News Columns & Blogs

Pro-con: Did environmentalists lose on coal deal?

coalplantholcomb19New Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson offered a deal to Sunflower Electric Power Corp. of Kansas, the company that had been lobbying for two coal-fired power plants for well over a year. Parkinson is allowing Sunflower to build one of those coal plants. With this settlement Kansas has given up its place as a national leader on clean energy. Under former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Kansas was well-positioned to make contributions to slow global warming. This agreement is a significant setback. The concessions made to the coal industry will greatly outweigh any so-called benefits for the state. The new coal plant actually increases Kansas' contributions to global warming. While the country is moving away from polluting fossil fuels, Kansas has opened the door for outdated, dirty technology other states are rejecting. The agreement appears to invite Sunflower Electric to build another coal plant in two years. This is not a compromise, but a giveaway to the coal industry Kansans have stood up against. — Bruce Nilles, Sierra Club, for the Huffington Post

The number of planned coal plants across America has plummeted from 150 to 60 in the past five years. Last year 5,465 megawatts of new electricity were announced, but more than twice that capacity was subtracted because of cancellations or delays. Environmentalists, though thrilled, know they still have a long way to go. Renewable resources can't yet begin to replace coal as providers of power. But a deal struck in Kansas on May 4, ending 19 months of impasse between Sunflower Electric Power Corp. and the state government, shows under what conditions coal may be able to survive. Two coal-fired plants had been planned by Sunflower. It will now build just one, which will use new clean technology, offset carbon dioxide emissions and develop wind energy on the side. In return, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment cannot impose any greenhouse-gas regulations that are tougher than those emerging from Washington. Suddenly, that seems a pretty high bar. — the Economist magazine