Tag Archives: Four Corners

10/25/2011 Durango Herald: EPA chief keeps up the pressure – Jackson touts approach to replace coal with natural-gas generators

10/25/2011 Durango Herald: EPA chief keeps up the pressure – Jackson touts approach to replace coal with natural-gas generators By Joe Hanel Herald Staff Writer: DENVER – Regulators will continue to push for cleanups at coal power plants in the Four Corners despite a rough economy, the Obama administration’s top environmental official said Monday. Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, visited Denver to tout the state’s approach to retiring coal plants and replacing them with natural gas-powered generators. Jackson’s agency in 2009 blocked a permit for the proposed Desert Rock coal power plant in Northwest New Mexico, and it is requiring better pollution-control equipment on existing power plants.

“The problem with many plants that we’re facing today is that they have not in good economic times invested in pollution control technologies. And now they are sort of gasping on the very end of life support to keep running. But the people who are paying the price are these children and our elderly people who have respiratory diseases,” Jackson said when asked about the New Mexico plants.

Jackson noted that President Barack Obama has pledged that his administration will not reduce environmental rules because the economy is dragging.

The EPA will finalize by Dec. 16 a rule limiting mercury pollution from power plants, Jackson said.

Jackson was in town to participate in a panel discussion on Colorado’s “Clean Air Clean Jobs” Act, a 2010 bill that calls for replacing Denver-area coal plants with natural-gas plants.

Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, was one of the act’s prime sponsors, along with former Sen. Bruce Whitehead, D-Hesperus, who Roberts beat in the 2010 election.

Former Gov. Bill Ritter, the law’s biggest champion, moderated the discussion in front of a friendly crowd at National Jewish Health, a respiratory hospital.

The act brought together a new coalition of natural-gas companies and environmentalists, but it caused divisions in traditional alliances. Local environmentalists opposed expanded gas drilling, and Republicans split between a faction supporting coal companies and one backing gas drillers.

Tisha Schuller, president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, said the political splinters posed a challenge.

“Another challenge was the aggression and persistence of the opposition, and that continues to this day. We have been surprised at the continuous spread of misinformation about the Clean Air Clean Jobs Act and also about the natural-gas industry,” Schuller said.

Jackson applauded the act and said the same kind of alliance could be forged on a national level.

jhanel@durangoherald.com

10/26/2011 Environmental Groups Support Haze Reduction

10/26/2011 Indian Country Today: Environmental Groups Support Haze Reduction By Carol Berry: The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has approved a motion by several environmental groups to intervene in a lawsuit involving mandated pollution controls at the 2,040-megawatt San Juan Generating Station. The New Mexico plant is believed to be the first facility required to adhere to a regional haze program, according to an environmental spokesman. The 1999 regional haze program under the Clean Air Act is designed to protect areas of “great scenic importance”—certain national parks, wilderness areas, national memorials and international parks—from manmade air pollution.

“Visibility impairment by air pollution occurs virtually all the time at most national park and wilderness area monitoring stations,” according to the Federal Register, which also notes that the visibility problem “is caused primarily by emission into the atmosphere of (sulfur dioxide), oxides of nitrogen, and particulate matter, especially fine particulate matter, from inadequately controlled sources.”

“Under the Clean Air Act, the idea was that older, antiquated, coal plants were going to be decommissioned,” but that did not happen at the station, said Mike Eisenfeld, energy coordinator for the San Juan Citizens Alliance. Instead, PNM, New Mexico’s largest electricity provider, filed for an extension of the station’s present lifespan until 2053, he added.

Besides the Alliance, groups seeking to intervene include Dine’ Citizens against Ruining Our Environment (Dine’ CARE), Sierra Club, National Parks Conservation Association and New Energy Economy.

Sixteen National Parks or other protected historic and scenic areas are within the area affected by haze from the station and other area power plants, with particular concern for air quality at Mesa Verde National Park, only 35 or 40 miles to the north, Eisenfeld said.

