Sneaky Grinch Appears in Kansas, With a Whole Bunch of Coal


If in the odd chance you’re looking for an opportunity to be disgusted by political malfeasance, look no farther than Kansas.


Last week the state’s Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) rammed through the permit approval for a new, polluting and un-needed massive coal-fired power plant.  The 895 Megawatt behemoth is not needed in Kansas: approximately 80 percent of its power is slated to be shipped out of state. But Governor Mark Parkinson wanted it and appears to have forced his Health and Environment department to approve the permit before January 2 when new Environmental Protection Agency regulations to limit carbon dioxide emissions take effect  that would require plants to install millions of dollars of greenhouse gas controls.


If you think no pressure was placed on the agency to issue the permit, you might wonder why employees were ‘voluntarily’ working weekends to sort through the approximately 6,000 public comments on the proposal. That’s odd since a previous review of 800 comments took sixteen months. You can find more about the permit here.


As I’ve noted in a previous blog, Governor Parkinson was against this plant before he was for it. Any realistic political observer has no doubt that the Governor had the former KDHE director fired because it was clear then Secretary Rod Bremby was not in favor of the plant. As I noted earlier on Bremby’s firing


The reason: Rod Bremby had shown the courage to stand up to Big Coal and the Koch Brothers (who appear to own the Kansas Legislature, judging by the number of lobbyists they employ). Bremby had been the first state official in the United States to deny the permit for a dirty new coal plant based on the health impacts of its global warming emissions. He was backed up by then Governor Kathleen Sebelius, who vetoed efforts to overturn Bremby’s decision, and her lieutenant, Mark Parkinson.


Back then, Parkinson was against plant, to be developed in the town of Holcomb by the Sunflower Rural Electric Cooperative. As Parkinson said at the time (March of 2008): "Why legislators are supporting Wyoming coal and Colorado energy while putting at risk the economy and health of Kansans is beyond me."


It’s a good question. The plant is being developed  in Holcomb by KS-based Sunflower Electric Cooperative, but about 80% of the power would be purchased by Colorado-based Tri-State Generation and Transmission to power Colorado homes and businesses. Coal for the plant would have to be shipped in from Wyoming, meaning Kansas dollars make the return trip. 


Undoubtedly this decision will be challenged in the courts, and hopefully by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Kansans and justice deserve at least as much.