Power plant clean-up under way

The skies are beginning to clear over the Four Corners region. All three major coal-fired power plants in the region will see improved pollution control measures in the near future. Meanwhile, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has heard public concerns and will host a series of hearings on the proposed Desert Rock Plant.

Last week, the EPA took another stab at local air quality when the agency proposed clean air plans for the Four Corners Power Plant in Farmington and the Navajo Generating Station near Page, Ariz. Both are located on the Navajo Nation. The agency’s plans include new federal emission limits.

The 2,250 megawatt Navajo Generating Station has been in operation since 1974 and per requirement installed pollution control equipment in 1997, 1998 and 1999. Now the EPA is asking the plant to reduce its sulfur dioxide pollution by an additional 20 percent.

The agency also has proposed significant sulfur dioxide reductions for the 2,040 megawatt Four Corners plant, which began operations in 1962. The effort is the result of a collaboration between the Navajo Nation, Arizona Public Service, the National Park Service, Environmental Defense, the Land and Water Fund of the Rockies, New Mexico Citizens for Clean Air and Water, and the EPA.

“The willingness of the Navajo Nation and these organizations to work together means that the Four Corners plant will be emitting 57 percent less sulfur dioxide per year than in the past, “said Deborah Jordan, the EPA’s Air Division director for the Pacific Southwest region. “Today’s actions ensure that citizens in the Four Corners area will have cleaner air to breathe, and that visibility in the Four Corners area will be improved.”

The EPA proposed a federal plan for Four Corners in 1999, but held off on finalizing the plan until negotiations on sulfur dioxide reductions for Four Corners were complete. This delay prompted the Sierra Club to file a complaint on July 26 in U.S. District Court, requiring the EPA to take final action.

The San Juan Generating Station, an 1,800 megawatt plant, is also seeing upgrades and pollution control. PNM, New Mexico’s largest electricity provider, has kicked off a $270 million construction project that will significantly improve the plant’s environmental performance.

Over the course of the next five years, PNM will upgrade environmental control equipment on each of the plant’s four generating units. The upgrades are expected to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide by 35 percent, sulfur dioxide by 65 percent, particulates by 70 percent and mercury by approximately 75 percent.

“These upgrades represent our commitment to continuously improving San Juan Generating Station’s environmental performance,” said Jeff Sterba, PNM chairman, president and CEO. “This facility is critical to New Mexico’s energy infrastructure and by investing in it, we are helping to ensure that we have the sustainable energy we need for the future.”

The construction project results from a 2005 cooperative agreement between the Grand Canyon Trust, the Sierra Club and the New Mexico Environment Department that settled a lawsuit charging repeated opacity violations at the plant.

The proposed $2 billion Desert Rock Plant, which would be built on the Navajo Nation 20 miles south of Kirtland, is also coming under increased scrutiny. Honoring public concerns and a request from Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., the EPA has agreed to host a series of public hearings on the plant. An informational session will take place Sept. 14 from 4-8 p.m. in 130 Noble Hall at Fort Lewis College. On Oct. 3, a formal public hearing and an opportunity to offer comment is from 1 to 5 p.m. and from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Iron Horse Inn. In addition, the EPA will accept comments on the Desert Rock project until Oct. 27. For more information, visit www.epa.gov/region09/ air/permit/desertrock/.


Bear activity expected to increase

An already significant bear season in the Durango area is expected to get even hotter.  

From now until winter, bears are persistently looking for food to bulk up for hibernation. The Colorado Division of Wildlife is asking that homeowners continue to take precautions.

Tonya Sharp, a district wildlife manager with DOW, explained that if a bear enters a homeowner’s yard, it doesn’t mean the animal is going to cause problems.

“Just because a bear is near your house doesn’t mean it is being aggressive,” said Sharp. “Black bears are not aggressive animals – it’s probably looking for food.  The closer we get to winter; bears will be searching for food up to 20 hours a day.” Colorado’s black bears are currently in a transition period, moving from grasses, forbs, flowers and other summertime foods to berries and acorns. As bears become more active in their search for food, it increases the chance of encounters between people and bears. Even when acorns and berries are plentiful, bears will try to find the easiest source of food available.

“Bears are looking for high-calorie food, and they can find that in things like dog food, bird seed and human food scraps,” Sharp said. “Bears can be tough, persistent, intelligent and aggressive animals when they want something, but if human food is not available, they’ll go someplace else to find something to eat.”

Sharp encourages anyone who lives in bear country to “bear-proof” their house.  She recommends keeping all lower level windows and doors secured and installing an electric fence around chicken coops, rabbit hutches and areas where livestock feed is stored. 

Iron Horse Classic director moves on

After eight years as race director for the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, Kendra Holmes is moving on to greener turf. Holmes announced she will be leaving the post to join her family’s business, Professional Turf Solutions.  

Holmes has been the race director for eight Iron Horse Bicycle Classic events, a Mountain Bike World Cup, two National Off-Road Bicycle Championships, several Bicycle Tours of the San Juan’s, FLC Cycling celebration, and assisted with a dozen other Durango Wheel Club or Fort Lewis College events.

“Kendra has been a tremendous asset for the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic and the Durango cycling community,” said Ed Zink, the Iron Horse’s volunteer chairman. “We are glad she was able to work with us for the past eight years, and delighted she will continue to live in Durango and work closely with us during the transition.”

Zink noted that the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic has grown during Kendra’s leadership both in number of participants and financial contributions to our community. In the last eight years, the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic has also contributed more than $85,000 in cash to several community charities including the Mercy Health Foundation, American Heart Association, San Juan County Ambulance Fund, Trails 2000 and Fort Lewis College Cycling. “It’s more than just a great bicycle race to benefit the health and fitness of the participants,” Zink said. “The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic is well positioned to bring extra springtime business to our area and has been an effective promotional tool for marketing Durango and the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.”

The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic was started in 1972 as a tourism-generating activity and celebrated its 35th running this past Memorial Day. It is the fourth-oldest sanctioned cycling event in the United States.

– compiled by Will Sands