Some concerns of area residents center on health effects as well as haze reduction in National Parks and other areas.

“The Navajo people living in the area of San Juan County and the Four Corners area are deeply impacted by the pollution, the haze—we’ve lived there on our ancestral lands forever, and we’ll always be there, said Anna M. Frazier, a spokesperson for Dine’ CARE. “But pollution has a great impact on our health and has a terrible impact on the vegetation—the herbs for healing,” she said, explaining that people now have to go to the mountains to gather plants that once were closer at hand.

“There used to be concern only for older people being affected, but now younger people and children have asthma and hospital records show that,” she said of the station, which is operated by the New Mexico Environment Department to meet EPA mandates, whose antipollution plan for the station is the issue in litigation.

Aesthetic and health concerns aside, PNM “is trying to portray it (upgrade cost) as unfair, like Four Corners Power Plant and Navajo Generating Station and other 50-year-old facility costs to upgrade, which they’re saying is $1 billion. They say they should be able to have a less-effective technical ‘fix,’” Eisenfeld said, “and we’re saying that’s not good enough.”

Although catalytic emission controls on the station are estimated to cost $750 million to $1 billion, controls already installed remove some of the pollutants before they are released from the stack, according to EPA, so that costs would be reduced.

The station, which “continues to be one of the highest emitters of nitrous oxide” is one of the “huge, polluting facilities (that) deter economic development,” Eisenfeld said.

Although the station employs some 400 workers, he said he believes that if it completed the emission control fix, “it would create more jobs.”

Eisenfeld said the increase in employment would be from workers hired to clean up the plant and to install the system that would cut pollution through selective catalytic reduction. He didn’t have estimates for the increase in workers.

http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2011/10/environmental-groups-support-haze-reduction/

9/16/2011 Navajo Generating Station blamed for haze over Grand Canyon, respiratory illnesses But Native American activists say new study ignores health impacts

9/16/2011 Colorado Independent: Navajo Generating Station blamed for haze over Grand Canyon, respiratory illnesses But Native American activists say new study ignores health impacts: By David O. Williams: Residents of the Navajo and Hopi reservations in the Four Corners region are dismayed that a study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) on the 2,250-megawatt Navajo Generating Station near Page, Ariz., “clearly omits consideration of the coal-burning plant’s pollution impacts on public health.” During public meetings in Phoenix the last two days, activist groups have been rallying support for looming U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) clean-air regulations that would compel the plant to install the best retrofit technology available to scrub nitrogen oxide emissions from its smokestack. Besides respiratory problems for area residents, critics blame the 42-year-old power plant for haze over Grand Canyon National Park.

Last month the EPA ordered major pollution controls within five years at San Juan Generating Station 15 miles west of Farmington, N.M., ordering the facility to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 80 percent. Colorado lawmakers were seeking to avoid similar federal regulations when they approved the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act that requires the conversion of aging coal-fired power plants on the Front Range to natural gas or renewable energy.

Conservation groups say the Department of Interior — whose Bureau of Reclamation owns the largest chunk of the Navajo power plant – is pressuring EPA to delay its ruling until the Golden, Colo.-based National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) can complete the first phase of an overall study on operations at the Navajo Generating Station. The plant, collectively owned by the Salt River Project, provides electricity in Arizona, Nevada and California and also supplies power to pump water through the Central Arizona Project.

“The pollution, health, and water impacts of Navajo Generating Station are huge costs — human and financial and environmental,” said Nikke Alex, a member of the Navajo Nation. “The fact that they’re ignored in the Department of Interior’s study is glaring and should be alarming for everyone in our region. Since the Department of Interior owns so much of this plant, there’s concern they may be using their influence to avoid an accounting of the true costs of keeping it running.”

As many as 18,000 homes on the Navajo Nation are completely off the grid despite the presence of nearby coal-fired power plants, which local health officials blame for a wide range of respiratory problems. But Republican lawmakers from Arizona have been actively trying to thwart the EPA push for cleaner air in the region, holding hearings and targeting various congressional committees.

