EPA Protections Against Dangerous Coal Pollution Considered in New Mexico

Desert Rock

New standards will require a reduction in health-threatening air pollution

February 18 - Farmington, NM – The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday held a public hearing to listen to input regarding measures to reduce dangerous pollution from the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station, which is located near Farmington, New Mexico.

The EPA proposal calls for Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM), the operator of San Juan, to install industry-standard measures that will reduce the release of toxic pollution that is threatening people’s health and literally making it difficult to see some of the region’s most treasured natural places.

“Pollution coming from the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station jeopardizes the health and future of people throughout New Mexico,” said Juan Reynosa, a local organizer for the Sierra Club. “The same pollution that mars our views threatens our health. We are thankful that EPA is standing up to protect people in the Southwest.

“San Juan is the second largest source of air pollution in New Mexico,” continued Reynosa. “The plant is a threat to local communities, tribal communities, and nearby National Parks.”

In January, EPA published a proposal that would require the San Juan Generating Station to be retrofitted with up-to-date pollution controls. The plan will result in an 80% reduction in current nitrogen oxide emissions, which are a main component of ozone, or smog pollution, the nasty pollutant that creates the infamous brown clouds that mar our otherwise clear and gorgeous scenery. This pollutant degrades the air and affects people’s health, especially children and the elderly.

A diverse array of local advocates, indigenous community representatives, faith organizations, and environmental allies, were present at yesterday’s hearing to speak in support of the proposed air pollution standards. Not only was the focus of their testimonies towards improving the visibility in National Parks and Monuments, but many others also spoke up towards the public health benefits of the plan.

"Coal fired power plants are the largest single source of air toxics in the U.S.,” said Sister Joan Brown, Executive Director of New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light. “In EPA smoke stack tests, coal plants were found to release 67 different air toxics, many of them are known or probable human carcinogens and neurotoxins that can harm brain development and irritate the respiratory system.”

“Caring for the common good, our air and water, so that our children and neighbors can live healthy lives is a moral responsibility,” Sister Brown added.

The EPA has up until June 21, 2011 to finalize their plan.

Contact: Juan Reynosa, 505-243-2276, juan.reynosa@sierraclub.org