RUS violates law coal

A federal judge has ruled that the U.S. government violated federal law by providing approval and financial assistance to a planned $2.8 billion, 895 MW coal-fired power plant in Kansas without environmental review and public involvement. The decision was filed under seal to protect Sunflower Electric Power Corp’s confidential business information.

The plant is already in litigation over its air quality permits and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is looking into whether the permits must follow tougher emissions rules issued by EPA in 2010. The plant has been in dispute since 2007.

The judge sided with the environmental groups’ claim that the Rural Utilities Service, a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, provided financial support, including writing off millions of dollars of public debt, so that Sunflower could build the new plant. That agreement gave RUS close oversight of Sunflower’s business operations and required federal approval to proceed with construction on the plant. The lawsuit also argued that, because it is essentially a federal project, greater environmental review and consideration of alternatives is required.

The judge asked for additional briefing to determine if activities at the Holcomb plant should be stopped until a full environmental review is conducted, expected to be complete by mid-June.

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