Article

Coal plants’ renaissance pits energy vs. pollution

Proposed power plants in Kansas and Missouri have become targets of environmentalists who are fighting to halt a new wave of coal-fired units.

Utilities have plans to build more than 130 power plants throughout the country, and at least eight of those are in Kansas and western Missouri, with two in the immediate Kansas City area.

It has been decades since so many coal-fired power plants were proposed. In Kansas, a coal plant hasn’t been built since the 1970s. In Missouri, it was the early 1980s.

But coal-fired plants have become the most economical to build in recent years, and the utility industry says a large number are needed to keep up with demand.

Environmentalists argue, though, that they emit large amounts of air pollution and contribute to global warming. The Bush administration has refused to adopt rules that go far enough in protecting the public’s health and the environment, they say.

The Sierra Club recently adopted a national policy to challenge any new power plants until stricter rules for air pollution and global warming are implemented. Sierra Club attorneys are working in Kansas and Missouri to halt the construction of new power plants by using such means as appeals of permits and zoning changes.

“This is the battleground,” said Bruce Nilles, a Sierra Club attorney who is watching... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
Utilities have plans to build more than 130 power plants throughout the country, and at least eight of those are in Kansas and western Missouri, with two in the immediate Kansas City area.

It has been decades since so many coal-fired power plants were proposed. In Kansas, a coal plant hasn’t been built since the 1970s. In Missouri, it was the early 1980s.

But coal-fired plants have become the most economical to build in recent years, and the utility industry says a large number are needed to keep up with demand.

Environmentalists argue, though, that they emit large amounts of air pollution and contribute to global warming. The Bush administration has refused to adopt rules that go far enough in protecting the public’s health and the environment, they say.

The Sierra Club recently adopted a national policy to challenge any new power plants until stricter rules for air pollution and global warming are implemented. Sierra Club attorneys are working in Kansas and Missouri to halt the construction of new power plants by using such means as appeals of permits and zoning changes.

“This is the battleground,” said Bruce Nilles, a Sierra Club attorney who is watching over the legal cases in the Midwest.

“The reason we care desperately and have adopted a policy of leaving no coal plant unopposed is because each of them is such a massive new source of air pollution and a particularly large source of global-warming pollution.”

In addition, several Kansas environmental groups recently sent a letter to state decision-makers asking that legislation be enacted that would give the state greater oversight and local communities less in deciding where power plants are built.

“The siting of these facilities has statewide effects, and therefore the primary responsibility for making these siting decision should reside with the state,” according to the statement by a wide range of environmentalists, hunters, anglers and concerned citizens.

But utility officials say air pollution from coal plants already has been dramatically reduced, and regulations will continue to reduce it. New plants have all kinds of “bells and whistles” to reduce emissions.

“Anybody who thinks the United States of America is not a country that has got strict environmental regulations is just not in the mainstream,” Steve Miller, a spokesman for Sunflower Cooperative in Hays, Kan., which has plans to build three power plants. “When you get down to it, we are trying to do things necessary to help our economy. We are trying to reduce the cost of electricity.”

Frank Maisano, an energy industry lobbyist in Washington, D.C., said the Sierra Club’s policy to stop the construction of new plants would create energy shortages. Maisano said it was important to have a diversified fuel base that would include alternative energy such as wind but that coal will remain significant because the country has a 250-year supply of the fossil fuel.

“For environmentalists to just stand up and stand in the way of power plants because they use that four-letter word ‘coal,’ it is irresponsible and irrational,” Maisano said. “With the load demand and the demand that the consumer has, it is just irresponsible to not look at using coal.”

Utilities plan to begin construction on some of the plants later this year, with hopes that all the plants will come on line in 2008 through 2012, although utilities say some of the plants might not get built.

The main argument against coal-fired plants: air pollution.

During the 1980s and 1990s, utilities moved from constructing new coal plants to erecting natural gas plants because they were cheaper to build and cleaner. But when the price of gas proved too volatile, utilities again focused on coal as the major source of fuel for energy.

The federal government for years has required utilities to reduce nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide, both of which contribute to smog and acid rain, and those rules have become stricter in recent years.

Last year, the federal government enacted rules to reduce mercury emissions by 21 percent in 2010 and by 70 percent in 2018.

Carbon dioxide is not regulated. That’s because there has been a long-running debate over whether global warming is occurring and, if so, whether carbon dioxide is a factor.

Several states do not think federal air pollution rules are strict enough and are passing stricter laws regarding emissions of mercury and carbon dioxide. Some states, such as Idaho, are considering moratoriums on building coal-fired plants.

Kansas and Missouri have adopted federal air quality laws and do not have pending legislation that would make those laws stricter.

Some area residents think the new power plants inside the Kansas City area and some outside would contribute heavily to the area’s current air quality problems.

“I am just sick about this,” said Amy M. Heithoff-Dominguez, a nurse wellness coach who lives in Parkville and will find herself sandwiched between plants being planned at Iatan and Nearman Creek in Wyandotte County. “I’m trying to think why we would want to do something so archaic as to build a coal-burning plant when there are so many technologies that are far better.”

Susan Allen, spokeswoman for the Board of Public Utilities, which is planning the Nearman plant, said the utility would install the federally required pollution controls to limit air pollution.

“If we go ahead with the plant, we will have the latest environmental technology that will go beyond the minimum,” she said.

Plans for power plants

Power plants that are being planned in Kansas and western Missouri:

■ Kansas City Power & Light is planning to begin construction of the Iatan 2, an 800-megawatt plant near Weston later this year. The Sierra Club already has enlisted Washington University’s law school in St. Louis and has appealed a permit issued by the state. Although the new plant and an existing plant will have new pollution controls, opponents say the emissions will still be greater than they should be.

■ The Board of Public Utilities wants to construct a power plant, possibly to produce 230 to 300 megawatts, near an existing plant at Nearman Creek in Wyandotte County. BPU has signed an agreement with Black & Veatch to help plan the project.

■ Westar wants to build an 800-megawatt plant and has been accepting bids from government entities in eastern Kansas. The utility has hired Burns & McDonnell to perform site studies.

■ Sunflower Cooperative is planning three plants near Holcomb in western Kansas. Each plant will produce 650 megawatts. Combined with one existing plant, the four collectively will be one of the top 15 largest coal-fired power plant complexes in the United States. All the electricity generated by two of the plants will go to western states.

■ Associated Electric Cooperative is planning a 660-megawatt plant about 50 miles east of Kansas City along the Missouri River in Carroll County.

■ The city of Springfield wants to build a 300-megawatt power plant. Voters rejected funding in 2004. But the city put the bond measure back on the ballot for a vote on June 6.
To reach Karen Dillon, call (816) 234-4430 or send e-mail to kdillon@kcstar.com .


 


Source: http://www.kansascity.com/m...

APR 11 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/2118-coal-plants-renaissance-pits-energy-vs-pollution
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