Friday, April 8, 2011

San Juan Power Plant wants 'F' air quality rating to continue

Contacts: Lori Goodman, Diné CARE - (970) 259-0199
David Graham-Caso, Sierra Club - (213) 387-6528 x214
Karen Hevel-Mingo, National Parks Conservation Association - (801) 521-0785
Mike Eisenfeld, San Juan Citizens Alliance - (505) 325-6724
Jeremy Nichols, Climate/Energy Program Director, WildEarth Guardians – (303) 573-4898 x 1303
Pollution Plan for San Juan Coal Plant Woefully Inadequate
Groups: PNM profits should not dirty our air
Press statement
Albuquerque (NM) – The skies over the four corners region and the public’s right to clean, healthy air would continue to be sacrificed by a recent utility-sponsored proposal for the San Juan Generating Station near Farmington, said a coalition of clean air advocates today. 
Lori Goodman with DinĂ© CARE, an environmental organization on the Navajo Reservation, said the plan being pushed by PNM, the majority owner of the coal-burning plant, is nothing more than a cheap air filter, and delays real improvements in cleaning up the region’s dirty air.
Just last year the American Lung Association gave San Juan County, New Mexico an overall “F” rating for air quality.
The EPA‘s proposal requires the plant be retrofitted with new, up-to-date pollution controls to reduce the plant’s nitrogen oxides by more than 80 percent. PNM’s proposal to the State of New Mexico would reduce such emissions by only 20 percent.
“The utility-sponsored plan is like putting new tires on a beat up ‘72 Chevy with no brakes, lights or exhaust and calling it safe,” said Goodman. “PNM is simply trying to get by on the cheap at the expense of everyone’s health. It’s inexcusable.”
The EPA proposal supersedes the PNM proposal to the state because it is part of Clean Air Act requirements meant to reduce regional haze by cutting nitrogen oxides and other pollutants. The rule applies to existing dirty coal plants and other old industrial sources, and calls for the installation of selective catalytic reduction technology, or SCR, as the most efficient and effective way to meet pollution safeguards and protect Class I airsheds, including national parks and wilderness areas.
Nitrogen oxides are dangerous air pollutants that impact lung functions and cause respiratory diseases. They also are a key chemical in the formation of equally dangerous ozone pollution. San Juan County is already on the brink of violating ozone pollution levels designed to protect public health.
A report by the Clean Air Task Force attributes air pollution from the San Juan Generating Station responsible for $250 million of health impacts in New Mexico alone.
"Pollution from PNM's dirty coal plant has harmed people for decades and this pathetic proposal does next to nothing to protect public health,"said Bill Corcoran, the Western Region Director for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign.  "The time and money PNM has spent opposing pollution protections at San Juan would be better spent putting people to work by investing in New Mexico's abundant clean energy options."
The New Mexico Environment Department concluded in a study that the San Juan Generating Station is responsible for approximately 80 percent of the air quality impairment at Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado. National Parks Conservation Association agrees that the pollution upgrades are absolutely necessary to protect the region’s national parks from emissions coming out of the area’s old out-of-date coal power plants.
“More than 30 years ago Congress decided that the amazing views at pristine parks and wilderness areas were worth protecting for our children and grandchildren,” said Karen Hevel-Mingo with the National Parks Conservation Association. “We support EPA doing its job and fulfilling the legal duty to enforce the regional haze program so park polluters are responsible for reducing their share of visibility impairing emissions.”
In addition to the wide gap between the different emissions reduction proposals, the utility is dramatically over-estimating the costs of installing SCR, claiming a price tag of upwards of $1 billion dollars, far greater than EPA’s estimate of just under $250 million.
“They’re simply trying to scare their customers in order to avoid making the needed investment to clean up the plant,” said Mike Eisenfeld, of the San Juan Citizens Alliance. “What everyone should really be scared about is this dirty air my kids are forced to breathe and the dirty skies over our national parks.”
Eisenfeld added that the utilities should not be allowed to continue using the Four Corners region as their dumping ground, particularly since the area is verging on non-attainment for ozone where economic ramifications could be severe. 
“Protecting public health has to be a priority,” he said. “This just shows that coal isn’t cheap.”
The EPA is required to rule on the proposed upgrade in June. More information can be found at:
PNM’s 2009 statement on Environmental Policy and Leadership can be found at:

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