Situated as Durango is at the nexus of the San Juan Mountains, redrock and high country deserts, and mid-elevation riparian areas, the region is a diverse ecosytsem that is home to equally vibrant communities and economies.
On the flip side of that coin, our region also plays host to industries that negatively impact those ecologies, communities and economies, and the effort to balance the priorities implicit in that tension is the important work of numerous regulatory agencies and decision-makers at the local, state, regional and national levels. Two such attempts at balance are under way now.
The Four Corners Power Plant and San Juan Generating Station, located just 15 miles apart in Northwest New Mexico, are two of the oldest and most polluting coal-fired power plants in the country. Between them, their air pollution contributes to 33 premature deaths, 600 asthma attacks, 31 asthma-related emergency room visits, and other health impacts, at an estimated cost of more than $254 million. In addition, the emissions of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matters negatively affect the Four Corners air shed, which is home to several Class I areas, including Mesa Verde National Park and the Weminuche Wilderness.
Protecting these invaluable resources from the harm caused by the laundry list of pollutants that the Four Corners and San Juan facilities contribute to the regions air is the impetus behind two separate but interrelated rulemakings currently under way at the Environmental Protection Agency. It sounds fairly straightforward, but just wait.
Because it is located on the Navajo Nation, Four Corners Power Plant is governed by EPAs Region 9, which in October issued a proposal for the facility to clean up its emissions. Public hearings were scheduled and subsequently postponed as well a comment period announced and subsequently extended to March 18.
Even though San Juan Generating Station is a stones throw from the Four Corners facility, it is under EPAs Region 6 jurisdiction. That region issued its cleanup rule in December. Public hearings were announced and a comment period was initiated. There has since been a request for an extension on the comment period, though no word has been issued.
What this all means is that there are multiple opportunities to weigh in on these rulemakings that, if seen through to their strongest potential, can have a significant effect on the regions air quality, public health and economies. The trick will be keeping track of when those opportunities arise and which facility they are relevant to.
San Juan Citizens Alliance is busily tracking these moving targets and will continue to keep our regions communities apprised of the latest hearing dates, comment period deadlines and revisions to proposed rules as they arise. Public engagement in these processes is critical to ensuring strong outcomes in both as well as in using these precedent-setting rulemakings to raise the bar on air quality throughout our region and the country. Get involved and stay involved!
firstname.lastname@example.org Megan Graham is director of the San Juan Citizens Alliance.