Tag Archives: Us Epa

4/6/2011 Daily Times: San Juan Generating Station operator requests permit change

4/6/2011 Daily Times: San Juan Generating Station operator requests permit changes [11:10 a.m.] By Chuck Slothower Posted: 04/06/2012 11:09:15 AM MDT: FARMINGTON — The operator of San Juan Generating Station on Friday requested changes to the coal plant’s air permit to allow for the installation of new pollution controls demanded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Public Service Co. of New Mexico has been battling with the EPA over what kind of technology it should install to meet federal haze-reduction requirements.

“We are prepared to move forward on installing new environmental controls that will meet federal visibility requirements and further reduce the plant’s emissions,” PNM chief executive Pat Vincent-Collawn said in a prepared statement Friday. “Our strong preference is to do this in the most cost-effective way so that the cost to PNM customers and our state’s economy is kept as low as possible.”

PNM is pushing a state plan to install nonselective catalytic reduction technology. But the EPA has mandated selective catalytic reduction, a more expensive but much more effective technology.

The Albuquerque-based utility company says the state plan would cost about $77 million, while the EPA’s mandate would cost $750 million or more. The EPA counters that SCR would cost only $345 million.
Friday’s filing with the state Environment Department requests air permit changes that would allow for the installation of either technology.

The plant’s current permit level for nitrogen oxides is 0.30 pounds per MMBtu and would be lowered to either 0.23 pounds per mmBtu with the installation of SNCR or 0.05 pounds per MMBtu with the installation of SCR, the utility said.

Located west of Farmington in Waterflow, San Juan Generating Station produces 1,800 megawatts of electricity. The city of Farmington owns a portion of one of the plant’s four units.

On March 28, PNM and San Juan Mine operator BHP Billiton agreed to a $10 million settlement with the Sierra Club to take steps aimed at keeping coal waste out of nearby streams.

12/21/2011 Sierra Club Applauds President Obama for Landmark Mercury Protection

Sierra Club Applauds President Obama for Landmark Mercury Protection – Measure will protect families, women and children from toxic brain poison: Washington, D.C. — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rolled out landmark nationwide protections for toxic mercury from dirty power plants. Mercury is a dangerous brain poison that taints the fish we eat and poses a particular threat to prenatal babies and young children. Exposure in the bloodstreams of pregnant and nursing women can result in birth defects such as learning disabilities, lowered IQ, deafness, blindness and cerebral palsy. Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of mercury pollution in the United States, pumping more than 33 tons of this dangerous toxin into our air and water each year.

The new protection, which replaces a weak, court-rejected standard from the Bush Administration, will slash mercury pollution from power plants by more than 90 percent and improve air quality for millions of Americans.

In response, Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, issued the following statement:

“Today’s announcement from President Obama and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson marks a milestone for parents and families across the country. It means that, after decades of delay, we now have strong nationwide protections against toxic mercury, and most of all, it means peace of mind for the parents of more than 300,000 American babies born every year that have been exposed to dangerous levels of mercury.

“The Sierra Club applauds the President and his Administration for their courage and resolve in protecting American families – particularly women and children – from this dangerous toxin and for standing up to polluters’ attempts to weaken this life-saving protection.

“More than 800,000 public comments – a record – were filed in support of the protection, and we are pleased that the President heard the concerns of the American people.”

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For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org/mercury.

For mercury B-roll footage, click here.

Great news! Please spread the word.

1. National Sierra Club statement below — English — http://sc.org/suqS23

2. National Sierra Club statement — Spanish — http://sc.org/rFj4A1

3. State by state benefits of the mercury protection (click on your state) —  http://www.epa.gov/mats/

4. Blog post from Mary Anne Hitt. Please retweet and share.  http://sc.org/tUSt7L
5. Email thank you take action to President Obama — English — http://sc.org/udH6gO

6. Email thank you take action to President Obama — Spanish — http://sc.org/s1vbfJ

Oliver Bernstein, National Communications Strategist

Sierra Club
Phone: 512.477.2152 x102
Cell:  512.289.8618

12/21/2011 Washington Post: Will the EPA’s mercury rule cause a wave of blackouts?

