On Monday, the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agreed with Republican Gov. Susana Martinez that an alternative to dealing with haze-causing pollution at a New Mexico power plant should be worked out among stakeholders.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a letter sent to the governor that such an alternative would be in the environmental and economic best interests of the state.
Jackson signed a 90-day stay so the parties can evaluate alternatives for the San Juan Generating Station in northwestern New Mexico.
At issue is an EPA mandate that calls for Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) to equip the coal-fired plant with selective catalytic reduction technology to cut pollutants that cause regional haze.
The utility and the Martinez administration favor a less costly plan for trimming haze.
According to Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy Program Director with WildEarth Guardians in Denver, CO, the EPA’s move does not extend the deadline for compliance with cleanup. It simply allows more time for the development of an alternative plan.
“We’re trying to get (PNM) to come to the table—to power past coal, to meet clean air requirements, and to provide a cleaner future for New Mexico and the Four Corners,” says Nichols. “But things aren’t moving, and despite their talk that they want to do something better, that they’re interested in alternatives, they have not been forthcoming in reaching out to us and responding to our requests to find alternatives.”
Nichols points out that PNM has recently released a renewable energy plan—a plan that has found support from environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and Western Resource Advocates. But he says the company is not doing enough to cut back on the use of coal-fired power plants, which cause smog and affect public health, but also contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.
“The renewable energy plan, yes, it’s progress, but it’s nowhere near enough,” Nichols says. “And it doesn’t deal with the eight-million pound gorilla in the room, which is the San Juan Generating Station.”