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Group increases pressure against power plants

Concerned residents hope public outcry will kill the proposal

by Mark Vasto
Landmark reporter

Faced with the increased likelihood that Great Plains Energy will receive the required permits they need to build an 800-mw power plant in Platte County, the Concerned Citizens of Platte County (CCPC) community group has vowed to concentrate its efforts in coming months as they continue to fight against the proposed plants.

“They’re going to get their permits,” conceded Susan Brown, chairperson for CCPC, at a meeting the group had at Park Hill’s Congress Middle School on Monday night.

“Appealing to the county commissioners and our elected officials…public pressure and publicity is what’s going to kill this thing now.”

The CCPC, which opposes construction of the power plants because of health and environmental concerns, hosted the meeting, which was attended by more than 100 people. In addition to a presentation by former Sierra Club coordinator Melissa Blakley on the effects of coal pollution, the meeting featured a panel of experts from the EPA, Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Mid-America Regional Council Air Quality Program who answered questions about specific power plant related issues.

As in previous meetings, after a brief period of questions and answers, the expert panel quickly became a sounding board for frustrated residents. Most of the statements made by residents were met with applause.

“What mechanisms are available to us to stop this thing?” asked one resident. “Can we sue?”

Others criticized the stance of West Platte R-II Superintendent Kyle Stephenson, who has said he supports the power plant. According to Stephenson, the school district would stand to make nearly $1.7 million per year from power plant payments in lieu of taxes.

“We need to look out for this cadre that insists we’ll lose money for our schools if we turn this deal down,” said one woman in attendance. “We’ve done fine without them and we’ll always do fine without them!”

KCP&L, the local subsidiary of Great Plains Energy, incurred the most wrath from residents, however
.
“They’re going to take our bond money and our beautiful land and sell energy to New Jersey and Ohio,” said Mike Ballard of Weston. “Meanwhile, we’ll be sitting here, dealing with the landfill and the smokestacks. We need to tell KCP&L no.”

Another resident said that in comparison with Platte-Clay Electric, Great Plains Energy was unresponsive to the community and their concerns, saying the company was “closed-minded” and “irresponsible.”

The Platte County Commission also faced criticism from some of the residents.

“They’re trying to sell us rock soup,” one man said. “They’re saying it’s only one plant. Then it’s the lines, then it’s the rail traffic. Why are we signing a note for these speculators to make money? It’s not only asthma…it’s going to affect your building, you’re going to smell it every morning. We can replace the commissioners! I’ll give them money to back out of this deal, but not into this deal!”

Frequent mention was made of the fact that both Michael Short and Steven Wegner are up for re-election this year, with a primary election in August and a general election in November.

One person even called for Brown to run, which she laughed off before urging the audience members to make their voices heard by contacting media outlets and discussing the issue with other citizens. In addition, CCPC handed out a contact list for elected area officials and key individuals involved in the permitting process for the plant.

Brown said that CCPC would be stepping up its education efforts in coming weeks. Brown said the group would be scheduling meetings in Atchison and visiting with local city councils to make their feelings known.

One night after the meeting at Park Hill, Brown spoke at the Platte City Board of Aldermen meeting.
After outlining the potential health effects the plant may have on the city, Brown pointed out that homeowners may see a loss in property values and that businesses may be less inclined to locate to the area.

“When you drive up I-29, there is that huge smokestack (at the current Iatan plant),” Brown said. “We’re so conditioned to seeing it, but imagine if they build three more and you’re looking at buying a house in the area.”

Brown urged the aldermen to pass a resolution against the plant or to engage as citizens in her group’s effort.

The board took no action but thanked her for her time.

REPORT: KCP&L
POLLUTION CONTROLS EXPERIENCING
“MAJOR PROBLEMS”

In a report submitted to the Kansas City Health Department and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), KCP&L representatives admitted pollution controls employed at the Hawthorn plant in Kansas City were “not performing at this time in its life cycle as originally designed,” The Landmark has learned.

Despite KCP&L officials repeated references to the power plant’s new pollution controls as being the best in the country, the report apparently paints a decidedly different picture of the plant’s performance.

According to the report, the power plant’s Selective Catalytic Reduction system (SCR), has been unable to meet projected standards set forth in the plant’s permit.

The SCR, which performs the same function that a catalytic converter does in a car, turns harmful nitrogen oxides (NOx) into water vapor and elemental nitrogen by injecting the escaping flue gasses generated by the plant with ammonia.

The plant employed the technology after being rebuilt from a February 1999 explosion that destroyed the boiler and leveled the plant, causing an estimated loss of $538 million to KCP&L.

When questioned about the plant’s performance in light of the report at the Feb. 9 meeting of the Concerned Citizens of Platte County community group, officials said that KCP&L was still working to address the problem and hadn’t exceeded agreed upon emission rates for Nox.

“(KCP&L is in compliance of their permit,” said Kyra Moore of the MDNR Air Pollution program. “They’re just having difficulties ramping up to the final number of their permit.”

James Joerke, Mid-America Regional Council Air Quality Program Manager, said he had “a lot of confidence” that the plant would eventually meet its standard goals.

Craig Volland, environmental research consultant and engineer, disagreed with that assessment.

“They have been trying to make this thing work for the last two years,” Volland said. “They’re putting in so much ammonia to meet that standard now, I don’t understand why they would (make their numbers). I think its premature to say this is going to work.”

Volland said that the excess amounts of ammonia were having detrimental effects on the environment.

“In itself, ammonia is a pollutant,” Volland said. “It forms in the atmosphere which causes haze. It falls into the water bodies, which causes too much nitrogen, killing fish.”

 
 

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