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Sierra Daily

Jan 31, 2012

Sunflower Shakeout

Sunflower Electric's existing 360-megawatt Holcomb Station power plant in Garden City, Kansas Its operators sought to sextuple its output. --Joies Images

Sierra has tracked the ups and downs of Sunflower Electric for years, ever since Scott Martelle's two-part series in 2009, "Killing King Coal" and "King Coal in Court." They told the story about how Sierra Club lawyers and activists were able to blunt the nation's "coal rush" by getting Kansas to deny a proposed new coal plant at Holcomb in 2007 because of its climate-changing potential--the first time this had ever happened in the U.S. That turned out to be only the beginning of the story, though. Six days after replacing Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, who left to join the Obama administration, incoming Governor Mark Parkinson made a deal with Sunflower to permit its 895 megawatt coal-fired plant. In a series of complex moves, the Sierra Club--represented by Earthjustice--has blocked the expansion at every turn--most recently today, when U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled that the project needs a new environmental impact study--which could add at least another year and a half to the process. (You can read the opinion here.) In a separate case before the Kansas Supreme Court, the Club is trying to overturn a pollution permit issued by the state last year.

While Sunflower's dirty energy plans lie mired in court, the American Wind Energy Association reports that Kansas has more wind projects under construction than any state in the nation. The answer, my friend . . .

--Paul Rauber

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