5 May 2009 — In a reversal from his predecessor, Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson signed an agreement ending a two-year fight over plans to build coal-fired power plants in Kansas. The compromise allows Sunflower Electric Power Corp. to build one 895 MW coal-fired power plant near Holcomb, instead of two 700 MW plants that were blocked by Kathleen Sebelius when she was governor.
As part of the compromise, Sunflower will build more wind turbines and agree to more pollution controls and a greater investment in energy efficiency.
The deal came on Parkinson’s sixth day in office and as lawmakers were preparing another attempt to overrule Sebelius’ veto of legislation to authorize the plants.
Parkinson said he reached out to Sunflower soon after he was sworn in to replace Sebelius in late April. He said he was frustrated by the political stalemate that saw the coal issue derailing efforts to encourage renewable energy.
The agreement doesn’t ensure the plant will be built. Sunflower still needs project financing. Its largest partner — Tri-State Generation and Transmission — said last month would reconsider its participation, in part because of the Kansas stalemate. Also, new carbon regulations from Congress could increase the cost of coal plants.
Sunflower said the smaller plant will produce carbon emissions of 6.67 million tons a year, compared with the 10.7 million tons projected to be emitted by the original two-plant project. Of the 895 MW, 200 MW will serve customers in western Kansas.
Sunflower said it will increase its investment in wind energy, close two old oil-fired plants, increase its use of biofuels, build two transmission lines to carry power west and dedicate 1 percent of gross sales to energy efficiency programs.
The compromise is contingent on lawmakers passing legislation requiring utilities to use more renewable energy, giving incentives to property owners with wind turbines or solar panels and mandating new energy efficiency standards for state buildings and vehicles.
Legislative leaders said they expected lawmakers to approve such legislation quickly.
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