EPA Tightens Air Pollution Controls for New Mexico Coal Plant

Message to other aging coal plants: haze and health costs must be reduced


Suma Peesapati, Earthjustice, (510) 550-6785

The Environmental Protection Agency today issued strong air pollution controls for an aging, highly-polluting coal-fired power plant in New Mexico. The air pollution controls will significantly cut nitrogen oxide emissions which not only contribute to regional haze and ground-level ozone, but are also a hazard to public health.

The nearly 40-year-old San Juan Generating Station near Farmington, New Mexico will now be required to install selective catalytic reduction (SCR) pollution controls on all its units which will reduce its nitrogen oxide pollution by more than 80 percent. This technology is already in use at over 208 coal plants nationwide. EPA acted after the State of New Mexico failed to address the problem. After the EPA announced its intentions, the State of New Mexico belatedly offered a much weaker recommendation that would have continued to degrade visibility over a large swath of our nation’s pristine wilderness areas.

Environmental justice groups from the neighboring Navajo Nation, who have been plagued by the plant’s excessive pollution for decades, support EPA’s action. The new air pollution rule is further supported by clean energy, conservation and sportsmen groups representing tens of thousands of citizens as well as the State of Colorado, the National Park Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The air pollution improvements will significantly reduce haze that obstructs views in the region’s economically important national parks. Power plant emissions contribute to ozone and particulate pollution that, at elevated levels, are associated with premature deaths, aggravation of asthma, and ER visits. The new clean air technology for the San Juan plant, which industry estimates to have a five year design and construction period, will spark significant job creation in the region.

“This is a well-supported and well-reasoned EPA determination that is based on decades of successful experience across western Europe and the eastern United States. The rule requires feasible limits for emissions of nitrogen oxide for an old plant,” said Earthjustice attorney Suma Peesapati. “The San Juan Generating Station haze rule is a step in the right direction. Public health and the environment will be better off because of Region 6 and other states and EPA regions should follow suit.”

EPA’s action responds in part to a lawsuit threat by Earthjustice and Wyoming attorney Reed Zars on behalf of a number of conservation and citizen groups over the agency’s failure to meet deadlines for cleaning up air pollution that dirties the air in national parks and wilderness areas.

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