Air Pollution Control Equipment Services, Coal, Emissions

Sunflower Electric sues Sebelius administration in federal court

18 November 2008 — Sunflower Electric Power Corp. has filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court, District of Kansas, against Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson and Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health & Environment Roderick Bremby, asking for injunctive relief related to the October 2007 denial of an air quality permit for the cooperative’s power plant expansion.

The lawsuit asserts that the defendants, acting in their official capacity, have violated Sunflower’s right to fair and equal treatment under the law and are unlawfully prohibiting interstate commerce. The case resulted from the denial of an air permit application for a power plant expansion at Sunflower’s Holcomb Station in Finney County, Kansas. The lawsuit asks that these three officials be stopped from preventing Sunflower from lawfully pursuing the expansion.

Earl Watkins, president and CEO of Sunflower said that in denying the permit, the administration discriminated against nearly 2 million citizens who would have to pay higher electric rates should the expansion not move forward.

Despite his own staff’s recommendation to approve the application, Bremby denied Sunflower the permit required for construction of new coal-based electric generating units on the grounds that their carbon dioxide emissions would contribute to global warming.

Carbon dioxide is not currently regulated in Kansas or the U.S. and has not been used as a reason to deny an air permit for any other facility in Kansas. Bremby continues to issue permits that emit carbon dioxide but has not stated what constitutes an acceptable level of carbon dioxide, only that the amount associated with Sunflower’s expansion project is “too much.”

Watkins said his company’s application satisfied all applicable rules and regulations that govern air permits in Kansas, adding that Sunflower’s permit is the only one that Bremby’s department has denied out of the thousands that have been filed since 2003.

Sebelius and Parkinson have repeatedly stated that the denial was proper because the majority of the power would be exported to other states. It is not against Kansas or U.S. law to export products, including electricity, and the administration continues to promote exports of electricity generated by wind and other Kansas products. It is, however, against the law to interfere with interstate commerce.

Watkins said it is unconscionable to halt a project that would create 329 jobs and $16 million in payroll at a time of economic downturn.

Sunflower developed the Holcomb Expansion Project to meet its growing energy needs and keep rates affordable for the customers of its member distribution systems.

The Holcomb Expansion Project, as designed, would have regulated emissions that are 90 percent less than the average coal plant in the U.S. generating fleet.

Sunflower Electric Power Corp. is a regional wholesale power supplier that operates a 1,257 MW system of wind, gas, and coal-based generating plants.

Stories of interest:

Kansas denies permit for Holcomb expansion

Tri-State delays Kansas coal plant