Kansas says 'no' to big coal-fired power plant
LOS ANGELES |
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Kansas on Thursday joined a growing list of U.S. states that have rejected plans for coal-fired power on concerns over greenhouse gas emissions when it denied permits for two controversial 700-megawatt units.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) rejected the expansion of Sunflower Electric Power Corp's plant, near Holcomb in western Kansas, in a hotly contested debate that spread across the United States.
Attorneys general from eight states including California and New York appealed to the KDHE to reject the permit because it would impact air quality across the country.
"I believe it would be irresponsible to ignore emerging information about the contribution of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to climate change and the potential harm to our environment and health if we do nothing," said Roderick L. Bremby, secretary of the KDHE.
Some Kansas leaders say the nearly $4 billion plant expansion was needed to create jobs and provide energy in the area.
The decision is the latest in a string of rejections for coal-fired power this year, including plants once planned in Texas, Florida, Oklahoma and Minnesota.
Bruce Niles, head of the Sierra Club's national effort to stop coal plants, called the decision a major victory and another sign of growing resistance to coal-fired power plants.
"It's a watershed moment," Niles said. "Kansas joins Florida and California and other states to stake out a clean energy future based on (renewable) resources and rejects coal."
"Sunflower expects to pursue legal and legislative remedies to this denial," the company said on its Web site.
"We think the secretary made an arbitrary and capricious decision," said Steve Miller, spokesman for Sunflower.
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, applauded Bremby's decision, saying Kansas needs to turn to renewable energy. Her office said she didn't put pressure on Bremby.
Kansas Speaker of the House Melvin Neufeld, a Republican, claimed that Sebelius dictated Bremby's decision based on politics. The KDHE staff had recommended approval of Sunflower's permit.
Coal power plants account for 40 percent of all U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, a fact at the center of the resistance to expanding coal power plants. The two Sunflower units were projected to emit 11 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) each year.
Coal power plants account for about half of U.S. electricity generation, followed by nuclear power at 20 percent and natural gas at 19 percent. Coal generates about 75 percent of the power used in Kansas, said Kansans for Affordable Energy, which launched a pro-coal campaign on Thursday.
Coal-fired plants are "baseload" plants that offer around-the-clock utility-scale power while renewable sources at this point are intermittent.
A recent study by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) showed that plans for coal-fired power plants have been delayed in recent years.
The NETL showed that in 2002 there were expectations of 12,000 megawatts of coal-fired power to be installed by 2005. Only 329 MW were actually installed.
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