Kinder Morgan awaits ruling on appeal for power plant

Wednesday, October 24, 2001

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has rejected plans for a power plant in Cape Girardeau County, citing concerns about possible air pollution.

The rejection comes as no surprise to the developer, Kinder Morgan Power Co. of Lakewood, Colo., which appealed the ruling to the state Air Conservation Commission more than two months before the DNR officially turned down the application in a September letter to Kinder Morgan's director of operations. Kinder Morgan filed the application last December.

Connie Patterson of the DNR said it was the first time a company has appealed prior to an official rejection.

Plant opponent Sharon Hanning, who lives near Crump, Mo., and the site of the proposed plant, welcomed the decision but said it probably won't keep the plant out forever.

"All it means is possibly they are going to make the air a little cleaner," she said. "I don't think Kinder Morgan is too worried."

Slow progress

Kinder Morgan's attorney on the project, Rick Kuntze of Cape Girardeau, said Tuesday the official rejection was expected. "In the overall thing, that letter is a non-event," he said.

He said the company is frustrated over the slow progress on its appeal.

Kuntze said the company continues to push its appeal in hopes of moving ahead with plans to build the $250 million, 550-megawatt plant along Route U. The plant would generate electricity with natural gas-powered turbines and transport the power over AmerenUE electrical lines that run near the site.

DNR officials don't want the plant to discharge nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide, which can cause smog. They say the company must agree to install equipment to restrict the emissions, reduce the number of hours the plant would operate or go to a different type of generating system.

Although refusing to grant a construction permit, the DNR praised the overall project.

"We encourage you to resubmit an application that includes air pollution controls along with your innovative facility design," wrote Roger Randolph, director of Missouri's air pollution control program.

Kinder Morgan executives have argued that the proposed design meets federal environmental regulations without having to add expensive emissions-control devices.

"We didn't see this coming," Kuntze said of DNR's refusal to permit the plant. "You have this thing that totally meets all federal regulations. Why can't we build it?"

Kuntze said the plant would generate less air pollution than either a coal-fired facility or a plant that operates only during peak-demand periods.

The proposed plant would operate more than a peak-demand facility but less than a round-the-clock plant.

Under state law, the Air Conservation Commission must rule on the appeal within six months unless the parties and the commission agree to a shorter or longer time frame.

But the clock didn't start ticking on the appeal until the DNR formally rejected Kinder Morgan's application in mid-September, said Scott Holste, a spokesman for the attorney general's office, which represents both the DNR and the Air Conservation Commission.

The commission set the hearing process in motion at its Sept. 26 meeting. Holste said attorneys for Kinder Morgan and the DNR will now choose a hearing officer from a list of lawyers who conduct hearings for the state.

The chosen lawyer will set a hearing date for both sides to present their cases. Following the hearing, the officer will make a recommendation to the Air Conservation Commission. The commission will decide whether to overrule or uphold DNR's position.

Even then, the dispute could continue. Depending on the ruling, the state or Kinder Morgan could file an appeal with the courts.

335-6611, extension 123

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