U.S. Reps. Paul Gosar and Trent Franks sent a letter to the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power and the Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs arguing the EPA regulations could cost jobs and endanger the state’s power and water supply. They blasted what they deemed “burdensome regulations that threaten the viability of the plant.”

“The plant and associated mine provides nearly 1,000 jobs in northern Arizona, is critical to the livelihood of the Pinal County and Native American agricultural community, and is essential to supplying water to 80 percent of the state’s population,” Gosar said. “We must carefully examine regulations that could threaten the state of Arizona’s water and power supply.”

Navajo and Hopi activists counter that they’ve suffered greatly from increased asthma and other respiratory problems traced to the plant. They also pointed to a study by the American Lung Association that found the Phoenix metro area is “one of the 25 worst of 277 U.S. metro areas for ozone pollution and is the second worst area in the nation for year-round exposure to fine particle pollution.”

Still, Navajo plant operators have reportedly indicated they might have to shutter the facility if the EPA requires the retrofits, which critics claim could unnecessarily cost more than $1 billion.

COMMENTS:

Poisoning people and the environment including the waters and the fish that swim there is not a fair trade off for a thousand jobs and cheap electricity.

I remember coming over Wolf Creek pass one evening some 30-35 years ago marveling at the spectacular technicolor sunset, only to be dismayed by my companions explanation that the colors were due to the refraction of light through the same pollution as the nightly smog in Denver,Phoenix,L.A.etc.The source of that was the Page plant which incidentally was readily identifiable from space by Apollo astronauts because it was so immense and isolated.

The notion that this plant will close before adapting to more stringent EPA regulations is ludicrous-just more of the corporate right’s scare tactics designed to intimidate low information voters.The manufacture ,installation ,and maintenance of high tech scrubbers will not only protect our health and environment ,but obviously create MORE jobs-as compliance with most regulations do.The insatiable greed of corporate utility operators [who already have all the advantages of a complete monopoly of an essential service,largely subsidized by taxpayers] is the only interest that does not benefit from these changes.

Not all Navajo or Hopi are dismayed. Some of us are actually elated with the idea of stopping haze and any related health issue that it may caused. Your wording is rather affront.

9/3/2011 Smokescreens from smokestackers; EPA counters propaganda

9/3/2011 Santa Fe New Mexican: Smokescreens from smokestackers; EPA counters propaganda: Coal-company and power-industry mouthpieces lately have been foaming at the boca about federal efforts to clean up their act — and their rabidity has run them off the rhetorical track: The term they keep repeating in response to overdue clean-air standards proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency is “train wreck” — that’s what those darn feds are gonna turn our economy into … The longtime polluters of America’s air conjure images of Casey Jones’ fate, applying catastrophic scenes to our country’s finances if power companies have to spend money reducing smokestack emissions. Their public-relations people, some of the slickest in the country, were churning out the choo-choo phrases, along with exaggerations about the emissions rules — closed-down power plants, lost jobs, soaring electricity bills; the usual — even before EPA had issued its proposals.

Industry propaganda follows a disturbing pattern drawn by business lobbyists in recent years: Blame government for a bad economy, and put out ads saying that, if only we could return to the days of laissez-faire, everything would be hunky-dory. President Barack Obama appears to have bought it.

On Friday, Obama reeled back some of the EPA demands, especially as to reducing smog ingredients.

EPA administrator Lisa Jackson stepped up just last week and coolly countered the coal guys’ grim scenarios. We can only hope she’ll prevail upon the pusillanimous president to get tough, perhaps when — or if — he’s re-elected.

For starters, Jackson argues, the train-wreck images were being applied, in many cases, to stricter rules than the agency was proposing. The Congressional Research Service notes that the new standards are aimed mainly at coal-fired plants 40 years old and older — which still haven’t been fitted with state-of-the-art pollution controls.

