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The Kansas Department of Health and Environment's (KDHE) recent denial of a final construction permit for Sunflower Electric Power Corp.'s Holcomb Expansion diminishes the ability to build transmission lines necessary for additional wind power in the state, according to Earl Watkins, president and CEO of Sunflower.

The air permit denial stalls Sunflower's plans to build two 700 MW coal-fired power plants next to an existing 360 MW coal-fired plant outside Holcomb in Finney County, Kan. These plants are necessary for new transmission lines to be built, according to Sunflower, which has filed petitions for reconsideration and requests for an administrative hearing with KDHE.

Supporters of the project view KDHE's decision as a setback for Kansas. "Unfortunately, this decision opens the door to higher rates for central and western Kansas," says Watkins. "We reject the Sierra Club's recent assertion that doubling the electric rates would be acceptable."

Sunflower is a regional wholesale power supplier that manages a 1,200 MW system of wind, gas and coal-based generating plants and a 2,300-mile transmission system for the needs of its six member cooperatives who serve 122,000 customers spread throughout a 40,000 square-mile area in central and western Kansas. Sunflower also provides power to regional utilities in western Kansas and in 10 states.

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