EPA Proposal Would Protect Air Quality in New Mexico and Neighbor States

Coal - San Juan

Tribal and Conservation Organizations Applaud Limits on Dangerous Pollution from San Juan Generating Station

(NEW MEXICO)— The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released a proposed rule to control dangerous air pollution from the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station in New Mexico. The rule specifically addresses pollutants that form ozone and small particles, both of which are very harmful to the public’s health as well as visibility throughout the region. Children, the elderly, people with lung diseases such as asthma, and people who work or exercise outside are at risk for adverse effects from ozone and particulate matter. Tribal and conservation organizations, including Dooda (No) Desert Rock and the Sierra Club applauded the EPA effort to protect people from the pollution created by the San Juan Generating Station.

“Just like people throughout the Southwest, the Navajo people suffer the effects of this harmful pollution,” said Elouise Brown, President of Dooda (No) Desert Rock. “EPA is stepping up to protect people throughout the Southwest and we are very grateful that someone is listening to us and is working to protect us from the dangerous pollution created by coal-fired power plants.”

The proposal addresses pollution which threatens not just the health of people living in the immediate vicinity of the dirty plant, but people living downwind and throughout the region as well. The Clean Air Act’s “good neighbor rule” recognizes that dangerous air pollution does not observe state boundaries and requires states to avoid exporting harmful pollution to adjacent states.

The proposed rule not only seeks to limit the dangerous nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions from the San Juan plant, but will additionally limit the amount of airborne sulfuric acid and ammonia released by the plant.

“We are talking about some seriously toxic pollutants here,” said Juan Reynosa, Regional Representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “This pollution not only literally makes it difficult to see some of the beautiful scenery throughout the Southwest United States, but the same pollution that mars our views, poisons our lungs. This rule is about protecting public health and the environment at the same time.”

The San Juan Generating Station has been the focal point of debate regarding the various ways coal-fired power plants jeopardize people’s health and the local economy. The Sierra Club filed a lawsuit earlier this year to stop the disposal of millions of tons of toxic coal combustion waste each year in unlined pits at the San Juan Coal Mine, and to compel the clean up of previously disposed waste that continues to leach toxic pollutants into the surrounding ground and surface water.

Since 1973, the San Juan Coal Company has dumped more than 40 million tons of coal combustion waste containing pollutants like arsenic, lead and mercury into massive unlined pits at the San Juan Mine, about 10 miles west of Farmington. The coal combustion waste disposed of at the mine comes from the nearby San Juan Generating Station, and includes various forms of ash as well as sludge from the scrubbers that remove air pollutants from the power plant exhaust. As a result of the lack of adequate safety precautions, toxins from the coal combustion waste have leached into nearby waterways and wells, endangering local residents, livestock, and wildlife.

EPA will now accept public comments on the proposed air quality rule and will additionally hold a public hearing in Farmington, New Mexico to listen to public input on the draft protections.

David Graham-Caso, Sierra Club
(213) 387-6528 x214