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Sithe to EPA: 'Get the Lead Out' On Desert Rock

January 25, 2008

Burnham, NM - A Texas energy company is telling the Environmental Protection Agency to "get the lead out," but residents of the Four Corners area say the company should be more worried about mercury and other pollutants from its planned Desert Rock power plant. Houston-based Sithe Global Power has notified the E.P.A. that it plans to sue the agency for delaying a decision on the air permit for the coal plant. Southwest Colorado resident Don Anderson is retired from the E.P.A. and is one of many residents concerned that the permit application doesn't properly address pollutants from the plant like carbon dioxide and mercury.

"We are particularly concerned about mercury emissions because Vallecito Reservoir is posted for high levels of mercury in certain species of fish. So, that really kind of woke everybody up here that mercury contamination is a problem."

Sithe says they filed for the permit over three years ago, and the E.P.A. is required to make a decision within a year. Anderson says it regularly takes much longer for all the required environmental information to be assembled. Sithe has partnered with the Navajo Nation in the plan to build a 1,500 megawatt coal-burning plant on the reservation. The Four Corners area is already home to three other coal plants.

Nick Persampieri with Earth Justice says Sithe's plan not only fails to address mercury and ozone emissions, it also ignores the massive amounts of carbon dioxide the Desert Rock plant would put out.

"Those emissions will thwart efforts by the states of New Mexico and Colorado to achieve their greenhouse gas emission reduction goals."

Last week, the Navajo citizens' group Diné CARE released a report detailing clean energy options like solar and wind power that could also boost the reservation economy and bring jobs.

Eric Mack/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - NM