Judge Zaps Coal-Fired Electric Plant

WASHINGTON (CN) – The Rural Utilities Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to produce an environmental impact statement for the expansion of a coal-fired electricity plant in Holcomb, Kan., a federal judge ruled.




     U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan’s ruling supports the Sierra Club’s 2007 complaint, which characterized the Sunflower Electric Power Corp. plant expansion as a “major federal action” that requires an environmental impact statement.
     The coal-fired generating plant was built in Holcomb in 1980 with a $543 million loan from the Rural Electrification Administration, the predecessor of the Rural Utilities Service. The loan was restructured in 1987 and again in 2002.
     In 2007 Sunflower sought to expand by developing new generating plants, and the Rural Utilities Service approved more than $70 million in loans for it, prompting the Sierra Club’s complaint.
     Judge Sullivan struck down the Service’s motion to dismiss, saying Sunflower, an intervenor, “failed to demonstrate that no effective relief is available.”
     Sullivan struck down Sunflower’s motion for summary judgment on the grounds that no “proposal” for legislation or other major federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment was ever made. Sullivan sided with the Sierra Club in stating that the federal agency’s involvement with the project did indeed constitute a major federal action.
     Sullivan did approve the government’s request for an “additional opportunity to brief the issues relating to the appropriate remedy,” but denied all of its other motions.
     The Rural Utilities Service is an agency of the Department of Agriculture.

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