A progression of color maps illustrated the U.S. Army’s work on removing pollution from the former ammunition manufacturing plant at De Soto that is to be the site of a proposed $4 billion Panasonic vehicle battery manufacturing plant. Federal and state regulators issued a new permit allowing redevelopment of land for Panasonic. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — State and federal environmental regulators approved modification of a permit necessary to move ahead with redevelopment of a portion of the former Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant for construction of the $4 billion Panasonic Energy vehicle battery plant.
The permit issued to Sunflower Redevelopment LLC and the U.S. Army allowed release for development of a portion of the De Soto property polluted by decades of manufacturing high explosives. The permit adjustment was endorsed by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“Years of hard work and collaboration between EPA Region 7, KDHE and the permittees have gone into cleaning up the former Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant,” said Meg McCollister, the EPA’s regional administer for Kansas and three other states. “This permit modification recognizes the successes gained and opens the door for the property’s reuse as the site of the largest economic development project in Kansas’ history.”
Leo Henning, deputy secretary at KDHE, said redevelopment of the ammunition plant property offered insight into the potential of cooperation by government and the private sector.
The property in Johnson County has been controlled by an environmental cleanup permit since 1991. Progress on remediation was sufficient to justify the decision by EPA and KDHE.
Portions of the old Sunflower plant site not released by amendment of the permit will continue to be subject to corrective actions that primarily have involved tainted soil and underground pipes. The U.S. Army, which is financing the restoration effort, has yet to tackle groundwater contamination on the property, including the area removed from the permit for benefit of Panasonic.
In July, Gov. Laura Kelly announced an agreement with Panasonic to build the battery plant at De Soto. The company pledged to invest $4 billion in a plant capable of creating 4,000 direct jobs and an estimated 3,800 supplemental jobs. The Kelly administration said operation of the Panasonic plant could deliver $2.5 billion in annual economic benefit to the state of Kansas.
Kelly said the state of Kansas committed $829 million in economic incentives to the Panasonic project under a program approved by the 2022 Legislature and signed into law by the governor.
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