Coal not going without a fight

Coal Plant - Inflatable

By Nellis Kennedy Howard, Beyond Coal Senior Campaign Representative

Both of New Mexico’s coal plants will soon be burning a lot less of that polluting fuel, thanks to EPA safeguards and the efforts of groups like ours. But utilities and other players continue to double down on this losing hand. Here’s an update on where coal in New Mexico stands:

San Juan Generating Station

Sierra Club has not lent its approval of the alternative plan proposed by the state of New Mexico and PNM to close two of the plant’s four units and install substandard pollution controls on the other two. We continue to seek a transition from coal in the Four Corners area that includes the development of renewable energy in an area that has long been exposed to coal contamination in decades past.

We are still active in litigation regarding the EPA’s Regional Haze Rule at San Juan Generating Station and we intend to participate in upcoming processes that define how and when transition occurs and the replacement energy to be developed. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and others have taken this as an opportunity to delve into natural gas development, but this is neither a safe nor economic investment.

Clean energy is the path for the future. Xcel and other utilities have been making more and more investments recently because wind and solar power are now cost-competitive with coal and natural gas. The writing is on the wall, and New Mexico shouldn’t be left in the dark because PNM wishes to construct a natural-gas plant at an inopportune time. With 924 megawatts of coal energy going offline, now is the time to invest in clean energy, not natural gas.

Four Corners Power Plant
Sierra Club continues to advocate for a coal-to-clean-energy transition at Four Corners. Arizona Public Service must inform the EPA by Dec. 31, 2013, of its intent to either accept the alternative plan for Four Corners (which includes retirement of Units 1-3 on Dec. 31 and installation of substandard pollution controls on Units 4 and 5) or to default to the original best available technology, which includes better controls on all units by 2017. At a time when improved pollution standards are being developed, the true cost of coal continues to rise.

Any investment to continue to revive a 40-year-old coal plant is risky and does not make good business sense. We continue to advocate and meet with decision-makers to support development of jobs in the Four Corners through clean energy.

Gov Martinez’s decision to advance a plan that will only increase a community’s reliance on coal is an irresponsible decision that will only continue to build an unhealthy economy.

Recent victories to protect renewable-energy rules at the Public Regulation Commission are clear indicators that clean energy is not only feasible but economical.