This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's focus on the fallout of nuclear "spin."
|Type||Public (NYSE: WR)|
|Headquarters||818 South Kansas Ave.
Topeka, KS 66612
|Key people||William B. Moore, CEO|
|Industry||Electric Producer, Distributor, & Utility|
|Revenue||$1.73 billion (2007)|
|Net income||▲ $168.4 million (2007)|
|Subsidiaries||Kansas Gas & Electric|
Westar Energy (NYSE: WR) is an investor owned electric utility headquartered in Topeka, Kansas. Westar is the largest electric company in Kansas, serving 684,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in the eastern third of the state. Westar Energy generates more than 7,100 megawatts megawatt of electricity from its 16 power plants. Westar Energy service territory covers 10,130 square miles in east and east-central Kansas. Westar Energy owns more than 33,000 miles of transmission lines.
Out of its total 4,971 MW of electric generating capacity in 2005 (0.47% of the U.S. total), Westar produced 59.5% from coal, 38.6% from natural gas, and 1.8% from oil. All of Westar's power plants are in Kansas.
Westar Clean Air Act Settlement
On February 4, 2009, the U.S. Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency filed a clean air lawsuit against Westar, claiming the company updated a coal plant in Kansas without installing modern pollution controls. It was the first such suit under the Obama administration. The suit alleged that Westar's 1,857 MW Jeffrey Energy Center has violated the Clean Air Act for over a decade.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. district court in Kansas City and cited Westar for violating the New Source Review (NSR) portion of the Clean Air Act. A spokesperson for the Justice Department declined to estimate how much Westar would face in fines. The largest fine in a NSR lawsuit was a $1.4 billion settlement with American Electric Power.
In response to the suit, Westar issued a statement saying:
We have known for more than six years, and have even publicly disclosed, that the Department of Justice at some point might file a lawsuit.
We are good environmental stewards, and that is why over the last several years, we have invested nearly $500 million to remove up to 90 percent of the very emissions that the EPA has targeted with its complaint. We also expect to invest more than $1 billion in additional equipment over the next five years. A graphic detailing our target emissions reductions appears with this statement.
In its 2008 annual report Westar stated "A decision in favor of the DOJ and the EPA, or a settlement prior to such a decision, if reached, could require us to update or install emissions controls at Jeffrey Energy Center. Additionally, we might be required to update or install emissions controls at our other coal-fired plants, pay fines or penalties or take other remedial action. Our ultimate costs to resolve the NSR Investigation and the related DOJ lawsuit could be material. We believe that costs related to updating or installing emissions controls would qualify for recovery in the prices we are allowed to charge our customers. If, however, a penalty is assessed against us, the penalty could be material and may not be recovered in rates. We are not able to estimate the possible loss or range of loss at this time."
On September 29, 2009, the Sierra Club announced it was planning to file a request in federal court to intervene in the lawsuit. Attorney Bob Eye said the group wanted to provide expertise and support in backing the claims made against Westar. He said the Sierra Club did not plan to raise new issues in the case.
On January 25, 2010, Westar Energy agreed to spend $500 million to reduce sulfur dioxide pollution at its Jeffrey Energy Center in Kansas by installing scrubbers by the end of 2014. The company said it had opted to settle rather than to litigate. The installation of scrubbers will reduce combined emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides by 78,600 tons each year. That figure is 85 percent lower than their 2007 emissions. Additionally, Westar will give up surplus sulfur dioxide allowance. The company will also required to control for lower particular matter emissions. The EPA also reported that Westar will spend $6 million to mitigate the detrimental effects of the accused violations, including:
- Retrofitting diesel engines on vehicles owned by or operated for public entities in Kansas with emission control equipment.
- Installing new wind turbines that will result in the reduction of criteria pollutants and greenhouse gases, and provide electricity for the benefit of a school or nonprofit.
- Installing advanced truck stop electrification to reduce harmful emissions from idling trucks.
- Installing plug-in hybrid infrastructure to facilitate the use of plug-in hybrid vehicles.
- Converting vehicles in Westar’s fleet to reduce pollution by retrofitting diesel vehicles with emission controls and purchasing hybrid vehicle.
Westar, which in 2002 sought a federal tax break, gave $25,000 to win 'a seat at the table' during congressional deliberations about the provision, even though it had no business in Texas, according to an internal company e-mail that surfaced in a criminal probe. Its executives joined Tom DeLay at a Puerto Rico golf resort owned by a TRMPAC contributor that year. DeLay supported the tax break Westar wanted.
