2010 Feb. 18: NM Four Corners: Groups to Fed: Clear the Air Over 4 Corners, Chaco, Bandelier

February 18, 2010

2010 Feb. 18: NM Four Corners: Groups to Fed: Clear the Air Over 4 Corners, Chaco, Bandelier

New Mexico News Connection – A statewide news service for New Mexico
FARMINGTON, N.M. – Conservation groups asked federal agencies on Wednesday to require the region’s heaviest-polluting coal-fired power plant, located on the Navajo India Reservation west of Farmington, to take measures to reduce its emissions. The Four Corners Power Plant, operated by Arizona Public Service (APS), often causes a layer of haze to form over Mesa Verde National Park and other wilderness areas in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona.
Janette Brimmer is a staff attorney with EarthJustice, one of the groups petitioning the Departments of Interior and Agriculture to take action against the plant. According to Brimmer, "This plant, for whatever reason, has escaped a lot of the controls that other big old coal-fired power plants have been subject to over the years."
Every year, the five generating units at Four Corners burn more than 10 million tons of coal, and release thousands of tons of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxides and particulate matter that contribute to haze. The haze affects visibility in Grand Canyon, Bryce and other iconic national parks that are supposed to be held to a higher air quality standard under federal law.
But, in addition to ruining the view, Brimmer says pollution from the plant can also have an adverse impact on public health, "Sulfur dioxide particulates can cause all kinds of respiratory problems, it can continue to premature death."
APS and five other utilities share ownership in the plant. 80 percent of the plant’s employees and 100 percent of the plant’s coal come from the reservation.
APS argues that, while the plant meets or exceeds current regulatory requirements for air emissions, the partners are willing to install the latest technology of combustion controls. However, a proposed EPA rule that would require a higher level of reduction for nitrous oxides, would cost more than $1 billion and could force the partners to shut down three generating units, resulting in up to 450 jobs being lost at the plant and nearby mine, according to APS.

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