As a Kansas native and Kansas State University alumnus, I have spent my life proud of my home state. Today, however, I have serious concerns for the citizens of Kansas and the future health of my family members who still live there.
In my public service as a utility regulator, I have learned a great deal about the intricacies of energy and electricity and the choices that exist for the future of both. Nothing is more risky today than coal. It is dirty and cannot affordably be cleaned up. Period.
Oklahoma rejected a risky coal plant and instead chose to rely on its own native blessings of wind and natural gas to power its future. Time has proven that to be the right decision, especially as gigantic and disastrous cost overruns are coming to light on the coal plant under construction in Illinois. Kansas ratepayers are facing the prospect of increased electric bills from cost overruns on Kansas City Power & Light Co.'s new coal plant in Iatan, Mo.
Meanwhile, wind and natural gas, fuel sources native to Kansas, can spur economic growth and provide cleaner electricity far into the future.
Wind power emits zero air pollution. It is rural Kansas' greatest hope for an economic shot in the arm, and it is truly sustainable.
Natural gas is America's cleanest reliable power source. It is abundant in Kansas and affordably keeps the lights on 24 hours a day across our country. Remember, Kansas exports natural gas to other states.
Yet Kansas is now debating whether to build a new coal plant in Holcomb, using Wyoming coal to serve Colorado utility customers. Colorado won't allow the coal plant there, so they want to build it in Kansas.
Colorado will get the power, but the problems will remain with Kansas: Risky capital debt for the 60-year life of the plant, depletion of Kansas' finite ground water, and massive amounts of dirty air and pollution across Kansas' skies for the next three or more generations.
A new, massive coal plant in Holcomb makes no sense for a state that prides itself on common sense. Why would Kansas pollute our future, stall our own local, native energy economy and ship Kansas citizens' money out of state for this dirty coal plant?
Because of the pollution this proposed plant would generate, Holcomb's parent company, Sunflower Electric Power Corp., must obtain a permit from regulators. That process is under way now and allows parents and grandparents a chance to have their voices heard.
The public hearings begin at 2 p.m. Aug. 2 at Blue Valley Northwest High School in Overland Park. They continue Aug. 4 at the Highway Patrol Training Center in Salina, and Aug. 5 at Garden City Community College.
It's time for advocates of common sense to speak out. It's time for parents who want local Kansas energy jobs for their children to speak out.
It's time that Kansans stand up for Kansas, and I hope you will.
Roth is an attorney and former member of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.