Construction was blocked in 2007 when Kansas became the first state to deny a building permit because of health concerns about greenhouse gases. But a change in governors led to a 2009 settlement agreement between then-Gov. Mark Parkinson and Sunflower that allowed the permitting process to begin again. In December 2010, the KDHE approved the building permit for the plant, which was estimated to cost as much as $3 billion to construct.
The court didn't make a determination about the use of best available technology that Sunflower would install to reduce emissions. The Sierra Club argued that the plant's permit didn't reflect the best controls that could be used. The justices questioned whether the issue is relevant, based their ruling about applying stricter emission standards.
"The parties should be given an opportunity to present their positions regarding the scope of proceedings on remand and whether there must be a new determination on the best available control technology," Justice Marla Luckert wrote.
The court also is leaving it to the KDHE to determine the scope of the new permit review.
However, the justices did side with the KDHE in its decision to set emission limits over the life of the power plant, finding that they were not arbitrary but rather supported by substantial evidence.
Environmentalists said Friday's ruling sends a message that the attractiveness of coal as an energy source was fading and allayed residents' concerns about the future quality of air they breathe.
The case is No. 105,493.
Kansas Supreme Court: http://www.kscourts.org