EPA ruling further delays Kansas coal plant project

TOPEKA, Kan. — The utility behind a controversial coal plant project in western Kansas must reapply for a state permit, the Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday.

The decision means another delay for Sunflower Electric Power Corp.'s efforts to build an 895-megawatt coal-fired generator near Holcomb, Kan.

The state's top regulator rejected the project in 2007, citing its carbon emissions. Lawmakers supportive of the plant fought for two years to overrule the regulator before Gov. Mark Parkinson reached an agreement this spring to allow a smaller project to move forward.

Sunflower officials said they expected the EPA's decision and plan to submit a new application this fall, said company spokeswoman Cindy Hertel.

"We'll continue to move forward," she added.

The EPA determined that too much about the project had changed to allow Sunflower to move ahead with its initial permit application, according to David Bryan, a spokesman for EPA's regional office in Kansas City.

Sunflower applied for a state permit in 2006. Since then, the project has been revised significantly, going from three generating units and 2100 total megawatts, to one 895-megawatt generator. Sunflower agreed to other technical changes in its agreement with Parkinson.