Thursday, December 17, 2015

New Mexico regulators OK plan to shutter coal power plant

State regulators on Wednesday adopted a plan to shutter part of a coal-fired power plant that serves customers across the Southwest, bringing to a close years of wrangling over the best way to curb pollution while limiting the effects on utility bills and northwest New Mexico's economy. The 4-1 vote came as environmentalists, consumer advocates, state lawmakers and lawyers for the utility that runs the San Juan Generating Station packed a hearing before the Public Regulation Commission. The plan, based on a settlement reached after months of negotiations, had the support of the commission staff, state attorney general's office and a coalition of environmental groups. Questions about the future of the San Juan plant began to percolate about a decade ago as the federal government began talking about reducing emissions. In the Four Corners region — where New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah meet — environmentalists had been complaining about poor visibility caused by San Juan and other coal-fired plants...more

...environmentalists had been complaining about poor visibility caused by San Juan and other coal-fired plants

Please note this was not your regular Clean Air regs that were being enforced.  This strictly has to do with "visibility".  As the this site explains:

The Clean Air Act requires BART (Best Available Retrofit Technology) review when any source that “emits any air pollutant which may reasonably be anticipated to cause or contribute to any impairment of visibility” in any 156 Federal Class I area. The Regional Haze Rule (RHR) and Section 169A of the Clean Air Act have as their goal the restoration of visibility in mandatory Federal Class I areas, including national parks and monuments, to pristine conditions by 2064.

Federal Class 1 areas are National Parks, National Monuments and Wilderness Areas. All such areas in existence as of August, 1977 are now in "Mandatory Class 1 Areas" including those in NM (see this map).  New Class I areas can be added by the state at any time.

Once the enviros get the number of Monuments and Wilderness areas they want, I expect them to start petitioning the state to designate additional Class I areas in NM.

Think of our clean air problems here in Dona Ana County, with all the pollution floating in from Juarez and El Paso.  We have a huge new National Monument.  Now think of what stringent requirements would be imposed to reach "pristine conditions" of visibility.  The National Monument designation wasn't just about land.  It was about land and air and development in general.

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