Political trickery keeping Kansas coal plans alive

If you thought the application to expand a coal-fired electricity plant in Kansas was dead, think again.

Big Coal and their political allies in the Kansas State legislature have introduced a slick new Bill that if passed will make it very difficult for the massive Sunflower Electric coal plant expansion to not go ahead.

Regular readers might recall our extensive coverage of the Kansas coal fight that started in late 2007 after the Kansas Department of Health and Environment became the first government agency in the United States to cite carbon dioxide emissions as the reason for rejecting an air permit for a proposed coal-fired electricity generating plant.

The Department of Health stated that greenhouse gas threatens public health and the environment.

The coal company who lost the bid, Sunflower Electric and their political allies in the Kansas Legislature fought like heck to overturn the ruling. Even coal giant Peabody Energy got into the mix, dropping some big bucks on a fake grassroots organization calling itself “Kansans for Affordable Energy.”

Through the “Kansans for Affordable Energy,” Peabody and Sunflower went so far as to fund an outrageous ad campiagn threatening that imports of natural gas from the likes of Venezualan President Hugo Chavez and Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were going to corner the Kansan energy market if the coal plant wasn’t built.

All this was despite the fact that a report by a third-party business analyst found that:

“The proposed coal-fired plant in Kansas could end up costing consumers between $22.4 million and $51.6 million annually and, the decision to build new coal generating capacity will put Sunflower Electric’s ratepayers – who in this particular case are the actual owners – at significant risk.”

But risks to taxpayers be damned, Big Coal has figured a new way of getting the plant built with the introduction of  Bill 2182, which as environment writer Simran Sethi describes it:

“While the bill makes no mention of Sunflower Electric, carbon emissions, or the Holcomb coal plants, it would effectively strip Health Secretary Rob Bremby and the Department of Health and the Environment of their power to regulate industry based on air quality concerns, and therefore force them to grant the permits to Sunflower.”

It was Bremby and the Department of Health that were the ones who put a break on the Sunflower plant, so the pro-coal politicians are attempting through a new law to just cut the Department of Health out of the decision making progress.

Brilliant and sadly very Machiavellian. This is a fight that is not over by a long shot and DeSmogBlog will be watching it closely. If you’re a local group that’s working on-the-ground against this expansion, drop me an email at [email protected] - we would love to help out where we can.

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