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San Juan Generating Station vs. Clean Air Act

July 31, 2012

WATERFLOW, N.M. - What's to be done about the San Juan Generating Plant? A team of stakeholders, ratepayers, residents, workers, government representatives and environmental groups is working on a plan to meet the Clean Air Act's regulations, while still cutting costs and saving jobs at the plant, near Farmington in the northwest corner of New Mexico.

It's a tough assignment. Complaints about the plant center around air quality and the one thing everyone has to do: breathe. A coalition of environmental groups has begun a media push to convince plant owner Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) to transition from burning coal to solar and wind generation.

Mariel Nanasi, executive director of New Energy Economy, says time is short and pollution remains a major problem in the Four Corners area.

"It's a deadly cocktail of ash and soot and chemicals, metals and gases, that spew 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

Part of the media effort asks people to post on PNM's Facebook Wall regarding how they feel about the San Juan Generating Plant. At least 120 people did, with comments from "Do the right thing," to "It is nothing other than shameful that a state with so much sun and wind is not using these energy sources on a very grand scale!"

Nellis Kennedy-Howard, campaign representative for Beyond Coal at the Sierra Club, wants to see a shift to clean energy, using a development zone in Farmington that would provide a transition to renewable energy while protecting the jobs of the people now working at the San Juan plant.

"It's time for PNM to give back to the communities that they have used as an energy sacrifice zone, and to ensure restoration of the land that impacted communities, including the economics that they have controlled for so long."

There are only about 80 days left to present the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) with what it wants; namely, a plan for the San Juan plant that meets federal Clean Air standards.

Mike Eisenfeld, New Mexico energy coordinator for the San Juan Citizens Alliance, says at this point it's hard to say if the group working on it can come up with a solid plan.

"If people are going to get serious and try to address this problem over the next 80 days, then that's a good thing. If not, then we'll fall back onto our litigation position, which we feel is very strong."

New Mexico Environment Department plans to schedule public meetings to address these issues. Meeting dates will be posted at their web site).

Renee Blake/Beth Blakeman, Public News Service - NM