I previously posted about the pressure the Environmental Protection Agency was getting from the State of New Mexico and Public Service Company of New Mexico, or PNM, to bail on a clean air plan for the San Juan Generating Station.
Happy to say, the EPA stood strong against the pressure and last Friday finalized its plan. The final rule puts this massive coal-fired power plant located in the Four Corners region of northwestern New Mexico on the path to a much-needed clean up.
Of course, EPA was legally required to finalize the plan. New Mexico was not only years late in submitting a plan to retrofit the aging San Juan Generating with up-to-date air pollution controls, but the plan it did submit in June of this year was, to put it mildly, incredibly impotent. To top it off, EPA was under a court-ordered consent decree with WildEarth Guardians to finalize the plan by August 5.
Unfortunately, PNM seems to be going ballistic in response to the final plan. In news stories, the company threatened to jack up electricity rates for New Mexico ratepayers and to top it off promised to sue EPA. Very disappointing coming from a company that is supposedly committed to environmental sustainability.
Their rhetoric is nothing but political hot air, as we pointed out in an Albuquerque Journal op-ed earlier this year, but it’s a disappointing display of what I can only describe as meanness. Remember, PNM gets to decide how much to charge ratepayers, and even then, they only get to recover what is prudent. The company seems to be saying that now that the EPA’s plan is final, they intend to screw New Mexico ratepayers to the fullest extent possible.
To be sure, the EPA’s plan will cost money. The agency estimates the plan will cost around $345 million. That’s a far cry from the nearly $1 billion that PNM claimed the plan will cost, but the fact is, it costs money to clean up coal.
And that’s where WildEarth Guardians really sees the opportunity. Although this new clean air plan is a milestone, it really provides a powerful springboard to make the case for transitioning to cleaner energy. As we said in our press release:
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.
After all, why should we spend millions to make coal clean when we could invest that money in energy sources that are clean from the start? Especially considering that the health impacts of the San Juan Generating Station alone cost us more than $250 million annually, we stand to save considerably by making a full transition from coal. That’s why we’ve been calling on our members and supporters to sign a petition calling on PNM to power past coal at the San Juan Generating Station.
In the meantime, we can at least be assured that air quality in the Four Corners region will take great strides forward. As we said, this is great news for public health and the environment.
The San Juan Generating Station, with Four Corners power plant and hazy skies in background (photo by EcoFlight).