Thursday, August 9, 2007

Kansas Kicks Ass: Residents Call for Clean Power

After Katrina in 2005 and a tornado touching down in Brooklyn yesterday, you'd think people wouldn't be able to dismiss the immediate effects of climate change anymore. Unfortunately, Kansas state governor, Kathleen Sebelius and the Sunflower Electric Power Corporation are trying to do just that, according an article by Carolyn Szczepanski in the most recent issue of the Pitch.

But before I get into that, let me tell you the one shining, amazing moment that made dealing with the harsh reality of this issue much easier. TWO HUNDRED KANSAS RESIDENTS stormed a public hearing on the KU campus to stand up against the potential building of two new coal-burning power plants.

When it became obvious that the crowd wouldn't disperse, KU employees opened a room next door. They ran a microphone from the hearing so that everyone could hear. Hundreds of people had signed up to speak. When the moderator called the name of one of those waiting in the adjacent room, the speaker would dash across the hall, with fellow citizens cheering as if the person were a football player running onto a field.

As the night wore on, dozens of doctors and farmers (and kids so young, they could barely see over the lectern) talked about Sunflower [Electric Power Corporation]'s project squandering precious water, polluting the air and failing to cash in on Kansas' best energy asset: wind.

I don't know how much you know about the Midwestern mindset. But having two hundred people show up to protest ANYTHING is next to miraculous; the fact that they were protesting pollution and improper resource usage is just the shocking cherry on top of the already astounding sundae. I was so happy when I read about this that I started crying. This kind of thing would never have happened 5 years ago. It does my heart good.

So now, with the warm & fuzzies out of the way, let's tackle the rest of this story:

Holcomb, KS is home to a coal-fired plant owned by Sunflower Corp., which is currently trying to obtain approval to build two more coal-fired plants. Claiming the need for more power to satisfy its 122,000 customers, as well as benefits including the creation of 2,000 jobs and a total $8 billion economic benefit for Kansas, Sunflower Corp. is pitching this as a way to address an immediate and urgent need. However, as Bill Griffith of the Kansas Sierra Club said "They get 90 percent of the electricity and we get 100 percent of the pollution." Turns out that Kansans will only be using LESS THAN FIFTEEN PERCENT of the power expected to be generated by the proposed plants. New Mexico, Texas, and other states will receive the rest of the power.

According to the draft permit, plants would release 8 million pounds of nitrogen oxide and 11 million pounds of sulfur oxide - key components in smog and acid rain - and would spew 17 million pounds of carbon monoxide (a cause of respiratory ailments) and 1,100 pounds of mercury (which has been linked to autism and birth defects).

The coal plants would also suck up more than 5 billion gallons of water each year from the quickly depleting Ogallala aquifer, which supplies vital irrigation to Kansas crops.

Topping the list of environmental problems is the emission of carbon dioxide, the gas widely considered most responsible for global warming. Already, Kansas is ranked 10th in the country when it comes to most CO2 pollution per capita. (Kansas gets 75 percent of its electricity from coal. That keeps energy cheap, but means the state creates nearly 40 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.) ... The Holcomb complex would add another 10 million tons of carbon dioxide to Kansas skies each year.
The bottom line is: Kansas doesn't deserve to be polluted to meet the needs of other states. You'd think that the Kansas state governor would support this, especially given her "green" standing in the past.

But Sebelius seems to contradict herself. Though she says she believes it's possible to wait for new technology that will make coal cleaner, she declines to address whether she has considered a moratorium on new coal plants.

She says she'd like to see Kansas navigate a complex energy era by focusing on wind energy and conservation but she does not express any reservation about the Holcomb expansion, which would further entrench a coal-fired system.

She says she wants to reduce consumption and use energy more efficiently to stretch Kansas' current supply of electricity but she declines to address whether the state could use those measures to make up for the small increase in power that the state would get from Sunflower's new plants.
Now we all have to wait to see if Sebelius will respond to the outpouring of opposition and make the right decision. House Speaker Neufeld states that the end result rests soley on Sebelius' shoulders: "If it's not approved, [that's because] the governor told the KDHE not to approve the pollution permit. It's the governor that's going to stop this, if it's going to be stopped."

Tell Sebelius to keep the coal-firing plants out of Kansas!

Office of the Governor
Capitol, 300 SW 10th Ave., Ste. 212S
Topeka, KS 66612-1590

Voice 1-877-KSWORKS (1-877-579-6757)
Local 785-296-3232
For the Hearing Impaired 1-800-766-3777

Use this form to email the governor

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