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Important EPA Hearing Tomorrow on the San Juan Generating Station!

By Tracy Dingmann

The Environmental Protection Agency will hold a public hearing in Farmington tomorrow to determine the scope of a plan to force cleaner operation of the San Juan Generating Station in the Four Corners area.

The San Juan Generating Station is known as one of the dirtiest coal-burning power plants in the nation. The massive 1,848 megawatt coal-fired power plant is owned primarily by Public Service Company of New Mexico, or PNM. The plant, which consists of four coal-fired boilers, is located in northwestern New Mexico near the town of Waterflow.

The power plant is the second largest source of air pollution in New Mexico (right behind the Four Corners power plant). Every year, its air pollution contributes to 33 premature deaths, 600 asthma attacks, 31 asthma-related emergency room visits, and other health impacts, at an estimated cost of more than $254 million.

Its air pollution affects indigenous communities in the region, a number of National Parks and Monuments, and regional smog levels, the nearest being Mesa Verde National Park, which is 30 miles north.

One of the best hopes for cleaning up worsening air quality in the Four Corners region is for the owners of to clean up air pollution from its smokestacks by installing proposed pollution-control upgrades.

The EPA is holding the hearings to discuss a plan it announced on January 5, 2011 that would require PNM to retrofit the San Juan Generating Station with up-to-date air pollution controls. The plan would target emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, sulfuric acid, and ammonia, all haze forming gases that also contribute to the plant’s negative health impacts. The plan must be finalized by June 21, 2011.

The cornerstone of the plan is that it would require that PNM reduce to NOx emissions by retrofitting the four coal-fired boilers with selective catalytic reduction, an add-on control that functions much the same as a car’s catalytic converter. PNM would be required to add-on the control and meet an emission limit of 0.05 pounds per million BTU’s of heat input within three years. The plan also requires PNM to limit sulfur dioxide emissions to no more than 0.15 pounds per million BTU’s and sets limits for ammonia and sulfuric acid mist.

The many people who live and work in the area say it is critical that people speak up at the hearing to emphasize the importance of the EPA’s plan.

“In the 40 years since Americans demanded its creation, the EPA has saved millions of lives by enforcing clean air and water standards. More than 1.7 million asthma attacks and $110 billion in healthcare costs were avoided in 2010 alone thanks to the agency’s efforts, said associate field organizer Juan Reynosa of the Sierra Club.

“With the help of the EPA, we can clean up our air and water in the Four Corner region and protect our families by phasing out life-threatening coal, while creating real jobs in New Mexico that will power a clean and prosperous future. We fully support the EPA’s proposal to install up-to-date pollution controls on the San Juan Generating station.”

Here are the details of tomorrow’s public hearing:

Public Hearing for San Juan Generating Station Clean Air Plan, February 17, 2011 in Farmington, NM

What: Open House and Public Hearing on EPA’s Plan to Require Clean Air Retrofits at San Juan Generating Station in northwestern New Mexico

When: February 17, 2011. Open house from 3-5 P.M., hearing will begin at 6 P.M.

Where: San Juan College, 4601 College Boulevard, Computer Science Building, Room 7103, Farmington, NM

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