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Great Plains 'sells' its power plant idea locally

by Kim Fickett
Landmark reporter

Kansas City Power & Light (KCPL), subsidiary of Great Plains Energy, brought its position regarding a new coal burning power plant in Iatan in front of the Platte City Board of Aldermen on Tuesday evening.

Merley McMurry, community business manager for Great Plains Energy, gave a presentation to the board regarding the energy issue in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

"There has been a lot of conversation in the area regarding the building of power plants,” stated McMurry. “This presentation will give you the opportunity to ask any questions you may have.”

The proposal of building a new coal burning power plant in Iatan by KCP&L has been the center of a lot of controversy for the past several months. The proposal includes constructing one new plant along side the current plant in Iatan, along with the refurbishment of the current facility.

According to John DeStefano, president of Home Service Solution and president of Great Plains Power, KCP&L’s plan is to invest $300 million in environmental retrofits to further clean up the Iatan plant, as well as the La Cygne, KS plant. Along with $1/2 billion to build the new plant.

Platte City receives its energy from Aquila and isn't serviced by KCP&L. The presentation was made to city officials because of Platte City's proximity to both Kansas City and Iatan.

"Even though KCP&L doesn’t directly serve Platte City with energy, as neighbors the issue does directly affect Platte City,” DeStefano, informed the board of alderman.

Alderman Ron Porter asked DeStefano exactly what area KCP&L does service. DeStefano stated that KCP&L currently services 4,700 square miles in Johnson County, Kan. and the greater Kansas City metro area.

According to McMurry, with the continuing growth in the Kansas City metropolitan area, the power issue continues to be one of great concern.

"Kansas City is growing and the demand for power is growing. We’ve seen a steady rise in growth of 2-3% since 1997 and we expect that to continue,” said McMurry. “If we don’t do something we will be in an energy deficit like California.”

McMurry’s presentation, which slightly touched on other ways to produce energy such as wind facilities, mainly focused on the new coal plant proposed to go near the existing plant in Iatan.

The new plant, which would come under construction in 2006 and become operational in 2009, is said to be able to generate electricity more efficiently.

"The proposed plant will produce 800-900 megawatts of energy, in which KCPL will own 500 megawatts and partner with other sources for the remaining megawatts,” explained McMurry.

"This new state-of-the-art facility will burn more efficiently, and provide energy to what we refer to as the 'native load.'”

McMurry explained to the board that the “native load” is how they refer to their current energy customers.
According to McMurry, KCP&L is very aware of the concerns of why their designs for a new plant include that of coal and not natural gas.

There were two reasons presented to the board explaining its decision for the coal burning facility.

The first is that they have 250 years of reserve coal versus that of 40 years of natural gas.

Secondly, she stated with the current price of natural gas it “makes better sense to provide affordability to our customers.”

KCP&L also continued to state that it has invested in mercury control and company officials believe the new facility will improve air quality by reducing nitrogen by 46% and sulfur dioxide by 52%.

Before opening up the discussion to the board, McMurry’s presentation concluded with the benefits the new plant will provide to the area.

KCPL listed benefits such as: continued reliability for energy, affordability, cleaner air, reduced emissions, and economic benefits including jobs and a projected $300 million tax base in the area.

Porter addressed the issue of mercury levels at the Iatan plant, due to the wildlife up in the area. He questioned the representatives if any testing had been done on the wildlife to determine mercury levels that wildlife may have ingested.

"To my knowledge they’ve never been tested. And I don’t even know if there is a way to test animals for mercury,” said Terry Eaton, manager of environmental services for Great Plains Energy.

Eaton continued, “I believe we will reduce the mercury content by 70% with the equipment we will be putting on the new and current facilities.”

Mayor Brooks added that according to information he had received, the mercury omissions were around 300 pounds a year. Eaton confirmed those numbers for the board, upon Brooks request.

Alderman Billy Knighton wanted to know their game plan for the amount of coal that will be making its way to the two plants by railways in the area.

Knighton stated that with two plants being operational in the area, that will create the need for more coal, doubling the railways by those plants, increasing the chances for train derailments, and increasing traffic congestion issues to the northwest where the trains are traveling from.

Eaton stated that it is still too early in the design stages to address that issue, but they are aware of the considerations that need to be addressed.

City Administrator Keith Moody addressed the issue of why the energy companies aren’t pushing for a more environmentally friendly way of producing energy if those options are available.

Eaton and DeStefano both said that it just comes down to timing.

"I think we’re moving in that direction, but it takes the technology to make that happen,” said DeStefano.

While the plant hasn’t received all of its necessary permits yet, KCP&L said it anticipates receiving all their permits by March or April of 2005.



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