the retirement of nearly 10% of the entire Western coal
    fleet.
  • The Energy Information Agency now projects that no new coal plants will be built in 2011 without significant incentives.
  • The
    University of North Carolina, University of Illinois, Western Kentucky
    University, Cornell and University of Louisville all made coal-free
    commitments.
 
Kansans Agree: Coal Plant Not Needed, Lawsuit is Necessary to Protect Public Health
 
“Jobs for a few years,
pollution forever.  As someone who lives near the site of the new coal
plant, I am not willing to sacrifice my family’s health and welfare so a
Colorado company can build a coal plant in Kansas
they are not willing to build in their own backyard,” said Barb
Percival, who lives only a few miles from the Holcomb coal plant site. 
 
“Sunflower is so far in debt, I
question who is going to pay for this project.  If Tri-State wants the
electricity, let them build the coal plant in Colorado,” said Lee
Messenger of Garden City.
 
"Claims by project supporters
that this will be the ’cleanest coal plant in the nation’ are simply not
true.  According to 2010 EPA data, there are many other coal plants in
the country that have lower sulfur dioxide
and nitrogen oxide emissions than the proposed Holcomb plant. 
Similarly, particulate matter and mercury emissions from this plant will
exceed what many other coal plants are emitting.  Under the KDHE
permit, the Holcomb unit will not be using state of the
art processes that are already in place at dozens of existing coal
plants," said Scott Allegrucci of GPACE. 
 
“I worked hard to participate
in the process, and I expected KDHE would consider my input.  I was
disappointed with the outcome.  While organizing citizens to attend
hearings, I saw first-hand strong opposition to this
coal plant,” said Stephen Collins, a University of Missouri- Kansas City
student.  
 
Chuck Gillam, chairman of the
Advocacy Committee of the theological based Sustainable Sanctuary
Coalition, said “The state has sold out the health of Kansans, and those
who were interested in protecting public health,
like Secretary Bremby, have been quietly eliminated.” 
 
“Former Secretary Bremby’s
decision to reject this permit set Kansas apart as a national leader in
addressing climate change, said Margaret Tran, a recent Kansas
University graduate. “I cannot see how my generation and
generations to follow will be encouraged to stay and work in Kansas with
a coal plant that does not create long-term jobs but instead, creates
unhealthy pollution.”
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The Sierra Club is the oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States. It was founded on May 28, 1892 in San Francisco, California by the well-known conservationist and preservationist John Muir, who became its first president. The Sierra Club has hundreds of thousands of members in chapters located throughout the US, and is affiliated with Sierra Club Canada.

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