Without such controls, there’s a rising risk of asthma, cancer and other diseases; coal-fired generating plants spew all kinds of harmful elements into the air, onto the ground and into water.

Some of the dirtiest of those plants sit in the Four Corners: Public Service Company of New Mexico’s San Juan generator west of Farmington, nearly 40 years old, is an especially egregious polluter. The Four Corners plant near Fruitland is closer to 50 years old, and a notorious polluter.

EPA’s plans call for 80-percent emissions reductions there within the next five years or so. PNM, predictably, is fighting the proposal, saying those plants provide reasonably priced power — and that it’ll hit customers in the pocketbook.

PNM claims that compliance at San Juan alone would cost $750 million. That, too, is an exaggeration, if we can believe environmentalists’ expert testimony; there’s technology out there that can do the job for one-tenth that amount, they say — and, free of profit motivation, they enjoy more credibility than the lingering dinosaur mentality of PNM does.

Yes, electricity bills would go up even then — but since when haven’t they gone up, owing to one excuse or another?

Air-cleaning, here and around the country, has been delayed or dabbled with long enough; the mercury, the arsenic, the carbons and the nitrogen oxides have long posed health threats to the Four Corners; add to that EPA’s concerns about regional haze now spreading to Mesa Verde National Park and across the Navajo Nation, and corporate moaning in Albuquerque has a hollow sound to it.

PNM has made commendable steps into the renewable-energy field; its executives should keep up that good work — and veer further from the bad, old-fashioned kind. The company may need the Four Corners-area generators for years to come — and that’s all the more reason they’ve got to be cleaned up.

Addressing Uranium Contamination in the Navajo Nation

US EPA Pacific Southwest, Region 9 Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations: Addressing Uranium Contamination in the Navajo Nation: The lands of the Navajo Nation include 27,000 square miles spread over three states in the Four Corners area. The unique geology of these lands makes them rich in uranium, a radioactive ore in high demand after the development of atomic power and weapons at the close of World War II in the 1940s. From 1944 to 1986, nearly four million tons of uranium ore were extracted from Navajo lands under leases with the Navajo Nation. Many Navajo people worked the mines, often living and raising families in close proximity to the mines and mills.

Today the mines are closed, but a legacy of uranium contamination remains, including over 500 abandoned uranium mines (AUMs) as well as homes and drinking water sources with elevated levels of radiation. Potential health effects include lung cancer from inhalation of radioactive particles, as well as bone cancer and impaired kidney function from exposure to radionuclides in drinking water.

EPA maintains a strong partnership with the Navajo Nation and, since 1994, the Superfund Program has provided technical assistance and funding to assess potentially contaminated sites and develop a response. In August 2007, the Superfund Program compiled a Comprehensive Database and Atlas with the most complete assessment to date of all known uranium mines on the Navajo Nation. Working with the Navajo Nation, EPA also used its Superfund authority to clean up four residential yards and one home next to the highest priority abandoned uranium mine, Northeast Church Rock Mine, at a cost of more than $2 million.

At the request of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in October 2007, EPA, along with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Indian Health Service (IHS) developed a coordinated Five-Year Plan to address uranium contamination in consultation with Navajo Nation EPA. EPA regularly reports back to the Committee and to the Navajo Nation on its progress (PDF) (2 pp, 489K) in implementing the Five-Year Plan. (The Progress Report was updated in August 2010 (PDF) (2 pp, 2.9M) .)

The Five-Year Plan is the first coordinated approach created by the five federal agencies. This landmark plan outlines a strategy for cleanup and details the cleanup process for the Navajo Nation over the next five years.

EPA is addressing the most urgent risks on the reservation — uranium contaminated water sources and structures. Approximately 30 percent of the Navajo population does not have access to a public drinking water system and may be using unregulated water sources with uranium contamination. EPA and the Navajo Nation EPA have launched an aggressive outreach campaign to inform residents of the dangers of consuming contaminated water.

EPA will also continue to use its Superfund authority to address contaminated structures. EPA has already assessed about 200 structures and yards and targeted at least 27 structures and ten yards for remediation as a precaution.

