Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hot debate: Clean air vs. jobs

A coalition of environmental advocacy groups this week petitioned federal agencies to join its efforts in pressuring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to require the strictest of pollution control upgrades at Four Corners Power Plant. EPA is in the process of drafting regulations requiring plant operator Arizona Public Service Co. to install equipment that reduces the facility's emissions of regional haze-causing pollutants, including nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. At question is the balance between total upgrade costs and potential air quality. The proposed technological improvements range between a $500 million upgrade capable of removing at least 30 percent of the pollution and a $1.06 billion upgrade that would eliminate as much as 90 percent of the haze-causing materials, according to APS. That, plant officials say, could affect jobs. The company has warned if EPA requires the most expensive improvements, the high costs could force a shutdown of a portion of the Fruitland power plant, laying off more than 300 area plant workers and affecting hundreds of additional coal mining jobs at the neighboring San Juan Mine. A petition to the U.S. National Park Service, Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service requests the federal agencies certify to EPA impairment-of-visibility issues. The concern includes at least 16 neighboring national parks and wilderness areas and is "reasonably attributable to air pollutant emissions for Arizona Public Service Company's coal-fired Four Corners Power Plant," according to documents filed this week in Washington...read more

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