NM: Close 2 units of San Juan Generating Station

SJGS © WildEarth Guardians

New Mexico Environment Department on Oct. 2 announced that it is proposing to retire two of the four units at coal-powered San Juan Generating Station and leave the two larger units in operation. The state also proposed building a natural-gas plant to add generation.

The state proposed less-effective pollution controls than the Environmental Protection Agency had required on units 3 and 4. While this proposal is a huge step forward in transitioning from coal, it does not fully meet the Clean Air Act and would allow units 3 and 4 - which represent the majority of the plant’s pollution – to continue to threaten public health and use billions of gallons of water a year.

“Even though their very own announcement recognizes that coal does not make economic sense for the people of New Mexico, the state and PNM are now proposing to continue their use of coal instead of an effective transition to clean-energy jobs,” said Shrayas Jatkar, organizing representative for Sierra Club in New Mexico. “We have tried to work with the state to develop a plan that meets the safeguards of the Clean Air Act and saves money. Unfortunately, the state has instead made a premature announcement that does not fully address how we can clean up our air and reduce risks for ratepayers.”

The Sierra Club and many allies collected thousands of petition signatures calling for a transition away from dirty coal at San Juan. They delivered petition signatures addressed to PNM and New Mexico Gov. Martinez’s Administration on Oct. 3 to the governor’s office.

Recently, the state Environment Department concluded meetings to draft an alternative plan for San Juan to reduce pollution to meet EPA standards.

Supporters of clean energy attended public hearings in large numbers in Farmington and Albuquerque. The EPA had called for installation of industry-standard Selective Catalytic Reduction technology to slash the harmful smog and ozone pollution at the plant, but PNM and the state wanted weaker controls - those they now propose for units 3 and 4. The EPA in July gave PNM and the state 90 days to draft a third option.

The option offered by the state Oct. 2 is a recognition of the economic reality of coal, but it leaves the two larger San Juan units pumping greenhouse gases and health-damaging pollution indefinitely, so the Sierra Club and allies will continue to advocate for a smart transition away from coal and toward clean-energy jobs.