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EPA Slated to Finalize Clean Air Plan for San Juan Generating Station

August 1, 2011
Jeremy Nichols (303) 573-4898 x 1303
In This Release
Climate + Energy  

Monday, August 1, 2011
EPA Slated to Finalize Clean Air Plan for San Juan Generating Station

Significant Protections for Public Health and the Environment to be Finalized by Friday August 5th
Contact: Jeremy Nichols (303) 573-4898 x 1303

San Juan County, NM—Aplan to limit haze and smog forming pollution by more than 80% from the SanJuan Generating Station is slated to be finalized by the U.S. EnvironmentalProtection Agency (EPA) this Friday, August 5th.

The plan will mark the first EPA plan in the nation to cleanup aging coal-fired power plants, setting a high bar for the protection ofpublic health and the environment.

The EPA is finally taking action to clean up the San JuanGenerating Station in response to a lawsuit filed by WildEarth Guardians. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA hasbeen required to ensure the oldest and dirtiest sources of air pollution curbtheir emissions to reduce haze in National Parks and wilderness areas.

Modeling prepared by Public Service Company of New Mexico,or PNM, shows the San Juan Generating Station contributes to 80% of allvisibility degradation in Mesa Verde National Park, 70% in the San Pedro ParksWilderness, and 45% in Bandelier National Monument. Called “Best Available Retrofit Technology,” the EPA’s planwould reduce visibility impairment by more than 40%.

Under the EPA’s plan, which was proposed in early January ofthis year, PNM would be required to meet updated limits on haze formingnitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide pollution. The San Juan Generating Station would have to meet anitrogen oxide emission rate of 0.05 lb/mmbtu through the use of selectivecatalytic reduction, the most up-to-date control technology, reducing emissionsby more than 80%.

The same pollutants that form haze are the same that formsmog and particulates. In 2010, the American Lung Association gave San JuanCounty’s air quality an “F” because of smog pollution. It is estimated that every year, haze,smog, and particulates from the San Juan Generating Station cause 33 prematuredeaths, 50 heart attacks, 600 asthma attacks, 21 cases of chronic bronchitis,and 31 asthma-related emergency room visits every year at a cost of more than$250 million.

The EPA estimates that retroftting the San Juan GeneratingStation will cost just under $250million, indicating that the benefits will actually outweigh the costs ofinstalling controls.

Still, WildEarthGuardians has called on PNM to instead spend its money to fully retirethe San Juan Generating Station and offset the electricity it generates withrenewable energy. New Mexicoalready has a 20% renewable energy standard and reports show that a combinationof rooftop solar and wind energy could meet New Mexico’s power needs by morethan seventy-fold. Utilities in Colorado and other statesare beginning to retire coal-fired power plants, opting against investingmillions in the face of mounting environmental liability.

Although the State of New Mexico was originally required toadopt a clean up plan for the San Juan Generating Station, because of delay andthe inability of the state to develop a plan that complied with the Clean AirAct, the EPA developed its own proposal. Under the Clean Air Act, where states fail to protect clean air, the EPAis legally obligated to develop federal plans.

Operatedand primarily owned by Public Service Company of New Mexico, or PNM, the SanJuan Generation Station is an 1,800 megawatt power plant that every yearreleases thousands of tons of toxic air pollution from its smokestacks. Located15 miles west of Farmington, the plant consists of four boilers and releasesmore than 18,000 tons of smog forming nitrogen oxide gases, 51 pounds ofmercury, and more than 13,000,000 tons of carbon dioxide—as much as is releasedby more than 2.3 million passenger vehicles.

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The plan will mark the first EPA plan in the nation to clean up aging coal-fired power plants, setting a high bar for the protection of public health and the environment.