remarks coming from power officials
comments seem to indicate a change in their thinking
by Mark Vasto
Reiterating claims that they are only in the
process of permitting and haven't made any decisions
to build, representatives of Great Plains Power
(GPP) have nevertheless offered conflicting statements
in the past week regarding their proposed plan
to build an additional new power plant outside
Weston in Platte County.
Originally presented as a "merchant power
plant," plans for the 800-megawatt Weston
Bend power plant had the energy produced at the
facility being sold on the open market to the
highest bidder as an unregulated plant. Recent
statements from the company seem to show a change
in their thinking - and a potential change in
how the $1.7 million payment to the county is
The issue, to be sure, is a complex one: should
the plant be constructed, it would provide more
than $1.7 million annually to the West Platte
School District and more than likely provide the
area with 100 or more jobs. Opponents contend
that the plant isn't worth the health and environmental
risks, pointing to the fact that the Kansas City
metropolitan area is already besieged with asthma
and smog and that new plants would only exacerbate
the situation. In addition, opponents balked at
the idea of building a plant in an area that wouldn't
use the power generated but would receive the
According to Dave McCoy, vice president of business
development for GPP, the company is now re-examining
its plans to build a new plant not only in Weston,
but in Atchison, Kansas as well.
"We're working on our strategic plan now
and it should be ready by mid-year," McCoy
said, noting that the company has recently undergone
a management change at the company's highest levels.
Due to the changes, McCoy said the company hasn't
" decided to build either power plant, or
both or whether they will be regulated or unregulated."
He stated that the company was moving ahead with
permits for the plants "because of the long
lead time associated with getting them."
Noting that the county recently ranked 26 out
of 100 for metropolitan areas with most potential
for growth in a survey conducted by the American
Cities Demographic Journal, McCoy has begun to
offer a different vision for the plant. McCoy
told The Landmark and another area publication
that the proposed power plant would supply electricity
for the resulting increase in demand for power
"due to the anticipated residential and industrial
The change in rhetoric is a significant one.
For one, it would seem to show a change within
the corporate structure at Great Plains Energy,
parent company of GPP and local energy provider
Kansas City Power & Light. Great Plains Power
was set up to be the unregulated arm of the company,
able to sell energy on the open market, while
KCP&L handled regulated, local energy sales.
Secondly, it could jeopardize the $1.7 million
payment to the West Platte School District. As
Superintendent Kyle Stephenson has noted, the
district receives very little funding from the
existing regulated Iatan power plant. This is
due to what is sometimes referred to as a "pole"
tax; the taxes accumulated from the power generated
at the plant are shared throughout the system
using the power.
The proposed $1.7 million windfall for the West
Platte School District is already a topic of discussion
among Missouri lawmakers. In the midst of a massive
budget crisis that has seen the Missouri legislature
hold back nearly $97 million of funding for public
schools, insiders have indicated that if West
Platte was to receive the $1.7 million from the
power plant, they would likely lose a portion
of state funding.
Perhaps more importantly, McCoy's assertion doesn't
square with Platte County growth estimates.
While the survey he cites showing Platte County
as the leader in growth potential for the metro
area is correct, the county's strategic plan targets
growth for the county to reach 100,000-120,000
residents by the year 2020. The county currently
has around 75,000 residents.
Taking the outside number of the projection,
the county would add roughly 45,000 residents
to its population. According to Platte County
Planning and Zoning, such a number would roughly
equate to 20,000 new homes (Weston alone projects
adding 100 to 500 families in the next 20 years).
Since an 800-megawatt power plant is estimated
to power roughly 800,000 homes, the new Weston
Bend power plant would have enough power left
over to power 780,000 new homes. At that rate
of growth, it could take centuries for Platte
County to utilize all the power from the plant
to meet its own needs.
According to the Department of Energy (DOE),
Great Plains has plans to build four additional
power plants in the region at an undetermined
site. Great Plains officials have acknowledged
that the Iatan site was originally intended for
four plants of which only one has been built so
far. The company entered into a memorandum of
understanding with boiler manufacturer Babcock
& Wilcox in June 2001 to build up to five
The DOE noted that proposals to build new plants
have risen in recent years but many have not come
to fruition. Such speculative deals tend to operate
on "boom and bust" cycles, which are
based upon the economic climate of power plant
McCoy said GPP would more than likely offer 50-megawatt
units to prospective energy buyers if the project
was to move forward but that the company was not
seeking buyers at the moment.
"We floated a trial RFP (request for proposal)
and got some proposals," McCoy said. "But
we have no immediate plans for an RFP now."