Will the EPA’s mercury rule cause a wave of blackouts? No.Posted by  at 08:45 AM ET, 12/21/2011: Later this afternoon, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson is expected to roll out the agency’s new regulations on mercury and toxic pollution from coal-fired power plants. That raises some questions: Just how many plants will end up getting shuttered as a result of all of the EPA’s new air-pollution rules? And how much of a pain will this be?The main plant facility at the Navajo Generating Station in Page, Ariz., which could be at risk of closure. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

It’s a hotly debated topic these days, with industry groups (and plenty of Republicans)predicting possible blackouts and economic havoc, while environmentalists have mostly been rolling their eyes. So, to help settle this debate, the AP’s Dina Cappiello recently surveyed 55 power-plant operators across the country. She found that as many as 68 coal-fired plants — up to 8 percent of the nation’s coal generation capacity — will shut down in the years ahead. (The Edison Electric Institute has estimated that up to 14 percent of coal capacity could be retired by 2022.) That’s no easy task. But, from the available evidence, it also won’t likely prove apocalyptic.

Cappiello’s survey found that the coal plants set to be mothballed are mostly ancient — the average age was 51 — and largely run without modern-day pollution controls, as many of them were grandfathered in under the Clean Air Act. What’s more, many of these plants were slated for retirement in the coming years regardless of what the EPA did, thanks to state air-quality rules, rising coal prices, and the influx of cheap natural gas. “In the AP’s survey,” she writes, “not a single plant operator said the EPA rules were solely to blame for a closure, although some said it left them with no other choice.”

Crucially, none of the operators contacted by the AP seemed to think that huge swaths of America were on the verge of losing power, as Jon Huntsman claimed. An official from the North American Reliability Corporation put it this way: “We know there will be some challenges. But we don’t think the lights are going to turn off because of this issue.” This jibes with an Edison Electric Institute study, as well as a Department of Energy study(which focused on worst-case scenarios), a study from M.J. Bradley & Associates, and the EPA’s own modeling (PDF). Utilities will manage to keep the power running, in part by switching to natural gas, as plenty of gas plants currently operate well below capacity.

At this point, there’s good reason to think that utilities can retire their oldest and dirtiest plants without crushing disruptions. It won’t be simple or cost-free — the EPA estimatesthat the mercury and air toxics rule alone will cost utilities at least $11 billion by 2016 to install scrubbers on their coal plants, and those costs will likely get passed on to households. On the flip side, the reduction in mercury is expected to prevent some 17,000 premature deaths per year and provide an estimated $59 billion to $140 billion in health benefits in 2016.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/will-the-epas-mercury-rule-cause-a-wave-of-blackouts-no/2011/12/20/gIQALEu88O_blog.html

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

11/14/2011 Navajo Times: 5-year uranium cleanup only the beginning

11/14/2011 Navajo Times: 5-year uranium cleanup only the beginning By Alastair Lee Bitsoi” Farmington – More than 100 people gathered here Tuesday (Nov. 8) to hear updates from federal officials on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s five-year multi-agency plan to address the health and environmental impacts of uranium development on the Navajo Nation. Called the Navajo Uranium Contamination Stakeholder Workshop, it is a three-day summit held to update tribal officials and impacted Navajo community members on the progress of the plan, which is nearing completion.

Jared Blumenfeld, administrator for EPA Region 9, said the plan has been effective, as demonstrated by the large-scale cleanup at the Skyline Mine in Monument Valley, Utah.

“This is an incredibly effective return on the dollar,” Blumenfeld said. “It brings in jobs and cleanup from the Cold War.”

