In October, Schmidt, a Republican, filed a legal brief asking the state Supreme Court to uphold KDHE’s position on the permit. The permit was issued by KDHE Acting Secretary John Mitchell after the agency’s staff found that Sunflower, a Hays, Kansas-based generation and transmission cooperative, had met all of the permitting requirements.

The permit culminated a lengthy legislative battle over the project. The Kansas General Assembly twice passed bills supporting Sunflower’s request to build twin 750-megawatt coal units at the existing plant in western Kansas, only to have former Governor Kathleen Sebelius veto the legislation. Attempts to override the vetoes narrowly failed in the GOP-controlled General Assembly. After Sebelius, a Democrat, was appointed by President Obama as U.S. Health and Human Services secretary, new Governor Mark Parkinson, also a Democrat, negotiated a deal under which Sunflower would construct a single, 895-MW coal unit.

The Sierra Club objected and continues to oppose the project as part of its national “Beyond Coal” campaign.

Schmidt referred to the group’s single-minded crusade against coal, saying, “The publicly stated goal of the Sierra Club, to impose an indefinite moratorium on construction of all facilities that burn coal, is not a proper administrative purpose under existing law. No law authorizes or requires KDHE to refuse to license an electric generating plant because its fuel source is coal. When an applicant for a construction permit establishes that all requirements of existing law have been met, KDHE is directed by law to grant that application.”

A Supreme Court ruling is expected by early next year. Construction on the new unit has not yet commenced.