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Kansas Supreme Court hears power plant permit case

Associated Press Modified: August 31, 2012 at 1:30 pm •  Published: August 31, 2012

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Attorneys for environmental groups argued Friday that a construction permit issued by state regulators for a new coal-fired power plant in southwestern Kansas violates air quality standards and should be rejected.

But lawyers for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment told the Kansas Supreme Court the agency followed all applicable laws and scientific standards in issuing the permit for Sunflower Electric Power Corp.

The court's ruling will determine whether the 2010 permit is proper and could allow construction to begin on the plant near Holcomb. The seven-member court didn't indicate how quickly it would rule.

The Sierra Club and other environmental groups claim the permitting process was flawed. They say KDHE took shortcuts for political reasons, and that members of the environmental groups have or will be harmed by the plant's emissions.

Attorney Amanda Goodin said the permit ignores federal Clean Air Act standards, allowing for greater emissions of nitrous oxide, sulfur oxide and other particles that should be held to a minimum.

"That's not what this permit does," she said. "Under the Clean Air Act and Kansas law, that's just not good enough."

Attorneys for Hays-based Sunflower and the state contend regulators look at the best available scientific data, assuming the plant would use modern technology to reduce emissions.

The Sunflower project has been on indefinite hold. A federal judge delayed the project in January until a federal environmental impact study could be completed.

Sunflower supplies power for about 400,000 Kansas customers and plans to build a plant with a capacity of 895 megawatts, enough to meet the peak demands of 448,000 households, according to one state estimate. Three-quarters of the new capacity, or 695 megawatts, would be reserved for Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association Inc ., of Westminster Colo., which plans to buy the power for customers in Colorado.

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