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Theo Spencer’s Blog

Death in the Afternoon

Theo Spencer

Posted November 4, 2010 in Curbing Pollution, Environmental Justice, Health and the Environment, Solving Global Warming

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Or maybe it more closely resembles the “Midnight Massacre” when Richard Nixon fired Special Prosecutor Archibold Cox. On Election Day this week, when all eyes—including those of the media-- were focused on the national balance of power drama. Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson cowardly fired his Secretary of Health and Environment.

The reason: Rod Bremby had shown the courage to stand up to Big Coal and the Koch Brothers (who appear to own the Kansas Legislature, judging by the number of lobbyists they employ). Bremby had been the first state official in the United States to deny the permit for a dirty new coal plant based on the health impacts of its global warming emissions. He was backed up by then Governor Kathleen Sebelius, who vetoed efforts to overturn Bremby’s decision, and her lieutenant, Mark Parkinson.

As Parkinson said at the time (March of 2008):

"Why legislators are supporting Wyoming coal and Colorado energy while putting at risk the economy and health of Kansans is beyond me."

It’s a good question. The plant is being developed  in Holcomb by KS-based Sunflower Electric Cooperative, but about 80% of the power would be purchased by Colorado-based Tri-State Generation and Transmission to power Colorado homes and businesses. Coal for the plant would have to be shipped (and dollars shipped out) from Wyoming.  

When Sebelius left to join the Obama Cabinet, Parkinson took over and was expected to stick to his other numerous public statements in opposition to the then two coal-fired plants in Holcomb. In fact Parkinson had stated his opposition to the project in public debates with Sunflower’s president, and had  threatened legal action if the plan went forward. However, a week of assuming the office of Governor, Parkinson unexpectedly struck a deal that would allow Sunflower to construct one coal-fired plant.

As our friend on the ground and long-time plant opponent Scott Allegrucci recently said in an email:

“There isn't anyone in the state who doesn't know what this was about.  Bremby exercised his legal statutory authority to deny previous permits for a huge and unnecessary coal plant project.  Parkinson did a secret deal with Sunflower that changed state law to try and force KDHE to grant a permit for the proposed 895 MW coal plant - a coal plant that Sunflower doesn't need, won't own, and that will be phased for the western grid (in order to serve Tri-State Generation and Transmission customers). Bremby did not sign off on the settlement agreement, and has been trying to protect the integrity of the permitting process ever since - a process that has seen 6000 public comments, including many revealing serious flaws in the project/permit under existing law, along with constant efforts by Sunflower, its lobbyists, and elected Kansas officials to tamper with that permitting process.”

This week, Rod Bremby was asked by Gov. Parkinson to resign his post as head of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Bremby refused, and was then immediately fired. His firing is clearly an attempt to unethically expedite the permitting process for the proposed 895 MW Holcomb coal-fired power plant before Parkinson leaves office in January, and new rules are scheduled to kick in limiting global warming pollution from power plants.

 It's not pretty and it's not justice. It's just monied interests and their political bagmen.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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