Tag Archives: National Parks Conservation Association

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.


8/5/2011 NPCA Applauds EPA's Decision to Limit Air Pollution at San Juan Generating Station to Protect National Parks and People

8/5/2011 PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Contact: Stephanie Kodish, Clean Air Counsel, National Parks Conservation Association, W: 865-329-2424, C: 865-964-1774, skodish@npca.org and Jeff Billington, Senior Media Relations Manager, National Parks Conservation Association, (202) 419-3717, jbillington@npca.org : NPCA Applauds EPA’s Decision to Limit Air Pollution at San Juan Generating Station to Protect National Parks and People: Federal Agency Responsible for Protecting Air Holds Major Polluter Accountable by Setting Adequate Limits on Damaging Emissions “Despite facing extreme pressure to allow weaker standards, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Region 6 today released adequate requirements for the San Juan Generating Station, which finally bring it in line with the standards dictated by the Clean Air Act’s regional haze rule. This decision by the EPA is a prime example of the type of requirements that are needed to protect the health and future of our national parks and the people who live near and visit them.

“The clean-up plan requires one of the nation’s dirtiest coal plants to install modern pollution controls; controls that are routinely used at other coal plants nationwide. We strongly support the EPA in applying similar standards to other antiquated power plants currently belching pollution into national parks across the country.

“Because of the EPA and this plan, the people of and visitors drawn to this region will be able to breathe easier and to see clearer the incredible splendor of places like Mesa Verde and the Grand Canyon. We look forward to the EPA’s work in future months to require similar pollution limits, which truly take the intent of the Clean Air Act to heart, to additional power plants nationwide.”


8/5/2011 Clean Air Plan for San Juan Generating Station Finalized: New Mexico on Track for Significant Public Health and Environmental Protection Contact: Jeremy Nichols (303) 573-4898 x 1303 Download the EPA’s Proposal: San Juan County, NM—A milestone plan to limit haze and smog forming pollution by more than 80% from the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station in New Mexico was finalized today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The plan marks the first EPA plan in the nation to clean up aging coal-fired power plants, setting a high bar for the protection of public health and the environment.

“This is a huge step forward for clean air and clean energy in New Mexico,” said Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy Program Director for WildEarth Guardians. “This plan puts public health and the environment first using the most up-to-date cost-effective pollution controls are used. This is a win-win plan.”

The EPA is finally taking action to clean up the San Juan Generating Station in response to a lawsuit filed by WildEarth Guardians. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA has been required to ensure the oldest and dirtiest sources of air pollution curb their emissions to reduce haze in National Parks and wilderness areas.

Modeling prepared by Public Service Company of New Mexico, or PNM, shows the San Juan Generating Station contributes to 80% of all visibility degradation in Mesa Verde National Park, 70% in the San Pedro Parks Wilderness, and 45% in Bandelier National Monument. Called “Best Available Retrofit Technology,” the EPA’s plan would reduce visibility impairment by more than 40%.

Under the EPA’s plan, which was proposed in early January of this year, PNM will be required to meet updated limits on haze forming nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide pollution. The San Juan Generating Station would have to meet a nitrogen oxide emission rate of 0.05 lb/mmbtu through the use of selective catalytic reduction, the most up-to-date, cost-effective control technology, reducing emissions by more than 80%. The company will have to meet these limits within five years.

The same pollutants that form haze are the same that form smog and particulates. In 2010, the American Lung Association gave San Juan County’s air quality an “F” for because of smog pollution. It is estimated that every year, haze, smog, and particulates from the San Juan Generating Station cause 33 premature deaths, 50 heart attacks, 600 asthma attacks, 21 cases of chronic bronchitis, and 31 asthma-related emergency room visits every year at a cost of more than $250 million.

Still, WildEarth Guardians has called on PNM to instead spend its money to fully retire the San Juan Generating Station and offset the electricity it generates with renewable energy. New Mexico already has a 20% renewable energy standard and reports show that a combination of rooftop solar and wind energy could meet New Mexico’s power needs by more than seventy-fold. Utilities in Colorado and other states are beginning to retire coal-fired power plants, opting against investing millions in the face of mounting environmental liability.

“Clean air and clean energy go hand in hand,” said Nichols. “There is no such thing as clean coal and we hope PNM uses this opportunity to transition toward cleaner energy. If not, we are at least heartened that we have the strongest safeguards in place to protect our communities from the San Juan Generating Station.”

Although the State of New Mexico was originally required to adopt a clean up plan for the San Juan Generating Station, because of delay and the inability of the state to develop a plan that complied with the Clean Air Act, the EPA developed its own proposal. Under the Clean Air Act, where states fail to protect clean air, the EPA is legally obligated to develop federal plans. The EPA’s plan still allows the State of New Mexico to develop its own plan, so long as it is at least as strong.
Operated and primarily owned by Public Service Company of New Mexico, or PNM, the San Juan Generation Station is an 1,800 megawatt power plant that every year releases thousands of tons of toxic air pollution from its smokestacks.

Located 15 miles west of Farmington, the plant consists of four boilers and releases more than 18,000 tons of smog forming nitrogen oxide gases, 51 pounds of mercury, and more than 13,000,000 tons of carbon dioxide—as much as is released by more than 2.3 million passenger vehicles.