The Garden City Telegram
1/20/2014
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Air flap

State agency opts to counter Kansas Supreme Court ruling.

A long-standing plan to expand the Sunflower Electric Power Corp. facility at Holcomb has experienced its share of twists and turns.

Court challenges over emissions and other protests powered by environmentalists have blocked the path to the project that would deliver an 895-megawatt, coal-fired power plant at the Holcomb station, a needed venture in meeting future energy needs in an affordable way.

A recent chapter in the saga saw the Kansas Supreme Court rule the Kansas Department of Health and Environment's original issuance of a construction permit in 2010 didn't account for new emission standards from the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

The ruling sent Sunflower's permit request back to the KDHE for greater scrutiny of the new standards before the permit could be issued.

KDHE viewed the situation differently, however. The agency issued an addendum to the permit that essentially says new standards addressed by the state Supreme Court have been met, as the KDHE deemed what the court ordered already in place.

Through the addendum process, KDHE is contending the construction now may take place — in essence dismissing the court ruling.

The KDHE move could be a sign of more to come from Gov. Sam Brownback and a conservative Republican majority in the Kansas Legislature who have suggested they would find a way to counter a pending court ruling on school finance if it doesn't go their way, and the state is directed to pony up significant additional funding for K-12 public schools.

Meanwhile, the public has an opportunity to weigh in on the latest Sunflower-related issue, as the KDHE recently opened up a public comment period on its addendum to the construction permit.

Public input may be submitted through Feb. 19. A public hearing also has been scheduled for 5 p.m. Feb. 19 in the Garden City High School auditorium.

Prior public hearings on the proposed Sunflower plant expansion sparked contentious exchanges among people on both sides.

While we would expect more of the same this time around, it also will be interesting to see how one state agency apparently not interested in backing down to the court system will fare.