Sierra Club files new suit over Kansas coal plant

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 27, 2014 at 2:20 pm •  Published: June 27, 2014
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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Sierra Club filed a lawsuit Friday challenging Kansas' latest move to allow construction of a $2.8 billion coal-fired power plant, partly because the state wouldn't regulate the plant's greenhouse gas emissions.

The environmental group also said in its filing with the state Court of Appeals that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment isn't imposing adequate limits on other pollutants, including mercury, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. KDHE spokeswoman Sara Belfry said the agency believes the new plant would meet all federal and state air-quality standards.

Sunflower Electric Power Corp. wants to build the 895-megawatt facility next to an existing coal-fired plant outside Holcomb in southwest Kansas. The company declined to comment on the Sierra Club's filing because it was still reviewing the lawsuit.

KDHE Secretary Robert Moser approved changes last month in a 2010 permit allowing the plant's construction. The department said the changes set stricter air-quality standards to comply with a Kansas Supreme Court ruling last year in an earlier Sierra Club lawsuit, but environmentalists contend the changes are superficial.

Amanda Goodin, an attorney for Earthjustice, which is representing the Sierra Club, said even with the changes approved by Moser, his department "basically spit out the exact same permit" as in 2010.

"They've just done this very shoddy, slap-dash job," Goodin said in an Associated Press interview before the lawsuit was filed.

The new lawsuit also said the plant wouldn't meet federal air-quality standards that the state is required to enforce, not only for greenhouse gases but for other pollutants.

Moser approved the permit changes only three days before the federal Environmental Protection Agency outlined a new rule setting targets for states for cutting emissions of heat-trapping gases, such as carbon dioxide, tied to global warming.

The goal for Kansas is cutting such emissions by 23 percent from 2012 levels by 2030. The lawsuit said the new coal-fired plant would emit more than 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year — and the Sierra Club said Friday that the actual level will be millions of tons — making it far more difficult for Kansas to cut overall carbon emissions.

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