EPA sticks it to New Mexico electricity users

The US EPA has made its decision; it will NOT be rational, nor will it follow its own guidelines. Instead, it is going to force costly new haze controls on the San Juan Generating Station.

Read the following article on the situation from William Yeatman, an energy policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute,

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is poised to run roughshod over New Mexico officials and impose nearly $340 million in unjustified costs on PNM customers—in blatant disregard of its own rules. At issue is a provision of the Clean Air Act, known as “Regional Haze.” Unlike other parts of the Act, which are meant to protect public health, the Regional Haze provision is an aesthetic regulation, intended to improve the view at national parks.

Under New Mexico law, the state cannot impose Regional Haze emissions controls that are more stringent than what the federal government requires. In 2005, the EPA published Regional Haze guidelines that established recommended emissions controls to comply with the visibility regulation. These recommendations are known as “presumptive limits.” On June 2, the state Environmental Improvement Board (EIB) unanimously approved a Regional Haze plan that would meet the EPA’s “presumptive limits” by spending $34 million to retrofit the San Juan Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant located 15 miles west of Farmington.

Despite comporting with both federal guidelines and state law, these controls weren’t good enough for the EPA. Perhaps this has something to do with President Barack Obama’s campaign promise to “bankrupt” the American coal industry. Whatever its rationale, the EPA is proposing Regional Haze retrofits at San Juan that would cost New Mexico ratepayers $370 million—a nearly ten-fold increase over those approved by New Mexico officials.

And what does this huge sum buy? Not much. Based on peer-reviewed research, there is a 35 percent chance that the visibility “benefit” of the EPA’s preferred controls could be perceptible by the general population on the seventh worst visibility day of the year at Mesa Verde, the National Park closest to the San Juan Generating Station. In other words, most people won’t even notice the difference wrought by the EPA’s ultra-expensive controls.

But New Mexicans certainly will notice the difference in their utility bills! PNM estimates that the EIB-proposed controls would result in a rate increase of $12 a year, while the EPA-proposed controls would increase rates by $82 a year—almost seven times more. In these tough economic times, New Mexicans should not be forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in exchange for imperceptible benefits.

If the EPA decides to reject the EIB’s plan, and impose its own, the administration of Governor Susana Martinez would have a strong case in court, thanks to the unique discretion afforded states in deciding how to protect visibility under the Clean Air Act. According to the EPA’s own Regional Haze guidelines, “Congress evinced a special concerning with insuring that States would be the decision-makers.” If the EPA chooses to ignore that fact, New Mexico should remind it in court.

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5 Replies to “EPA sticks it to New Mexico electricity users”

  1. Bravo to Mr. Yeatman. I had just mailed off a letter to the Journal saying many of the same things but he says it much more eloquently. My stab at it follows.

    As reported in the Albuquerque Journal on Saturday, August 6, the green goon squad in the form of the EPA has struck another blow to suck more of your green out of your wallet. With a sledge hammer blow to economic freedom, EPA is mandating huge costs to retrofit the San Juan generating station which produces 60% of PNM’s electricity for no noticeable benefit.

    The stated purpose of the mandated retrofit is to improve visibility in certain National Parks and wilderness areas. EPA’s unit of measure of visibility is the deciview. One deciview is the change in visibility detectable to the human eye. Nobody is going to notice any change in visibility less than one deciview. The proposed retrofit will yield at best an improvement of one deciview at Mesa Verde National Park which is the closest area to San Juan and much less than one deciview at other NM areas. In other words we rate payers will be spending as much as a billion dollars on a project that produces no VISIBLE benefit.

    The retrofit is specifically going after nitrous oxides (NOx). NOX is the bad boy when it comes to haze and is certainly a factor in Albuquerque’s brown cloud. However, according to monitoring data the level of NOx is just a tiny component (8% or less) of pollutants affecting visibility in any of the areas of interest. The level of NOX is already insignificant and a billion bucks for further reduction is ludicrous.

    Visibility is obviously not the green goon squad’s purpose since the mandate achieves no significant improvement in visibility. The obvious objective of this mandate is to fulfill the president’s mission of making electric rates soar and the goon squad’s clearly stated mission of shuttering the San Juan plant.

    This is one more example of EPA being out of control and running roughshod over the American people including the states.

    NM was required by EPA to come up with a state plan for visibility. The State did come up with a plan that yielded the same amount of visibility improvement which cost 90% less! No one will notice the difference in deciviews under either plan. However, EPA did not have the courtesy to review and rule on the NM plan before issuing their own rule.

    EPA does not give a rip about costs or benefits or who gets hurt the most. They just want to take control of every aspect of our lives.

  2. Hopefully we can get rid of the idiot that wants to get rid of all coal powered plants. Also get rid of the EPA suckups . Before they distroy the USA.. Hussein Obama and his goons are doing a fair job now. Even Jimma Carter is happy he’s not the worst president in history . Can’t belive ther were so many ignorant voters in this country . LOL ( Proud American Infidel )

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