On December 28, 2004, Public Citizen asked the Department of Justice to investigate Westar Energy for "possible bribery of members of Congress, including Tom DeLay, by Westar executives and lobbyists."  See the Westar Energy Bribery Scandal web page by Public Citizen, which includes links to press releases, memos, letters, timeline, and background information on the scandal.
Westar and coal
In February, 2008, Westar Energy announced a new strategic plan that "embraces state and federal policies encouraging greater reliance on energy efficiency and the development of more transmission and renewable energy sources. It also calls for deferring as long as possible constructing a new conventional coal plant, but maintaining existing coal plants and making substantial investments in them to improve their environmental performance."
On March 28, 2008, the Emporia Gazette reported that Westar Energy has declared "a moratorium on construction of coal-fired power plants. The company has taken a look at the rising costs and the uncertain regulatory future and decided that, right now, investing in coal plants is an unwarranted gamble."
Existing coal-fired power plants
|Plant Name||State||County||Year(s) Built||Capacity||2007 CO2 Emissions||2006 SO2 Emissions|
|Jeffrey||KS||Pottawatomie||1978, 1980, 1983||2160 MW||16,800,000 tons||64,482 tons|
|Lawrence||KS||Douglas||1955, 1960, 1971||566 MW||4,320,000 tons||2,612 tons|
|Tecumseh||KS||Shawnee||1957, 1962||232 MW||1,819,000 tons||4,438 tons|
In 2006, Westar's 3 coal-fired power plants emitted 22.9 million tons of CO2 and 72,000 tons of SO2.
Articles and Resources
- Westar Energy Inc., BusinessWeek Company Insight Center, accessed Aug. 2008.
- Westar Energy, "Company Profile", Westar Energy website, accessed April 2010.
- Westar Energy, "Our Energy", Westar Energy website, accessed April 2010.
- Existing Electric Generating Units in the United States, 2005, Energy Information Administration, accessed April 2008.
- "U.S. files clean air lawsuit against Westar Energy," Reuters, February 5, 2009.
- "Westar Energy Responds to EPA/U.S. Department of Justice Lawsuit," Earth Times, February 4, 2009.
- Westar Energy, Westar Energy 2008 Annual Report", Westar Energy, page 14.
- John Hanna, "Sierra Club wants to join lawsuit against Westar," Associated Press, September 29, 2009.
- "Westar Settles Air Quality Suit For $3M, Plant Upgrade," Wall Street Journal, January 25, 2010.
- "EPA Alert: Westar Energy settles $500 million Clean Air Act violations" JusticeNewsFlash.com, accessed January 27, 2010.
- "E-mail shows DeLay sought Enron aid" Washington Post, July 12, 2004.
- "Letter to Department of Justice re: Westar bribery scandal", Public Citizen, December 28, 2004.
- “Tracking New Coal-Fired Power Plants,” National Energy Technology Lab, May 1, 2007, page 13. (Pdf)
- "Westar Energy publishes comprehensive energy plan," company press release, 2/22/08
- Patrick Kelley "The Veto," emporiagazette.com, 3/24/08
- Environmental Integrity Project, Dirty Kilowatts: America’s Most Polluting Power Plants, July 2007.
- Dig Deeper, Carbon Monitoring for Action database, accessed Aug. 2008.
Related SourceWatch articles
- Thomas D. DeLay
- Thomas D. DeLay: External Links for House Ethics Committee Report
- Thomas D. DeLay: External Links 2004
- Westar Energy Kansas Plant
- Kansas and coal
- United States and coal
- Global warming
- EPA Coal Plant Settlements
- "Firm's Cash Sought GOP Favors," CBS News/AP, June 6, 2003.
- "Enough DeLay: Investigate Westar Scandal," ouch, June 12, 2003.
- Tyson Slocum, "Washington's Other Scandal," Tom Paine.Common Sense, May 7, 2004: "Representatives Tom DeLay (R-Texas), Billy Tauzin (R-La.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) are implicated in a bribery scandal involving a corrupt Kansas electric utility, Westar Energy."
- R. Jeffrey Smith, "E-mail shows DeLay sought Enron aid," Washington Post, July 12, 2004.
- "Potential witnesses named in fraud trial against Westar executives," AP, October 6, 2004.
- "House ethics panel again rebukes House majority leader," Lawrence Journal World, October 7, 2004.
- Dan Morgan,"Links Between Lobbying, Fundraising, Legislation Laid Out," Washington Post, October 8, 2004.
- Scott Rothschild, "DeLay's resignation sought over Westar contributions," Lawrence Journal World,October 8, 2004.
- "The Westar Fantasy," The Daily DeLay, October 29, 2004.
- Thomas B. Edsall, "Firm Fined for Channeling Donations to GOP," Washington Post, August 19, 2005.