The passion for and against a coal fired power plant in western Kansas has been evident, as the Kansas Department of Health and Environment held the first in a series of public hearings. The event was in Johnson County where some 400 people were ready to give comments.
It's an ongoing fight extending over years and gaining interest, as noted by Christi Pankratz of KDHE.
"So far we've received a little over 21 hundred written testimonies," says Pankratz. "For the 2007 round we had received 745 total, for the written and oral testimonies."
On one side of the equation, the one against the plant, stands the Sierra Club. On the other, a variety of trade unions intent on benefiting from new jobs.
Scott Allegrucci heads Great Plains Alliance for Clean Energy, opposing construction. The current plan arrived before KDHE with incorrect data, and Allegrucci reserved comment until a corrected version is presented for study. But he did say the plant operator, Sunflower Electric Power Corporation, could create more jobs over time and create them sooner. It would entail developing Kansas' native resources, essentially natural gas and wind. And develop them immediately.
As anti-plant forces rallied in the lobby, Sierra Club's Stephanie Cole also broadened the area of interest:
"Due to prevailing winds, it's possible that the pollution could affect the air quality of Kansas City," said Cole.
Business agent for local 441 of Plumbers and Pipefitters Union John Shepherd expects 500 to 600 jobs would be created over the four years of construction. He describes it as a tenth of a career for many of his members. The union currently has a 30 percent unemployment rate.
Today's public hearing on the plant will factor into a KDHE decision on a request for an air permit to build the 895 megawatt expansion to the plant on Kansas western plains.