Proposed Kansas coal-fired plant supported in home county

GARDEN CITY, Kan. | A contentious proposal for a new coal-fired electricity plant was given overwhelming support by people who attended a public hearing in the western Kansas county where it would be built.

More than 100 people attended the hearing Thursday in Garden City, with nearly all speakers telling the Kansas Department of Health and Environment that they want the state to issue an air permit for construction of a Sunflower Electric Power Corp. project in Finney County.

Sunflower Electric wants to build an 895-megawatt plant to generate electricity, most of which would be used by Colorado-based Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association for out-of-state customers.

Supporters of the project say it would provide economic benefits, including 70 full-time jobs that could generate $5 million in annual wages.

Opponents argue that the increased production of carbon dioxide emissions from the coal would harm the state's health and environment and contribute to global warming.

In 2007, the KDHE rejected Sunflower's application for an air quality permit for two 700-megawatt plants in Holcomb. That led the Kansas Legislature to try to reverse KDHE secretary Rod Bremby in 2008 and 2009, but those bills were vetoed by then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

Sebelius' successor, Gov. Mark Parkinson, entered into an agreement with Sunflower that allowed the company to construct the smaller coal plant in exchange for legislative concessions on energy policy.