Jeffrey Energy Center

The Jeffrey Energy Center was opened in July 1978 in Topeka, Kansas, by Westar Energy and Aquila Corp. It is classified as a sub-bituminous coal-fired plant. Its coal is supplied by the Wyoming Powder River Basin, meaning that the Jeffrey Energy Center relies on domestic supplies to produce energy rather than imported supplies, an important factor when the plant opened in the midst of the energy crisis. The Jeffrey Energy Center’s second unit opened in 1980 and its third in 1983. It is still in operation today and since 2007 has received and processed over 220 million tons of coal.

The plant consists of three energy generating units, all of which are rated at 720 MW and together are capable of producing 2.16 gigawatts of electricity.  When operating at full, the plant will burn about 3,000,000 tons of coal per hour.  Unfortunately, all this burning of coal releases fine particles into the air. An investigation of Jeffrey Energy Center by the Abt Associates was ordered by the Clean Air Task Force in 2010 to determine whether or not the plant was adhering to safe air pollution guidelines. They found that 21 deaths were related to pollution issues.

Many power plants like the Jeffrey Energy Center use asbestos as protective and building material. Asbestos is fire and heat resistant and it has been used in construction both commercially and militarily for decades. Asbestos is inexpensive and is harmless when left intact. However through handling, cutting, sanding, or breaking the material, microscopic fibers are released into the air.  Asbestos fibers can be inhaled or swallowed by power plant workers and often they settle in their hair and clothes. Workers then transport the fibers home without knowing it. When inhaled or swallowed, asbestos fibers collect in the lungs, stomach, or heart and over an extended period of time this exposure and buildup can result in a rare cancer known as mesothelioma.

Many power plant workers are unaware of asbestos exposure and what asbestos can do to their health. Mesothelioma is a grave disease and most who develop the cancer suffer through aggressive treatment with few or no results. Mesothelioma life expectancy rates are incredibly low and most victims die in a year to a few months after they are diagnosed. Power plants like the Jeffrey Energy Center who fail to adhere to standards set forth by asbestos regulations are continuously placing employees in danger.