In addition to the cleanup at Monument Valley, Blumenfeld said both USEPA and the Navajo Nation EPA have screened 683 structures for contamination, completing the demolition and excavation of 34 structures and 12 residential yards. They also rebuilt 14 homes, he said.

Over the summer, USEPA also announced that it would begin cleanup operations at the largest abandoned uranium mine on the Navajo Nation – the Northeast Church Rock Mine – and investigate possible soil contamination at the former Gulf Mineral Mine in Mariano Lake, N.M.

Also involved in the five-year cleanup are the Centers for Disease Control’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, IHS, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and U.S. Department of Energy, all of which provided updates on their progress.

Their accomplishments include sampling 250 unregulated water sources, identifying and marking 28 that exceed federal drinking water standards for radiation, and funding $20 million worth of water projects to supply up to 386 homes that lack piped drinking water.

Also of importance is the CDC-funded Navajo Birth Cohort Study, which is being conducted by the University of New Mexico.

The three-year study will look at pregnancy outcomes and child development in relation to uranium exposure among Navajo women and infants.

11/10/2011 Blog posting by Robert Sabie, Jr. FP uranium proximity map winner EPA apps for the environment challenge

11/10/2011 Blog Posting by Robert Sabie, Jr.: First off, I want to say how grateful I am to have had the opportunity to work with The Forgotten People. I was introduced to Marsha Monestersky, Program Director of Forgotten People during a phone conference back in January of 2011 by my professor, Troy Abel, whom Marsha had met at an EPA environmental justice forum in Washington D.C. That was my first time of hearing of the many issues that the Navajo people faced, especially in the Tuba City/Cameron area. I felt moved by the stories that Marsha told me.

In June of 2011, Dr. Abel and I made a short trip to the Navajo Nation. Like no other place I have visited, the landscape of the Navajo Nation is both unique and beautiful. We were invited to meet several families and appreciated being welcome into their homes. This was also my first experience eating fry bread which I found delicious, although my stomach didn’t know quite what to think about it. We met Ronald Tohannie, who has been a leader in using a GPS unit in mapping various items around the area. Ronald gave us a tour of the water hauling routes and delivery points. We also were able to attend one of the water deliveries and witness how difficult obtaining safe drinking water was for many families. On our last evening in the area we attended a community planning meeting at James Peshlakai’s home in Cameron. I could tell that James was a great teacher by his ability to illustrate his points by means of story telling. Meeting some of the families was the most important aspect of taking on this project.

After completing the project, Dr. Abel suggested at the last minute that I enter my map in an EPA contest. I had no idea that this project would take me to Washington D.C. This past week Dr. Abel and I spent two days at the Apps for the Environment forum in Washington D.C. The morning that we left D.C. I was honored by being given the opportunity to speak in front of several important people from the EPA. They wanted me to speak about the technology of the online map. Although I highlighted some of the features of the online map, I chose to focus on telling a story. I told the story of Marsha and Don Yellowman meeting Dr. Abel at the environmental justice forum. I spoke of our trip to Cameron and meeting people without access to safe drinking water. I told them that they cannot solve problems with technology in offices in Washington D.C. I told them that in order for technology to help solve problems, they need to empower communities with the knowledge and ability to use that technology.

Moving forward, I think that this project may provide momentum for The Forgotten People. Being an outsider, I realize that I only have a basic understanding of what the Navajo people need. My suggestion is that The Forgotten People use my project as a stepping stone to ask more specific questions. When Marsha met Dr. Abel at the environmental justice conference she asked, “Who can help us with mapping?” That question has been answered. The next questions could be how can this map help your community and what would make the map more useful?

The other night I sent an email to Marsha and in that email I told her that “although I am being recognized for my mapping abilities, the greatest reward is knowing that more awareness is being raised about the issues faced by the communities of the Navajo Nation and that the people are not forgotten.” Thank you again and I look forward to continuing to contribute in your fight for environmental justice.

