Tag Archives: Health

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/

6/13/2011 US EPA Press Release: EPA Improves Clean-Air Permitting in Indian Country

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 13, 2011 CONTACT: Enesta Jones (News Media Only)  jones.enesta@epa.gov 202-564-7873 202-564-4355 EPA Improves Clean-Air Permitting in Indian Country: Action protects public health, allows for public participation and fosters economic development in Indian Country WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today finalized rules to ensure that Clean Air Act permitting requirements are applied consistently to facilities in Indian country to better protect the health of people living near them. This action will provide tribes with the tools they need to ensure that newly built or expanding facilities meet these requirements, while giving industries the flexibility to choose the most practical and cost effective way to do so. These sensible steps were developed after considering public input from key stakeholders including tribes, industry, and states. Pollutants covered under these permits, such as sulfur dioxide and particles, can cause a number of serious health problems including aggravated asthma, increased emergency room visits, heart attacks and premature death.

“These actions will limit harmful pollutants, provide the health protections tribal families deserve and allow for an open and transparent permitting process,” said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “The actions also bring clean air permitting programs for Indian country in line with state and federal programs.”

Today’s actions lay out clear requirements for issuing clean air permits to sources in Indian country and set specific timelines for phasing them in. The rules establish the federal process to issue permits to large sources, those emitting more than 100 tons per year, in areas of Indian country that do not meet national air quality standards, and to register smaller sources, those emitting less than 100 or 250 tons per year in all areas of Indian country. A rule already in place lays out requirements for EPA to issue permits to major sources in areas of Indian country that meet national air quality standards. The new rules fill an important gap in the nation’s air program that will foster economic development in Indian country in a way that protects the health of tribes, a group that shares the same environmental justice concerns as other low-income and minority communities.

The preconstruction air permitting program, also called New Source Review or “NSR,” ensures air quality is maintained when industrial facilities are built or modified. The program ensures that appropriate emission control technology is installed at new plants or existing plants that undergo a modification.

More information: http://www.epa.gov/nsr

R199  Note: If a link above doesn’t work, please copy and paste the URL into a browser.

View all news releases related to air issues

5/14/2011 Gallup Independent: ENDAUM seeks halt to uranium mining

ENDAUM seeks halt to uranium mining By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau, Gallup Independent, 5/14/2011:WINDOW ROCK – The New Mexico Environmental Law Center and its client, Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining, or ENDAUM, filed a petition Friday with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights seeking to halt a uranium mining operation Churchrock and Crownpoint. A press conference is scheduled for Monday morning at the National Press Club in Washington. After 16 years of legal fighting, the New Mexico Environmental Law Center has exhausted all avenues offered by the U.S. legal system to overturn the mining license granted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to Hydro Resources Inc. Should HRI be allowed to mine, the drinking water for approximately 15,000 people will be contaminated, according to the law center. “The HRI license marks the first time that any mining company in the U.S. has been federally authorized to mine uranium in a community drinking water aquifer,” Eric Jantz, attorney for the law center stated in a press release. “This aquifer provides the sole source of drinking water for the mostly Navajo community members represented by ENDAUM. By granting this license, the NRC has failed to uphold its mandate to protect the health and safety of all Americans.”

On Friday, New Mexico Environment Department’s Ground Water Quality Bureau posted a notice that HRI plans to renew the discharge permit for its Section 8 property in McKinley County for the injection and circulation of up to 4,000 gallons per minute of “lixiviant” associated with the process of in-situ leach mining of uranium.

Lixiviant, which typically contains an oxidant such as oxygen and/or hydrogen peroxide mixed with sodium carbonate or carbon dioxide, is injected through wells into the ore body in a confined aquifer to dissolve the uranium. This solution is then pumped via other wells to the surface for processing, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

HRI plans to use injection and extraction wells to recover uranium from the Westwater Canyon aquifer at depths from 600 to 1,200 feet. Potential contaminants include chloride, radium-226, selenium, sulfate, total dissovled solids and uranium. The NMED posting kicks off a 30-day period for the public to request a hearing. HRI has stated its objective is to begin mining in Churchrock by mid-2013, and the community has few options left.

“ENDAUM’s best hope is to encourage the executive branch of the federal government to intervene to oppose this license,” Larry King, an ENDAUM board member, said. “Efforts over the past 15 years at the federal level have failed to engage officials and regulators about the impact this mining will have on the community’s health and water supply. We have to fight in every legal venue to prevent this mining from taking place.”

The petition seeks remedies for the violation of Navajo human rights and asks that the Commission recommend to the United States to suspend HRI’s materials license until such time as HRI has cleaned up the radioactive surface contamination on Churchrock’s Section 17, and the United States has taken significant and meaningful steps to remediate the abandoned uranium mines within the boundaries of the Churchrock Chapter, among other suggestions.

“Multiple international human rights treaties say health is a human right. The NMELC and our clients agree, and by licensing uranium projects in drinking water aquifers, the U.S. government has failed to protect the Navajo community’s human rights,” Jantz said. “New uranium mining will further desecrate Navajo communities across the reservation already suffering illnesses and death because of legacy mining and waste.”

Information: http://www.nmenv.state.nm.us/gwb/NMED-GWQB-PublicNotice.htm