April 4, 2011
New Mexico Plan Best Way to Address Regional Haze, Minimize Cost Impact on Customers
Albuquerque: PNM supports a N.M. Environment Department proposal for new technology at San Juan Generating Station to address regional haze and minimize cost increases for customers the company said in comments filed today with Region 6 of the U.S. Environmental Protection agency.
“While we believe technology recently installed at San Juan meets regional haze requirements, we understand public concern about emissions and support the state plan as the more effective, comprehensive way to address visibility improvements and minimize the cost impact to customers,” said Pat Themig, vice president, Generation.
The state proposal would further reduce the plant’s emissions of nitrogen oxides, or NOx, by 20 percent, or 4,900 tons per year, below current levels. Combined with reductions gained from a recent, major environmental upgrade, this would represent an annual NOx reduction of 73 percent, or 17,000 tons per year, from 2006 levels. Under the state plan, San Juan’s sulfur dioxide permit limits would be reduced by 20 percent.
EPA Region 6 has a pending plan for San Juan, which recommends a different technology, that also would improve visibility in the region but at a significantly greater cost. PNM estimates the cost of the EPA plan could be $750 million to $1 billion, or at least $82 per year for the average residential customer, compared with $77 million, or $12 per year per customer, for the state plan.
“The state’s plan is far more sensitive to customer pocketbooks and the economics of the Four Corners region and meets the requirements of the regional haze regulations,” Themig said. The plant and coal mine next door together employ about 900 local residents, have an annual payroll of $85 million, and support both the tax base and local businesses through property taxes, royalties and contracts for supplies and services.
PNM asks EPA for time to fully consider state proposal
The public comment period on the EPA Region 6 proposal closed today, and region administrators have said they expect to make a decision in the case by June 21 – less than three weeks after the N.M. Environmental Improvement Board will hold public hearings on the state proposal, which was issued Feb. 28.
The EIB has set public hearings on the state proposal for June 1-3. PNM will submit testimony as part of that proceeding and testify in support of the state plan at that time. The state proposal must be approved by the EIB before it can be submitted to EPA Region 6.
“The agency’s announced deadline of June 21 gives it very little time to fully weigh the merits of this new state proposal,” Themig said. “The regional haze provisions of the Clean Air Act are designed to be implemented by the states, and the states are granted flexibility and discretion in implementing the program. Various stakeholders in this process, including members of the New Mexico congressional delegation, have supported our request that EPA slow its process so that it can reach the best decision possible. We and others hope EPA will slow its process long enough to carefully consider the new state plan.”
PNM’s comments filed with EPA today include its specific reasons for opposing the EPA plan. Those comments are available on PNM.com (.pdf). The state proposal is available online at http://www.nmenv.state.nm.us/aqb/reghaz/Regional-Haze_index.html.
With headquarters in Albuquerque, PNM is the largest electricity provider in New Mexico, serving 500,000 customers in dozens of communities across the state. PNM is a subsidiary of PNM Resources, an energy holding company also headquartered in Albuquerque. For more information, visit PNM.com.