Sincerely,
Robert Sabie, Jr.

11/8/2011 FP congratulates Robert Sabie, WWU – EPA Announces Winners of Apps for the Environment Challenge

Forgotten People congratulates Robert Sabie, Huxley College of the Environment, Western Washington University.  11/8/2011 EPA Announces Winners of Apps for the Environment Challenge WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the winners of its Apps for the Environment challenge, which encouraged new and innovative uses of EPA’s data to create apps that address environmental and public health issues.  Developers from across the country created apps with information about everything from energy efficient light bulbs to local air quality. A few even developed games to help people learn environmental facts.

“Innovators from across the country have used information to help people protect our health and the environment,” said Malcolm Jackson, EPA’s Chief Information Officer. “The winners of the Apps for the Environment challenge demonstrate that it’s possible to transform data from EPA and elsewhere into applications that people can use.”

The five winners are:

·      Winner, Best Overall App: Light Bulb Finder by Adam Borut and Andrea Nylund of EcoHatchery, Milwaukee, Wis.

  • Runner Up, Best Overall App: Hootroot by Matthew Kling of Brighter Planet, Shelburne, Vt.
  • Winner, Best Student App: EarthFriend by Ali Hasan and Will Fry of Differential Apps and Fry Development Company, Mount Pleasant High School in Mount Pleasant, N.C. and J.H. Rose High School in Greenville, N.C.
  • Runner Up, Best Student App: Environmental Justice Participatory Mapping by Robert Sabie, Jr. of Western Washington University, Bellingham, Wash.
  • Popular Choice Award: CG Search by Suresh Ganesan of Cognizant Technology Solutions, South Plainfield, N.J.

Winners will demonstrate their submissions at the Apps for the Environment forum today in Arlington, Va. The forum will include panels on business, technology, and government initiatives, breakout sessions by EPA’s program offices, upcoming developer challenges and future directions about environmental applications.

All contestants will retain intellectual property rights over their submissions, though winners agree that their submissions will be available on the EPA website for free use and download by the public for a period of one year following the announcement of the winners.

More information about the winners and other submissions: http://appsfortheenvironment.challenge.gov/submissions

More information about EPA’s Apps for the Environment forum: http://www.epa.gov/appsfortheenvironment/forum.html

CONTACT:

Latisha Petteway (News Media Only)

petteway.latisha@epa.gov

202-564-3191

202-564-4355


You can view or update your subscriptions or e-mail address at any time on your Subscriber Preferences Page. All you will need is your e-mail address. If you have any questions or problems e-mail support@govdelivery.com for assistance.

This service is provided to you at no charge by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

11/4/2011 Daily Times: Feds assess sites for renewable energy potential

11/4/2011 Daily Times: Feds assess sites for renewable energy potential ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — Federal researchers are trying to determine whether Superfund sites, former landfills and other brownfields around the country have the potential to host solar panels, wind turbines and other renewable energy projects. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory announced the assessment Friday, saying they will focus on 26 sites. The sites range from a massive copper mine in southwestern New Mexico to a former lead smelter in Montana and landfills in Arizona, Louisiana and New Jersey. The EPA is spending about $1 million on the assessment. The agency’s goals are to reduce the amount of green space used for renewable energy development and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. EPA officials say the study is the first step toward transforming the sites from eyesores to community assets.

