Local News

Parkinson: Sunflower has support

SCOTT CITY — Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson said Monday he expects the permitting process for Sunflower Electric Power Corp.

Date: 7/8/2009

Posted by Kansas Appleseed on 7/8/2009

Published 7/7/2009 in Local News




Through the Kansas Department of Health Environment to go differently than it did in 2007, when KDHE denied the utility's air quality permit for two new coal-fired plants, because Sunflower has the backing of the state this time.


Parkinson traveled Monday to Scott City during a yearly trip the governor takes to view wheat during harvest, and said the state's backing and support is a fundamental difference from when the utility tried to get the permit the first time around. During that time, then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius opposed the plant expansion, vetoing legislation that would've allowed Sunflower to build.

After Sebelius' resignation to become a cabinet secretary in President Obama's administration, Parkinson became governor and in May brokered a compromise with Sunflower allowing for a 895-megawatt plant.

The state made a commitment to Sunflower through the legislation that passed to grant the permit, Parkinson said Monday. The passage of legislation also was aimed at promoting renewable energy and conservation.

But while the state has shown support for the project, Parkinson said, the state can't control what the Environmental Protection Agency could do with the project, as well as federal legislation that could affect the plant.

Parkinson's statement came less than a week after William Rice, the EPA's acting regional administrator in Kansas City, told KDHE Secretary Rod Bremby, who denied the permit for Sunflower in October 2007, the state must treat the 895-megawatt-plant proposal as a "new project." That means the state must start over in its review process of the one proposed plant.

In the letter to Bremby, Rice states that while an agreement was reached between Parkinson, Sunflower and the Legislature, "as we stated at the meeting (of EPA, counsel for Parkinson and representatives of Sunflower and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association in May), the new Sunflower project contemplated by the agreement must still meet the requirements of the federal Clean Air Act and the Kansas State Implementation Plan approved by EPA under the Act."

The EPA's directive isn't a surprise to Sunflower, Parkinson said, explaining the utility was well aware it would be dealing with both the EPA and state through the review process.

Parkinson said that as long as Sunflower can meet the guidelines and has EPA's approval, it also has the state's support.

Sunflower spokeswoman Cindy Hertel has said there's nothing surprising in Rice's letter, adding the utility has been working closely with KDHE on the permit process.

She foresees Sunflower having updated information for the permit to the state by early to mid-fall.

During Parkinson's visit to the Scott City Public Library, Scott County Commissioner Jack Frick thanked Parkinson for his efforts to enable the Sunflower project, which Frick also sees as the ticket for helping wind development proceed in Scott County and southwest Kansas.

"I commend you for that," Frick said of the compromise between the state and Sunflower.

Parkinson said the state has a unique opportunity to become a hub for wind energy in the country but that the state has done about all it can to encourage wind development. He said he speaks to utilities on a weekly basis encouraging them to buy and develop more wind generation.

While it remains to be seen whether "cap-and-trade" provisions will pass Congress, Parkinson said, he'd like to see the national renewable energy standard currently included with the provisions dealt with separately from cap and trade.

The cap-and-trade provisions would be implemented and enforced by the EPA under the federal Clean Air Act and would preempt existing state and regional climate change management schemes. But states could be free to enact new, more stringent greenhouse standards if the provisions pass.

Parkinson has family in Scott City and Scott County, including his great aunt and uncle, Louis and Elizabeth Parkinson, who sat in the front row of the filled room on Monday. Parkinson visited his family's farm after the meeting.

"When I think of Kansas, I always think of Scott City," he told them.

Parkinson said he's excited to serve as governor during a challenging economic time, hoping he can impact the state in a positive manner. He said he's worked hard at pulling together legislators, saying the tough times don't allow for "politics as usual."

The state made another round of budget cuts last week, Parkinson said, adding, "there's not a lot left to cut."

He said there's a lot to be proud of in the state, including the state working together during tough times, but that Kansas also needs a good harvest and for the economy to start turning around.

Parkinson also was asked again whether he'd run for governor, saying he's honored to serve the state and admires those who serve most of their lives in public office.

"I'm just not one of them," he said, explaining he'll work to steer the state through the difficult time.

"But when my time is done, it's done," he said.