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November 13, 2007

Denial of Kansas Plant Seen as Opportunity for Co-ops

coal-fired power plant, coal
TOPEKA, Kan. – Supporters of a proposed coal-fired power plant in Kansas that would provide power to most parts of rural Colorado are working to revive it after the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) became the first government agency in the United States to cite carbon dioxide emissions as the reason for rejecting an air permit for a proposed coal-fired electricity generating plant. Tri-State Generation and Transmission’s partner in the project, Sunflower Electric, has filed papers with the KDHE Secretary Rod Bremby to reconsider his rejection of the air permit.

In the written decision to deny the Tri-State/Sunflower permit last Friday, Secretary Bremby said that “it would be irresponsible to ignore emerging information about the contribution of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to climate change and the potential harm to our environment and health if we do nothing.” Sunflower and Tri-State have already begun the appeal process. "We are disappointed with the Secretary's arbitrary and capricious action," said Earl Watkins, Sunflower's president and chief executive officer.

I see the denial of the air permit as an opportunity for Tri-State's 44 member owned co-ops to seize opportunities in efficiency and renewable energies. Not only is Northern Colorado blessed with excellent wind, solar, and biomass resources that can all be harnessed to make clean, reliable, and cost-effective energy, much the same can be said for most of Tri-State's coverage area. Tri-State needs to see the writing on the wall that carbon-emission legislation is coming, and that it is only a matter of time before we are living in a carbon-constrained world. In stead of frittering away member-owners' valuable resources fighting for the construction of new coal-fired power plants, Tri-State should be investing in efficiency, smart-grid technologies, distributed generation, and other ways in which its many members can directly capitalize on the new energy economy.

Exactly how the co-ops will be able to take advantage of the upcoming energy legislation remains to be seen. Rumors continue to swirl that the final bill may be only a skeleton of its former self. I am not playing prognosticator here, but it is quite possible there may be no RPS, no solar tax credit, no extension of the federal production tax credit, and only a meager increase in CAFE standards. I believe that something useful will be passed out of the legislature, I'm just a little skeptical about how many of those good things will make it.

Yet there may be one kernel of hope for renewable energy that is tucked away in the otherwise much-maligned farm bill that would grow renewables by incentivizing distributed microgeneration through a tax credit for small wind. More on this later this week...

Photo Credits:
1. Brian Brainerd, Denver Post

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