What new EPA regulations could mean for Kansas coal

The coal-fired Plant Scherer is shown in operation early Sunday, June 1, 2014, in Juliette, Ga. The Obama administration unveiled a plan Monday to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by nearly a third over the next 15 years, in a sweeping initiative to curb pollutants blamed for global warming. (AP Photo/John Amis)

WICHITA, Kansas — Now that the Environmental Protection Agency is limiting how much carbon pollution coal-burning power plants can create, KSN looked into how the Sunflower Electric coal plant expansion in Holcomb may be affected.

KSN reached out to representatives with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. They responded to us in an email: “We are in the process of reviewing the new proposed rules and do not have any further comment at this time.”

After receiving that response, we contacted representatives of Sunflower Electric Power Corporation.

“EPA’s announcement today proposes a 645-page guidance for states to implement standards for existing electric generating units,” said Cindy Hertel, with Sunflower Electric. “We’re still in the process of reviewing those guidelines.”

She continued, “Even after the guidelines are reviewed, it will be very difficult to determine how the plan will impact Sunflower since the standards will be implemented via state specific plans that have yet to be developed.”

KSN learned, regardless, the expansion project will move forward.

“We will continue to protect the optionality of the Holcomb Expansion Project,” said Hertel.

Leaders in Southwest Kansas support the plant expansion.

“We are very supportive of the expansion,” said Steve Dyer, with the Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce. “They’re a strong company and there is no doubt in our minds that they should be in Finney County,” Dyer continued.

Kansas republicans voiced their disapproval of the new EPA regulations.

Governor Sam Brownback’s office released a statement Monday in response to the announcement. He condemned President Barack Obama’s “overregulation of energy producers.”

To read the statement in its entirety, click here.

On the other side of the debate, the issue comes down to health and climate change.

“If Sunflower goes ahead with this and finds the resources to continue to do this, and this doesn’t stop through the carbon rule, what’s going to happen is… we’re stuck with the pollution,” said Yvonne Cather, the Kansas Sierra Club Chair.

Although the EPA made the announcement Monday, it won’t finalize the proposal until the middle of 2015. After that, states will have one year to come up with implementation plans. The EPA’s proposal reportedly gives states “wide” leeway in how they meet the new requirements.

Individual states will be able to choose between doing plant upgrades, converting from coal to natural gas, improving energy efficiency, or by promoting renewable energy in areas offsite of the actual coal plant.

Related links:

EPA.gov: Carbon Pollution Standards

EPA Fact Sheets:

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