Forgotten People/WWU Participatory Mapping Project wins runner-up in a EPA Apps for Environment Challenge

http://myweb.students.wwu.edu/%7Esabier/ForgottenPeople/ Please check it out: Forgotten People/WWU Participatory Mapping Project wins runner-up in a EPA Apps for Environment Challenge thanks to Robert Sabie and Professor Troy Abel, Huxley College of the Environment, Western Washington University. The interactive maps shows the proximity of abandoned uranium mines to water sources in the Navajo Nation, a proposed uranium haul route through the Navajo Nation. If you click on the icon on the header, you can search the various layers. The EJ Participatory Mapping app will be recognized at the Apps for the Environment Forum on November 8, 2011 in Arlington, VA www.epa.gov/appsfortheenvironment/forum.htm

10/27/2011 Forgotten People/WWU EJ Participatory Mapping app wins RunnerUp in EPA Apps for Environment Challenge

Forgotten People and Huxley College of the Environment, Western Washington University (WWU) EJ Participatory Mapping app wins Runner-Up in EPA Apps for Environment Challenge. The video demonstrates how to use the interactive map showing the proximity of abandoned uranium mines to water sources on the Navajo Nation and a proposed uranium haul route through the Navajo Nation. Here is a live link to the map http://www.wwu.edu/huxley/spatial/fppm/ . If you click on the icon on the header, you can search the various layers. The EJ Participatory Mapping app will be recognized at the Apps for the Environment Forum www.epa.gov/appsfortheenvironment/forum.html on November 8, 2011 in Arlington, VA

10/23/2011 Albuquerque Journal: Battle Over San Juan

The 1,798-megawatt coal-fired San Juan Generating Station near Farmington has been ordered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to install more pollution controls to cut emissions that cause haze. The mine that supplies the plant’s coal, operated by the San Juan Coal Company, can be seen in the background. Photo Credit – Richard Pipes/Journal 10/23/2011 Albuquerque Journal: Battle Over San Juan By Michael Hartranft / Journal Staff Writer: It’s called selective catalytic reduction — a million-dollar term for pollution control if ever there was one. Make that hundreds of millions of dollars in the case of the giant, coal-fired San Juan Generating Station near Farmington, its owners and the consumers who use the electricity it generates.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 6 office says SCR is the most cost-effective way — the agency estimates the cost at $345 million — to retrofit San Juan to cut pollutants that reduce visibility in national parks and wilderness areas and contribute to regional haze, as required by the Clean Air Act. It has given PNM and the other owners of the plant five years to complete the installation.

PNM argues that the federal agency’s prescription for San Juan would cost a lot more than the EPA claims it would — hitting New Mexico customers in the pocketbook — and says it can get satisfactory results for a lot less money.

The electric utility says the price tag for the EPA plan will approach $750 million, or more, causing up to an initial $85-a-year hit on the average residential customer’s bill to pay for PNM’s share of the project. It owns about 46 percent of San Juan, and the electricity generated there serves about 500,000 PNM customers.

Regardless of who is right on the cost estimate, this much is clear: The utility’s customers will pick up the tab, because the cost would be factored into rates.

Less costly plan

PNM says a less costly retrofit would achieve satisfactory results — nearly indistinguishable to the human eye. The cost of an EPA-required SCR system would be in addition to a $320 million environmental upgrade completed at the plant two years ago.

The EPA issued its ruling in August, and, on Sept. 16, PNM appealed to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. It also asked the EPA to stay the new rule until the court makes a decision.

“EPA’s aggressive, five-year compliance time frame means that without a stay, we will be forced to begin spending enormous sums of money without knowing if EPA’s decision will stand,” said Pat Themig, PNM vice president for generation.

The company claims that if it takes a year for a court ruling, it will already have spent $43.6 million on early design and construction.

The EPA, which stepped in with a plan when the state didn’t meet the deadline to submit its own, contends that SCR would cut one of the main haze-causing emissions, nitrogen oxide, by more than 80 percent — reducing visibility impacts by 50 percent in 16 Class 1 park and wilderness areas in four states affected by San Juan. The agency says it will also result in healthier air.

Environmental groups across the region hailed the EPA ruling.

“The EPA took a bold and necessary stand to protect people and businesses from coal’s toxic pollution,” said Bill Corcoran of the Sierra Club.

About coal itself

In some respects, the fight is over the use of coal itself. The Obama administration and some environmental groups have made no secret of their dislike for coal-fired generation of electricity, which tends to be much cheaper than “green” alternatives.

