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Four Corners Could Soon Be Breathing Easier

August 23, 2011

TEEC NOS POS, Ariz. - A decision in New Mexico could have a direct impact on the air quality in the Four Corners region of Arizona, where those two states meet Utah and Nevada. Utility companies like Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) are trying to figure out what to do with old and dirty coal-fired power plants, such as the nearly-40-year-old San Juan Generating Station just outside Shiprock.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ruled that the plant needs to reduce its emissions with modern pollution controls. The company claims the cost would be prohibitive, but Mike Eisenfeld, New Mexico energy coordinator for the San Juan Citizens Alliance, says now is the time to decide whether to update the facility, or to replace it with a cleaner alternative.

"Public Service Company of New Mexico needs to start thinking about transitioning away from these coal plants, if they deem the investment to be too much to retrofit the older technologies."

Eisenfeld says reducing pollutants such as nitrogen oxide will improve air quality and cut public health costs across the Southwest.

"At what point does people's public health matter? And our opinion is that it matters greatly, and that, if we continue on this pathway of investing in coal plants, that it just seems like we're sort of on a road to disaster."

He says the San Juan Generating Station currently dumps nearly 16,000 tons of smog-causing nitrogen oxide into the air each year, making it the ninth-greatest polluter among 40 coal plants in western states.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