Tag Archives: Lisa Jackson

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

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.