By Garden CIty Telegram, Oct. 8
A recent setback for Sunflower Electric Power Corp. understandably fueled the ire of local officials.
On Friday, the Kansas Supreme Court reversed the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s decision to issue a permit for expansion of Sunflower’s power plant at Holcomb — a project that has drawn strong opposition from environmentalists who question coal-fired power plant emissions.
The ruling sends Sunflower’s permit request back to the KDHE to consider more recent, stricter standards before granting a new permit. Sunflower officials vowed to push on toward the $2.2 billion project that would add an 895-megawatt coal-fired plant.
In response to the court ruling, Holcomb Mayor Gary Newman understandably questioned why a federal government supposedly interested in lessening dependence on foreign oil and developing a more diversified energy portfolio wouldn’t support a Sunflower plan with cutting-edge, pollution-gathering technology.
Matt Allen, city manager for Garden City, rightly noted how the Sunflower expansion would help ensure adequate baseload energy, and affordability for consumers.
Finney County Economic Development Corp. President Lona DuVall had cause to question opponents’ criticism of power being sent out of Kansas — a state eager to export crops, aircraft and more — and on to a significant number of users in Colorado,
The expansion also would create some 2,000 jobs during peak construction, and about 200 new full- and part-time jobs when operational.
Unlike folks on the front line who understand the need to strike a balance between affordability, reliability of energy sources and environmental responsibility, opponents have fixated only on the environment. They show too little regard for how utilities would address future energy needs in ways that best serve consumers.
While everyone should want to protect the environment, the goal should be producing affordable energy from a variety of sources, coal included, to meet demand while reducing emissions. In addressing environmental concerns, Sunflower voluntarily pursued innovative plans to slash carbon dioxide emissions.
Utilities have an obligation to meet demand in an affordable way while pursuing technology that reduces emissions. The Sunflower project would do as much, something opponents still fail to acknowledge in their stubborn quest to block the expansion plan.