(Promoted by Colorado Pols)
On Friday the Kansas Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, invalidated the air pollution permit granted to Sunflower Electric Power Corporation for their proposed Holcomb coal plant. This is a significant development in what has become a series of [failed] attempts by Sunflower, who is nothing more than a proxy for Tri-State Generation and Transmission, to construct what would be one of the last coal plants in the United States. This, on the heels of a U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in May rejecting a plea from Sunflower to overturn a 2012 federal judge's ruling that put the project on hold. The decision ordered the Rural Utilities Service, which is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to complete an environmental study before deciding whether to grant federal consent for the new unit.
Even in light of this latest judicial spanking, the Sunflower Electric response is "it will continue to take the steps necessary to preserve and advance the project."
Sunflower is plagued with financial challenges and owes hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer-subsidized loans. Today, they seek forgiveness of portions of the loan principal so that private financing for this project can be secured; they are also attempting to circumvent due process through an amendment to the pending Farm Bill. Even before a single shovel of earth is turned, financing and environmental compliance challenges should be ringing every bell in the proverbial "fire house".
The construction of this plant wouldn't be plausible at all if it weren't for Tri-State committing the purchasing power of its Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska & New Mexico rate payers to the Kansas project.
There is nothing cheap about coal. And there is an irony in the region's claim they are "fiercely independent". When you need the loan forgiveness of the American taxpayer to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars and the circumvention of the financial and judicial process to build a plant that you tout to your members as "cheap", perhaps its time to step back from the Kool-Aid and ask ones self the hard questions.
This is great news for renewable energy advocates on both sides of the Kansas line. Today 2.3 gigawatts of wind stand tall on the eastern plains of Colorado, providing much-needed tax base to our rural communities. These wind farm developments provide jobs and significant new tax base in our rural areas, important manufacturing jobs on the Front Range – and are the cheapest source of new power in the grid today.
The rejection of Holcomb, and the embrace of a changing energy paradigm by Tri-State would mean we on the eastern plains have only seen the tip of the iceberg of "what's possible". It's time to end the faux media campaign, the "War on Rural Colorado". It's patently false. Our real enemy is a Kansas coal plant – the one thing standing between a future where rural Colorado is chained to decades of a 19th-century power supply – or one where we become a full participant in Colorado's "Innovation Economy". A future where we no longer dig for our fuel supplies – our energy will fall free from above and across the prairie; a future where our energy costs are no longer ever-increasing and volatile, but free. A future where our grid is distributed, resilient and secure.
A senior member of the "Beyond Coal" campaign summed up the Supreme Court decision best: “The proposed Holcomb coal plant is now a fading mirage on the plains."