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New Mexico Telegram » Environment, Featured » San Juan Generating Station will shut down two coal units in deal with EPA

San Juan Generating Station will shut down two coal units in deal with EPA

The coal-fired San Juan Generating Station will shut down two of the plant’s four units by 2017 in a deal reached with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

The New Mexico Environment Department also issued a press release.

At issue was pollution from the large coal-fired power plant and the insistence of power plant operator Public Service Company of New Mexico that putting proper controls on the power plant would be too costly.

In the deal, the two coal-fired units would be replaced with natural gas units which would put off less pollution.

The deal allows the other two coal-fired units to operate indefinitely with less expensive pollution controls — using selective non-catalytic reduction technology. This type of technology that is designed to lessen nitrogen oxide emissions was part of a negotiated deal between the state of New Mexico and the power plant.

The AP also reports:

PNM, 46 percent owner of the 1,800-megawatt plant, estimates its share of the capital costs under the settlement would be $400 million to $430 million. It says ratepayers would not see an immediate impact on their bills.

In addition, PNM agreed to no layoffs due to the units’ closures and will provide more than $1 million for job retraining and economic development in the Four Corners area.

At issue was the Clean Air Act, which requires the “best available retrofit technology” be used to reduce pollution. Public Service Company of New Mexico said this would cost $750 million — too expensive to keep the Four Corners area power plant running.

According to a Sierra Club fact sheet, “SJGS is the second-largest source of air pollution in New Mexico after the nearby Four Corners power plant.”

Gov. Susana Martinez hailed the settlement as a victory.

“All along, our goal has been to strike the right balance between the environmental and economic impacts of energy production in the Four Corners,” said Martinez in a statement. “We worked hard to craft a reasonable solution that would improve air quality, conserve New Mexico’s precious water resources, avoid an extremely burdensome rate hike on consumers, protect jobs in northwestern New Mexico, transition away from coal and toward New Mexico natural gas, and position the state to take full advantage of exciting new economic development opportunities in the Mancos Shale. This compromise is a reasonable step forward to achieving all of those goals.”

Navajo Nation president Ben Shelly weighed in as well.

“I support the most recent terms that the State of New Mexico has agreed to work on with EPA to address Best Achievable Retrofit Technology (BART) for the San Juan Generating Station. I have continued to support the multi-faceted efforts of New Mexico to acquire the most effective agreement with the EPA for meeting BART,” said Shelly in the press release from the New Mexico Environment Department.

Sierra Club reaction

The Sierra Club reacted to the news and said it showed an acknowledgement that there must be a transition from coal-generated power. It said that there will be a need to transition from natural gas as well.

“By building a reliance on another fossil fuel like natural gas, New Mexico will continue to allow more pollution from methane, benzene, carbon and other toxins,” Nellis Kennedy-Howard, Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal to Clean Energy Campaign, said in a statement. “It would also not provide provide affordable nor stable rates for electricity customers. The use of natural gas in our state will not only contribute to both air and water pollution, but it will also threaten our water supply just like coal does – since both are water intensive. Solar and wind power can provide New Mexicans with clean, safe and affordable power that is not water intensive.”

Photo by dsearls/Flickr

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Matthew Reichbach has blogged about New Mexico politics since 2006. Matthew was a co-founder of New Mexico FBIHOP with his brother and part of the original hirings at the groundbreaking website the New Mexico Independent. Matthew has covered events such as the Democratic National Convention and Netroots Nation. In addition to politics, Matthew is an avid sports fan, especially of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and TV fan.

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