Archive for Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Bill would place moratorium on coal-fired plants

January 23, 2007

By Scott Rothschild

Topeka - A state legislator has filed a measure to place a two-year moratorium on the building of coal-fired electric plants in Kansas.

Rep. Vaughn Flora, D-Topeka, said he is concerned about the environmental impact of three proposed 700-megawatt plants in western Kansas.

"Many constituents and people throughout the state have contacted me with questions about these plants," Flora said.

Under the proposal by Sunflower Electric Power Corp. the three plants would be built beside an existing 360-megawatt plant near Holcomb.

Two of the three plants will be used to produce power for sale in Colorado. The plants would also require water from the Ogallala Aquifer.

Flora said he is concerned "that we are using Kansas water for Colorado electricity and that prevailing winds could blow emissions northeast to Topeka."

During the proposed moratorium, Flora said he wants the Legislative Division of Post Audit to conduct a study on the health effects of emissions from coal-fired plants and the proposed depletion of groundwater.

Sunflower Electric has stated that the plants would be much cleaner than existing coal-burning facilities.

"The design of these new plants will feature the latest environmental technologies, which will make them among the cleanest in the nation," Earl Watkins, Sunflower president and chief executive officer, has stated.

Watkins has also noted that Sunflower's proposal to use 29,000 acre feet of water annually for all four plants, is a fraction of the 2.1 million acre feet currently pumped from the aquifer, mostly for agricultural irrigation.

Sunflower officials also say the project will boost the regional economy and provide needed electricity.

A decision on whether to allow construction of the plants is pending with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Eight states, the city of Lawrence, and numerous environmental groups have opposed the proposal, saying the carbon dioxide emissions from the plant will be a major contributor to climate change.

- Staff writer Scott Rothschild can be reached at 785-354-4222

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