EPA, Sierra Club Spar with PNM Over Pollution Control Costs

Public News Service Press Release

December 30, 2010 - FARMINGTON, N.M. - It's a debate over numbers when it comes to cleaning up the emissions from New Mexico's biggest power plant, and both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club say figures put out by power utility PNM are way off. The utility says it could cost a billion dollars to install the pollution controls proposed by the EPA for the San Juan Generating Station, New Mexico's biggest power plant.

That could mean an increase in electric bills of about $90 per year for each household, but David Van Winkle, energy chairman of the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter, says that, using EPA estimates and some simple math, the figure is closer to $10 a year.

"It appears that they don't want to make the pollution controls happen, and so they are making it, their cost estimates and their claims to the public, as high as possible."

PNM officials say they can sufficiently reduce emissions with different technology that costs less than what the EPA is proposing. The EPA maintains that its proposal will bring about the greatest improvements, including impacts on public health and the environment.

Van Winkle says the EPA's proposed controls for the plant affect matters ranging from keeping haze out of National Parks to respiratory health.

"The pollutants that we're talking about here are normally related with lung diseases and things like asthma."

Van Winkle says the public will be able to weigh in over the next few months during a comment period and planned hearings that he says should be announced soon.

A similar proposal was made for the nearby Four Corners plant recently, and its Arizona-based operator responded by announcing plans to shut down three of the five units at the plant and upgrade the remaining two.

More on the EPA proposal is at www.epa.gov