Big decision due on plan to reduce pollution at San Juan power plant
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That’s what the newly-constituted Environmental Improvement Board (EIB) will decide in the next few days as the members of the board appointed by Gov. Susana Martinez make their first major decision since they replaced the controversial members of the EIB appointed by former Gov. Bill Richardson.
In Santa Fe on Wednesday (June 1), the board members listened to environmentalists urging them to adopt a plan by the federal government’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) restricting pollutants generated by the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station near Farmington. Members also heard from the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) and the state’s largest utility, PNM, who advised the board to adopt a state implementation program instead.
The more restrictive EPA regulations would bring about an estimated 13 percent improvement in air quality, experts from the Black and Veatch Corporation told the board, while the less restrictive state-sponsored plan was estimated to create a 2.5 percent improvement.
But the EPA regulations could cost close to a billion dollars and, according to a PNM official, would equal a $7 a month increase for PNM customers while the state regulations were estimated to cost $77 million, which would translate to customers paying $1 more per month.
“We have a moral responsibility to protect the air,” Sister Joan Brown of New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light told the EIB members during public comment, urging them to adopt the more stringent EPA measure.
But four members of the state legislature testified in favor of the state recommendation.
“The federal plan will cost significantly more than the state plan,” Rep. Nate Gentry (R-Albuquerque) said. “The state plan strikes a much better balance.”
The EIB now moves its hearing to Farmington for more debate and public comment. EIB chairwoman Deborah Peacock told Capitol Report New Mexico she expects the board to have a final vote on which measure to adopt by this coming Friday or Saturday.
The Farmington hearings will start at 9 a.m. Thursday (June 2) at the Little Theater at San Juan College.
The upcoming vote represents the first major decision the new members of the EIB have made since their appointments.
After Gov. Martinez took office she summarily fired all the previous members of the EIB, who passed a controversial cap and trade measure in November of 2010 and then passed another measure restricting statewide greenhouse gas emissions in December.
Environmentalists cheered the decisions of the board, which had been appointed by former Gov. Richardson, but critics said the measures would put New Mexico businesses at a competitive disadvantage with industries in other states and questioned whether the measures could realistically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Accusing the previous EIB members of being “more interested in advancing political ideology than implementing common-sense policies that balance economic growth with responsible stewardship,” Martinez fired all seven members after taking office and replaced them with the current members.
Capitol Report New Mexico conducted an analysis of political contributions of the current board versus the previous board and came up with some interesting contrasts. You can click here for that story.
Posted under Capitol Report.
Tags: Bill Richardson, Black and Veatch Corporation, Capitol Report New Mexico, Deborah Peacock, Nate Gentry, New Mexico Environment Department, New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board, New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, Paul Bandy, Paul Gessing, PNM, Ray Begaye, Rio Grande Foundation, San Juan College, San Juan Generating Station, Sister Joan Brown, Steve Neville, Susana Martinez