Over the course of the Five-year Plan, EPA will focus on the problems posed by abandoned uranium mines, completing a tiered assessment of over 500 mines and taking actions to address the highest priority mines. As mines that pose risks are discovered, EPA may use Superfund authorities, including the National Priorities List, enforcement against responsible parties, or emergency response to require cleanup. At the Northeast Church Rock Mine, the highest-risk mine on the Reservation, EPA is requiring the owner to conduct a cleanup that is protective of nearby residents. EPA is working with the community to ensure the remainder of the site is cleaned up.

Although the legacy of uranium mining is widespread and will take many years to address completely, the collaborative effort of EPA, other federal agencies and the Navajo Nation will bring an unprecedented level of support and protection for the people at risk from these sites. Much work remains to be done, and EPA is committed to working with the Navajo Nation to remove the most immediate contamination risks and to find permanent solutions to the remaining contamination on Navajo lands.

Related Information
Superfund Site Overview

Region 9 Tribal Program

Contact Information

Dana Barton
US EPA, SFD 6-3
75 Hawthorne St.
San Francisco, CA 94105
Telephone: (415) 972-3087
Toll Free 1(800) 231-3075
Fax (415) 947-3528

Lillie Lane (hozhoogo_nasha@yahoo.com)
Navajo Nation EPA
P.O. Box 339
Window Rock, Arizona 86515
928-871-6092

8/6/2011 EPA requires cleanup at NM coal-powered plant

8/6/2011 Summit County Citizens Voice: EPA requires cleanup at NM coal-powered plant New pollution controls at coal-fired plant near the Four Corners will benefit public health and reduce regional haze; Utility company says it will appeal the federal decision By Summit Voice: SUMMIT COUNTY — Residents of the Four Corners region and tourists in the famed national parks in the area will be able to breathe a bit easier after the EPA this week issued a final rule that will help cut harmful nitrogen oxide emissions from the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station in New Mexico by 80 percent. The coal plant also emits more than 5,500 tons of sulfur dioxide per year.

The EPA’s decision is part of a larger effort to implement Clean Air Act provisions that have long been ignored by state and and federal regulators. The rules require a reduction in regional haze that clouds views in more than 150 national parks and wilderness areas.

According to a Clean Air Task Force report, San Juan Generating Station is responsible for more than 80 percent of the air pollution at Mesa Verde National Park, just across the border in Colorado. It also contributes to air pollution at the Grand Canyon and many other nationally protected landscapes. Parks in the region support thousands of jobs and the millions of people who visit them each year contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to local economies.

The plant’s operator, Public Service Company of New Mexico, said it will appeal the ruling and warned in a prepared statement that the cost of retrofitting the plany with up-to-date pollution controls will increase energy prices for consumers.

The usual cast of characters, including business groups and some elected officials, lobbied against the new EPA rules, saying that a less aggressive state plan would cost less and also reduce air pollution, but the EPA’s exhaustive environmental study of the plant shows the state plan would not meet air quality standards.

The power company estimates it could cost up to $750 million to retrofit the plant, while according to the EPA’s economic analysis, the cost should be closer to $230 million.

Either way, the power company doesn’t take into account the indirect costs of the air pollution. By some estimates, premature deaths, asthma attacks, heart attacks, chronic bronchitis, and hospital visits from San Juan Generating Station’s pollution have cost an estimated $255 million a year.

The EPA decision to limit nitrogen oxide emissions from all four boilers at the San Juan plant will likely require the operators to retrofit the plant with selective catalytic reduction pollution controls. It’s the first federal plan in the country that will require adequate pollution controls to limit nitrogen oxide emissions under Clean Air Act provisions to reduce regional haze. There are decades-old plants with major pollution problems in more than 40 other states that will face similar decisions on pollution upgrades in the coming year or two.

