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Flaws Found in Permit for Desert Rock Coal Power Plant

Residents in northwestern New Mexico can breathe easier -- for the time being -- after citizens and groups represented by Earthjustice successfully blocked an air permit that would have allowed another massive coal-fired power plant to spew harmful emissions into an region where 15 percent of the children already suffer from asthma.

In addition to the emissions from two existing power plants, the Desert Rock Energy Facility would emit 12.7 million tons of carbon dioxide into the air each year, raise ozone levels and increase already high levels of mercury in local rivers and lakes, harming endangered fish and threatening people's health.

The EPA's approval of the air permit in 2008, which has since been sent back to the agency for additional analysis, prompted questions and strong opposition from local governments, the states of Colorado and New Mexico, Navajo tribal members and citizen groups. They found it fraught with problems such as a failure to assess and set required emissions limits for CO2, mercury, and ozone-forming pollutants. The permit also was issued without the required consultation with wildlife agencies regarding potential impacts on endangered species.

"We've been saying for a long time that the Desert Rock permit process was flawed from the start due to existing adverse environmental and human public health conditions," explained Lori Goodman with Diné CARE.

Many locals hope that the further analysis and requirements for the permit will confirm that another coal-fired power plant is not in the best interest of the region. Earthjustice will continue to monitor the situation to make sure plant proponents don't make another effort to push through this bad project.

Earthjustice represented San Juan Citizens Alliance, Diné CARE, Sierra Club, WildEarth Guardians, and Grand Canyon Trust.