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Conservation Groups Oppose Four Corners Power Plant Lease

PHOTO: Four Corners Power Plant. Photo courtesy of EcoFlight and San Juan Citizens Alliance.
PHOTO: Four Corners Power Plant. Photo courtesy of EcoFlight and San Juan Citizens Alliance.
May 19, 2014

FARMINGTON, N.M. - Several conservation groups in New Mexico are calling on the federal government to not allow the Four Corners Power Plant to burn coal for another quarter-century.

The U.S. Interior Department is in the process of considering a 25-year lease on the power plant with Arizona Public Service, said Mike Eisenfeld, New Mexico energy coordinator for the San Juan Citizens Alliance. He said an Environmental Impact Statement, which considers future environmental issues, shows that the plant will continue to emit high levels of carbon dioxide, which is a major cause of climate change.

"This document hardly even recognizes the enormous impact that the Four Corners Power Plant would have on the entire Southwest region, when it comes to climate change and disruptions of natural systems and the drought conditions that exist here," he said.

The Four Corners Power Plant near Farmington provides electricity to Phoenix and various areas in the Southwest. Arizona Public Service is hoping to extend a lease with the federal government on the coal-fired power that would start in 2016.

Eisenfeld said the federal government appears to be at odds with itself, given the recent release of the National Climate Assessment. The annual report concluded that as temperatures continue to rise, droughts in the Southwest will be longer, and drier conditions will cause more major wildfires.

Eisenfeld said it doesn't make much sense that the Interior Department would approve a coal-fired power plant, which he said is a major contributor to climate change in the region.

"The federal government saying, 'You know, we need to take immediate action to stop this environmental catastrophe.' We're kind of going, 'Does the left hand know what the right hand is doing here? That a climate action plan's coming?' There's a good chance that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions are going to be regulated," he said. "There's other regulatory issues associated with this 50-year-old coal plant."

The Four Corners Power Plant emits more than 10 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, Eisenfeld said, adding that the hope is that the Interior Department will opt to replace the coal plant with renewable energy, such as solar power, within the next few years.

The National Climate Assessment is online at nca2014.globalchange.gov. The Environmental Impact Statement is at wrcc.osmre.gov.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - NM