Gov. Susana Martinez said she supports developing alternative energy technology and making it a bigger part of the state’s overall energy portfolio. But the EPA decision is “detrimental” to New Mexico, she told the Journal in an email last week.

“In recent months, even President Obama has conceded that onerous environmental regulations can place a tremendous financial burden on states, businesses and families — and yet the EPA continues to try to impose these new, stifling regulations,” she said.

PNM says federal regulators combined the requirements of two separate rules — regional haze and cross-state pollution — into one to meet an Aug. 5 deadline set in a consent decree signed with WildEarth Guardians that applied only to cross-state pollution.

In doing so, it argues, the EPA did not give proper deference to a state plan for regional haze adopted in June by the Martinez-appointed Environmental Improvement Board, which proposed an alternative technology.

It contends the differences in visibility improvements between that technology — selective noncatalytic reduction — and SCR would barely be perceptible to the human eye.

The price tag for SNCR would be much lower, however — an estimated $77 million and about a $12-a-year impact on ratepayers.

San Juan employs about 400 people, with the adjacent San Juan Coal Mine that supplies the fuel providing jobs for another 500. The first two generating units were built about 40 years ago, and the company expects to keep the plant going for at least another 40.

It’s about visibility

“Our emissions are within the national ambient air quality standards for human health,” said Maureen Gannon, executive director of environmental services for PNM. “This is about visibility, about what the human eye can see. We believe the EPA has gone far over what the regulation was intended to do.”

The EPA is standing by its decision but says it will review the state’s plan and change its analysis if new information warrants.

However, it says an evaluation of the state-proposed SNCR technology showed it would achieve far less reduction in pollution and less visibility improvement.

The regional haze rule stems from a Clean Air Act provision that requires states to improve visibility in 159 Class 1 national parks and wilderness areas, such as the Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde National Park, Bandelier National Monument and 13 other sites in the New Mexico region.

The goal is to restore visibility by 2064 to what it would have been without human impact.

The rule required states to adopt implementation plans addressing the main pollutants that cause haze and to establish reasonable progress goals.

States were also required to evaluate best available retrofit technologies for older, large stationary sources that might be affecting Class 1 sites.

In 2006, the New Mexico Environment Department requested a best available retrofit analysis at San Juan to determine whether additional controls might be needed to comply.

PNM contended that existing controls at the plant — which was undergoing a $320 million upgrade under a 2005 consent decree to settle emissions violations between 2001 and 2003 — would meet the requirements.

Last year, though it was supposed to have submitted a plan to EPA by January 2009, the New Mexico Environment Department under then-Gov. Bill Richardson proposed SCR as the best available technology to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions at San Juan. It later withdrew the plan, in part because of cost concerns raised by PNM.

EPA steps in

The EPA, which had set a January 2011 deadline to issue a plan if the state didn’t meet the 2009 deadline, stepped in with its own proposal in December, starting the hearing and public review process that culminated with the rule in August. New Mexico became the first state to have a federal plan imposed on it for haze.

Calling San Juan one of the nation’s largest sources of nitrogen oxide — 18,400 tons a year, according to the EPA — the federal agency says its plan would cut those emissions by more than 80 percent.

PNM contends the recent upgrade cut nitrogen oxide emissions by 44 percent — from 27,500 tons to 15,300 tons a year — and that its proposed fix would cut it by an additional 30 percent a year. The company says sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and mercury were also significantly reduced in the upgrade.

The EPA said it was bound by the haze rule to evaluate additional technologies and it found SCR the most cost effective. The evaluation also included selective noncatalytic reduction.

The nitrogen oxide limit set at San Juan was based on an assessment of the best-performing coal plants with SCR, Region 6 regional haze coordinator Joe Kordzi said.

“We found there were units that were consistently able to meet this emission limit that were similar to the ones PNM is operating at the San Juan station,” he said.

