Holcomb plant remains in limbo

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FINNEY COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) — Legal battles continue for Sunflower Electric as they try to expand their Holcomb plant.

“I don’t have any concrete idea as I stand here today,” said Stuart Lowry, CEO of Sunflower Electric.

The company has been trying to expand into Garden City for more than a decade.

The latest effort dates back to 2011, a legal battle over whether the proposed plant falls under old, more lenient regulations, or if they must adhere to stricter regulations.

“Whether or not the Holcomb expansion project would be a new or existing unit from a regulatory perspective would really drive how and whether we consider the carbon capture technologies that are contemplated in the new rule,” said Lowry.

Carbon capture technology cuts down on the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, but it would be an added cost for the company.

“The economics will certainly drive whether this plant or any plant moves forward,” said Lowry.

If the Kansas Supreme Court grants Sunflower their permit, the plant would follow old regulations.

The court could also deny them the permit or send it back to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Of course, the new administration could reshape regulations affecting plants, something that concerns those pushing for more environmentally-conscious power production.

“To change any regulations or issue new ones or cancel any regulations or rescind them entirely, that decision has to be based on evidence in the record,” said Amanda Goodin, a staff attorney for Earthjustice, the non-profit challenging Sunflower Electric’s permit in court of behalf of the Kansas Sierra Club. “It has to be based on science, and it has to be a reasonable decision, one that’s not arbitrary.”

Goodin says if any new regulations don’t meet those standards, Earthjustice plans to challenge them in court.

Both Earthjustice and Sunflower Electric say they are waiting for the Kansas Supreme Court to make its ruling before deciding how to move forward.

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