Kansas Supreme Court reverses permit approval for new coal-fired power plant

The Kansas Supreme Court issued a decision Friday reversing the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s approval for construction of a new coal-fired power plant in the state planned by Sunflower Electric Power Corp.

In a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club, the court ruled the KDHE committed an error of law by failing to apply U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 1-hour emission limits for nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide during the permitting process of the planned Holcomb 2 facility. The one-hour emission regulations were issued in April and August of 2010, before the permit was issued on Dec. 16, 2010, according to the court.

The KDHE did not apply the limits to the permit because Kansas had not yet amended its State Implementation Plan to include the new regulations. The court’s decision sends the permit back to the KDHE to consider using the one-hour standards as well.

Other issues in the lawsuit, such as the Sierra’s Club argument that KDHE should have included integrated gasification combined cycle technology in the first step of its best available control technology analysis, were rejected by the court.

The decision is the most recent setback in construction of the plant, which had its permit denied in October 2007. Sunflower challenged the decision, and Sunflower and former Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson entered a settlement agreement that established terms and conditions for resuming the KDHE’s consideration of the permit application.

The 895-MW Holcomb 2 facility would be built at the site of an existing plant. The plant has a power purchase agreement with Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association Inc. for 695 MW of its total capacity, which would be used for Tri-State Generation’s Colorado customers.

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