Good News, at Least Initially, for Sunflower Electric Power

Approval of draft air quality permit opens 45 days of public comment, interesting test of change in carbon debate

A 45-day public comment period begins today on a new draft air quality permit that will allow Sunflower Electric Power to build a 895-megawatt unit to expand its generation capacity at Holcomb Station.

It will be interesting to see how the debate unfolds during the comment period. Intially, Sunflower had sought to build two 700-megawatt plants but KDHE Secretary Rod Bremby denied the air quality permit, saying carbon dioxide emissions from the plant represented a health hazard for Kansans. Developers of the plant had met all existing state and federal emissions regulations.

The denial triggered a year-long battle in the state legislature with then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius twice vetoing legislation that would have overturned Bremby's decision.

Within days of Sebelius' appointment to the Obama cabinet, Gov. Mark Parkinson reached a compromise with Sunflower that would allow one 895-megawatt plant.

I've long held the Holcomb project should have been approved if for no other reason than to put cleaner technology on line than the existing coal-fired plants. It will be years, even decades, before renewable energies such as wind, solar or whatever else science can discover builds enough critical mass to replace fossil fuels for power generation.

We need to move forward one step at a time in the meantime. Here's to hoping Sunflower gets to make its move forward.

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