|Sierra Club Statement|
Longest Walk 2 press conference
The Sierra Club has been a long-time supporter of The Longest Walk. We’re honored to support this walk as it goes through Kansas at a very crucial time for the environment. Our partnership with the Native American community is strengthened by our shared interest in protection of the environment and its inhabitants. The Kansas Chapter of the Sierra Club has worked closely with Native American students, faculty and alumni to protect the Haskell-Baker Wetlands in Lawrence, a sacred site on the Longest Walk. We applaud the efforts of The Longest Walk and we are a proud partner to this event. First Americans have been leaders in the environmental quest and we commend the exceptional efforts of those with us today.
In the near future, the state legislature will likely vote on whether or not to override Governor Sebelius’ veto of legislation that would allow two coal plants to be built in Holcomb, KS. Further, the legislation would restrict the authority of the Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. This is authority that is necessary to protect the health and environment of Kansas. The proposed coal plants have attracted national attention to our state and garnered the interests of a diverse coalition of students, Native American activists, labor unions, faith-based groups and environmentalists who want a cleaner future.
The Sierra Club believes that until coal is mined responsibly, burned cleanly and does not further contribute to global warming, we must seek cleaner, alternative forms of energy. At this point, coal does not meet any of these standards. The Holcomb expansion is no exception. The plants will enable coal mining that is highly destructive to continue. The plants will collectively emit 11 million tons of carbon dioxide per year. This is unacceptable, especially since little of the power will stay in Kansas, while all of the environmental and health threats remain. We will be draining our water resources in Western Kansas to generate power for Colorado and Texas. In excess of 5 billion gallons of water will be drained from the Ogallala aquifer annually for as long as the plants are in operation. With the abundance of wind resources we have in Kansas, this makes little sense. We will be wasting our most scarce resources, while neglecting our most abundant resources for a plan driven by financial interests. Further, we will pollute our air, put human health at risk and accelerate climate change, one of the most pressing environmental threats we face today.
We have an obligation to protect the land that belonged to past generations and will someday belong to future generations. It’s well-documented that coal plants pose a collection of threats to human health and the environment. With this knowledge, it is irresponsible to move forward with plans to build two large coal plants that are unwanted by most Kansans and certainly unneeded. Some of the walkers here today have come as far as California to remind us of our duty to protect our surroundings. The proposed coal plants will put at risk our water, our land, our air and the health and well-being of future generations.
There are cleaner energy alternatives available that would benefit all of the citizens of Kansas, not just the coal industry. The citizens of Kansas have called on our state leaders to oppose these plants and we are now joined by the Native American community in asking our state leaders to uphold Secretary Bremby’s decision to protect Kansas and deny Sunflower Electric an air permit. We have the technology and the know-how to move beyond coal, now we just need the political will.
Again, I would like to express the sincere privilege it is to stand as a part of this event today.