Kordzi said that, in terms of visibility, the SCR technology would improve it noticeably, while “SNCR hardly made any difference at all.” PNM disagrees and says improvements with SCR might not be visible to the naked eye.

The agency made some key changes based on PNM’s comments during the review process, Kordzi said, including giving owners five years, instead of three, to comply. It agreed to up its original cost estimate from $229 million to $345 million, largely due to issues raised by PNM, although that’s still nowhere near the $750 million PNM says the cost will be.

The EPA contends PNM and its consultant, Black & Veatch, overestimated numerous cost items.

The agency, among other things, said PNM failed to follow the EPA’s cost control manual, consistently used assumptions “at the upper end of the range” for key components, and included unnecessary equipment.

PNM’s cost position

PNM, however, says the EPA omitted critical elements, including $71 million in annual operating expense, as well as major capital costs. Those costs, it says, include $73 million-plus for added auxiliary power equipment, $78 million in lost generation due to extended outages, $126 million for an SCR bypass to protect the equipment during startup, and $78 million in interest during construction.

Black & Veatch’s original estimate was based on a best available retrofit analysis in 2007. Gannon concedes it wasn’t a “detailed engineering estimate,” but said the company is an architect/engineering firm that designs and builds SCRs and is familiar with construction complexities at San Juan — which include installing equipment 200 feet above the plant floor in already congested space.

“And we had some concern, maybe there is some truth to this concern about overestimation,” Gannon said. “So now we’ve had another company (Sargent & Lundy) go out — and they’re at $741 million.”

N.M.’s counteroffer

Not long after Gov. Martinez took office, the state Environment Department under her new secretary, F. David Martin, proposed a PNM-backed plan calling for SNCR, which it said would cost an estimated $77 million to install and would achieve a nitrogen oxide limit it believed would comply with the rule.

Gannon said EPA guidelines for making best available retrofit determinations require agencies to take into account cost, environmental impacts, existing pollution controls, remaining life of the source and degree of improvement that might result.

“When you use that five-factor path, the state plan meets that in terms of additional controls, costs and it does result in some visibility improvements, although you may not be able to see it,” Gannon said. “But you probably won’t be able to see SCR either.”

PNM’s modeling showed that the EPA’s proposed SCR technology would make noticeable visibility improvements at only one of the 16 areas, Mesa Verde.

The company contends the EPA used an antiquated version of the same model it used, in showing visible improvement in nine areas.

Visible differences

“There are some chemistry assumptions we don’t agree with,” Gannon said. “We actually brought in the developer of the model to do some additional modeling, and he, in essence, concurred with the result we were getting.”

She said that SNCR represents reasonable progress toward the Clean Air Act’s goal and that the state could come back in five years and require the plant to install SCR if it deems it necessary.

“For EPA to ask us to do this enormous project in such a short period of time does not make sense from a regulatory perspective,” she said.

Both PNM and the EPA are getting sideline support.

Carla Sonntag, executive director of the New Mexico Utility Shareholders Alliance, a group that represents 12,000 shareholders of gas and electric utilities, is chiefly concerned about the rule’s impact on ratepayers, particularly those with lower incomes.

“If there was a significant difference between the state plan and the EPA, that would be one thing to consider, but there’s really not. It’s negligible,” she said. “But the cost is exorbitant, and that’s going to go back into rates. We feel it’s just unjustified.”

The Sierra Club’s David Van Winkle, though, contends that PNM’s cost estimate is a scare tactic and that the rule should be a trigger point for PNM to rethink its continued investments in coal-fired power, still its major energy source.

“Just from a risk standpoint, you’d think you’d want to diversify … so that you’re not so heavily dependent on that one resource in an area that is heavily regulated,” Van Winkle said.

He allowed that the rule is a visibility regulation.

“But, it’s true that nitrogen oxide is a health problem, so why are we splitting hairs?” he asked.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal