Tag Archives: San Juan Citizens Alliance

8/29/2011 Asociated Press: Environmental review of Navajo mine moves forward

8/29/2011 Asociated Press: Environmental review of Navajo mine moves forward by SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN: ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A federal review of the potential environmental effects of expanding a coal mining operation on the Navajo reservation will continue uninterrupted after a panel of federal judges dismissed an appeal by the mine operator that tried to stop the assessment. Conservation groups hailed the decision from the three-judge panel with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. The ruling prevents BHP Billiton from expanding its operation on tribal land in northwestern New Mexico while federal regulators re-assess the effects of the Navajo Minepermit on the environment and cultural and historic resources in the area. The mine covers thousands of acres and produces coal for the Four Corners Power Plant, one of the largest coal-fired generating stations in the U.S. The plant, operated by Arizona Public Service Co., provides electricity for customers in New Mexico, Arizona and other parts of the Southwest.

BHP Billiton said Monday it was reviewing the court’s decision and that operations were continuing in all areas except the parcel covered by the proposed expansion.

“BHP Billiton’s New Mexico coal operations have an overriding commitment to protect and care for the environment,” the company said in a statement, pointing to its reclamation work throughout the region.

Mike Eisenfeld of the group San Juan Citizens Alliance said the ruling affirms the responsibility of the U.S. Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement to “properly analyze the significant impacts” of mining on the parcel known as Area IV North.

The San Juan Citizens Alliance and Dine Citizens Against Ruining our Environment sued in 2007, claiming the agency violated federal laws when renewing the mine’s permit in 2004 and approving a revised permit in 2005.

They argue an environmental impact statement needs to be done before the revised permit can be approved. Such a review would require consultation with other federal agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages endangered species in the Four Corners region.

The groups’ lawsuit claimed the Office of Surface Mining did not provide adequate public notice and failed to fully analyze potential consequences as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.

The groups also complained the agency failed to assess the impacts of continuing to dump coal combustion waste from nearby power plants back into the mine.

In a ruling last October, U.S. District Judge John Kane of Colorado voided the approval of the 2005 permit. He requested that the Office of Surface Mining address potential environmental impacts and discuss mitigation measures, alternatives and possible conditions for approval of the permit.

Friday’s ruling stemmed from BHP Billiton’s appeal of Kane’s decision.

BHP Billiton has submitted a permit revision to mining regulators that includes Area IV North. Public meetings have been held on the application, but it’s unclear when the agency will issue a final decision on the permit.
http://www.chron.com/news/article/Environmental-review-of-Navajo-mine-moves-forward-2146516.php

Mike Eisenfeld
New Mexico Energy Coordinator
San Juan Citizens Alliance
108 North Behrend, Suite I
Farmington, New Mexico 87401
office 505 325-6724
cell 505 360-8994
meisenfeld@frontier.net

Durango Telegraph: EPA cracks down on San Juan Generating Station

Durango Telegraph: EPA cracks down on area power plantOne of the Four Corners biggest polluters is in line for a make-over. Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency announced new rules that will require “modern controls” for the San Juan Generating Station. Not surprisingly, Public Service Co. of New Mexico (PNM), the power plant’s owner, has objected to the new ruling and is already planning an appeal. Located just west of Farmington, the San Juan Generating Station has been burning coal to generate electricity for more than 40 years. The plant also produces 16,000 tons of smog-causing nitrogen oxide emissions each year and is ranked as the ninth dirtiest coal-fired plant in the West. Nitrogen oxide not only creates haze, it is a primary ingredient in ground-level ozone, “the most widespread pollutant in the United State (and) one of the most dangerous,” according to the American Lung Association. Ozone has been linked with asthma attacks, respiratory problems, lung damage and premature death.

The EPA rule announced last Thursday will require the addition of selective catalytic reduction (SCR) pollution controls on the plant’s four boilers in the next five years. The upgrade is expected to cut nitrogen oxide emissions by 80 percent. The announcement is also a landmark and the EPA’s first federal plan in the country to limit nitrogen oxide emissions under the Clean Air Act. Watchdogs and conservationists hailed the move as a victory.

“We are pleased that EPA has done right in this precedent setting rule-making for the communities adversely affected by continued reliance on energy export coal-derived electricity,” said Mike Eisenfeld, of San Juan Citizens Alliance. “The true costs of relying on coal are coming to bear, and PNM is being held accountable for their pollution.”

The State of New Mexico and PNM take a dimmer view and had been lobbying for a different approach to pollution control at the San Juan Generating Station. However, their plan would have cut nitrogen oxide emissions by just 20 percent. The company is now arguing that the EPA’s plan will be an undue burden on New Mexico customers and is planning to appeal the decision.

“The EPA plan adds unnecessary costs to one of our lowest-cost sources of reliable power,” said Pat Themig, PNM vice president of generation. “If it stands, it will lead to significantly higher future electric rates for the 2 million customers who rely on the plant for reasonably priced power.”

Themig added that the EPA plan will require expenditures in excess of $750 million, while PNM’s would have cost just $77 million. The State of New Mexico concurred and in June approved the lower cost option at San Juan.

“The Clean Air Act gives each state the authority to implement a regional haze program appropriate for the state, and New Mexico exercised this authority when it approved its own plan in June,” Themig said. “EPA’s decision does not relieve it of legal responsibility to fully consider New Mexico’s plan.”

Eisenfeld countered that Themig’s argument is beside the point and argued that the company should be exploring 21st century technology and abandoning its reliance on coal-fired power.

“PNM could be transitioning to more sustainable energy forms in the Four Corners region that more readily reflect current renewable energy technologies rather than retrofitting 1970s archaic coal plants at continued high cost to our communities,” he said.

Donna House, of Diné CARE, a Navajo conservation organization, agreed. “Pollution from this plant has been hurting our communities for generations,” she said. “Cutting coal pollution is a must, and moving to a cleaner energy than coal is the real answer.”

8/10/2011 High Country News: Haze be gone

8/10/2011 High Country News: Haze be gone: When I started researching regional haze rules a few months back, a source warned me that I was wading into the Clean Air Act’s wonkiest, most technically complicated depths. I remember her asking me something like: “Are you sure you want to go there?” Which is to say, you’d be forgiven if you paid little attention to regional haze. Eyes tend to glaze over at mention of the term. But here’s why you should care about haze rules: They’re poised to make a major dent in the air pollutants spewed from the West’s oldest, dirtiest coal-fired power plants. Facing huge costs to bring it into compliance with haze regulation, the Boardman power plant in Oregon decided to close in 2020, 20 years ahead of schedule. The Navajo Generating Station could suffer a similar fate. And last week, after rejecting the state of New Mexico’s plan for clearing the haze caused by emissions from the San Juan Generating Station, the Environmental Protection Agency issued the final version of its own plan for the coal plant,which requires it to install better pollution controls that reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by a whopping 80 percent.

The goal of the haze rules is to restore air quality in national parks and wilderness areas, or Class 1 areas in regulatory jargon. The San Juan Generating Station is to thank for most of the air pollution that shrouds Mesa Verde. And the pollutants falling under haze regulation also impact public health, causing respiratory ailments and asthma, for example. According to the Summit County Citizens Voice, the San Juan Generating Station and the Four Corners Power Plant nearby are collectively responsible “for at least two-thirds of total nitrogen oxide pollution in San Juan County … 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.”

Environmentalists are praising the EPA’s crackdown on the generating station, and hoping it’s a sign of more tough rules to come. As the Citizens Voice reports: “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.”

Cally Carswell is HCN’s assistant editor.
http://www.hcn.org/hcn/blogs/goat/haze-be-gone

Mike Eisenfeld
New Mexico Energy Coordinator
San Juan Citizens Alliance
108 North Behrend, Suite I
Farmington, New Mexico 87401
office 505 325-6724
cell 505 360-8994
meisenfeld@frontier.net