Conservation groups see the limits on the San Juan plant as a possible bellwether of what’s to come at other plants. Requiring coal-fired power plants to comply with environmental laws could help speed the pace of transition to cleaner fuels.

At the most fundamental level, reducing the nitrogen oxide pollution is a public health issue. Nitrogen oxide reacts with other compounds to form small particles that penetrate deeply into sensitive parts of the lungs. It is also a raw ingredient in ground-level ozone, which the American Lung Association calls “the most widespread pollutant in the U.S. [and] one of the most dangerous.” Ozone leads to asthma attacks, respiratory problems, lung damage, and even premature death.

“Pollution from this plant has been hurting our communities for generations,” said Donna House with Diné CARE, a volunteer-driven conservation organization on the Navajo Nation in the Four Corners region. “Cutting coal pollution is a must, and moving to a cleaner energy than coal is the real answer.”

San Juan Generating Station currently dumps nearly 16,000 tons of nitrogen oxide into the air each year, making it the ninth worst polluter out of more than 40 coal plants in Western states. Together with the nearby 48-year-old Four Corners Power Plant (worst in the west for nitrogen oxide), the two coal-burning plants’ combined emissions account for at least two-thirds of total nitrogen oxide pollution in San Juan County where they’re located and a quarter of all nitrogen oxide emissions statewide in New Mexico. The American Lung Association has given San Juan County an “F” grade for ozone pollution due to the number of days each year that it surpasses levels of ozone concentrations that the ALA considers unhealthy.

“Over the years, we’ve seen more and more children and adults coming in with asthma and respiratory problems, especially from the areas affected by the coal plant emissions,” said Adella Begaye, a nurse with 20 years of experience on the Navajo Nation. “Big polluters such as the San Juan and Four Corners coal plants have to be held responsible for the health costs they cause.”

The state and San Juan Generating Station owner PNM had lobbied for far less effective pollution controls which would have cut nitrogen oxide emissions by just 20percent.

Other plants in the Southwest that will face pollution-control improvements include the 38-year-old Navajo Generating Station in Arizona (fourth worst among western state coal plants for nitrogen oxide pollution), Four Corners, and the 46-year-old Reid Gardner Station near Las Vegas. Long overdue deadlines are being set now for decisions on pollution-control upgrades at more than 70 aging coal-burning plants around the country.

The EPA stepped in as a result of the absence of an adequate state plan to reduce pollution at San Juan Generating Station. EPA’s decision to require an 80 percent reduction in nitrogen oxide pollution at the plant is broadly supported by other federal agencies, including the National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as public health, environmental, tribal, and other community organizations regionally and nationally. These include San Juan Citizens Alliance, Diné CARE, WildEarth Guardians, National Parks Conservation Association, Earthjustice, Grand Canyon Trust, Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund and others.

Western U.S. experts on energy and the environment praise the decision to reduce the dangerous air pollution from one of America’s oldest and dirtiest coal plants.

“EPA’s action to clean up the San Juan Generating Station will protect public health, and will also help clear the haze at Mesa Verde National Park and our other cherished wilderness areas in the Four Corners region,” said Pamela Campos of Environmental Defense Fund’s Rocky Mountain office. “Today’s decision sets a strong precedent for reducing coal plant pollution, protecting our families’ health, and preserving our parks around the country.”

“We are pleased that EPA has not bowed to corporate pressure and is protecting our air quality and beautiful landscapes and vistas for ourselves and our children”, said Steve Michel, Chief Counsel for Western Resource Advocates’ Energy Program.

“The money that Public Service Company of New Mexico will need to spend to install the industry-standard pollution controls demonstrates how the cost of coal is rapidly increasing throughout the country,” said Bill Corcoran, Western Region Director, Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “Coal is a horribly dirty and dangerous fossil fuel and it takes a tremendous toll on our health and pocketbooks each and every day. Especially as clean energy resources such as solar and wind have become more affordable, it is absurd that utilities would continue throwing their customer’s money at an increasingly expensive fossil fuel like coal,” he concluded.