Desert Rock permit appealed

An appeals board could have the final say in the outcome of the Desert Rock Power Plant. A coalition of Navajo and conservation groups has filed an appeal of a recently released Environmental Protection Agency permit, which granted approval to the contentious power plant.

The EPA announced its approval of the 1,500 megawatt power plant, which is proposed for Navajo land southwest of Farmington, on July 31. In the decision, the agency praised the proposed plant’s emission standards as among the most stringent in the country, even though it would add 10 million tons of carbon dioxide a year to local skies and increase Four Corners pollution by more than 30 percent.

In its Aug. 14 appeal, the coalition accused the agency of neglecting its environmental responsibilities and undertaking a shabby review of Desert Rock. The groups asked the EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board to review the permit decision and grant an extension of time so they can thoroughly document the major problems with the permit.

“The EPA is abandoning its mission by rushing a permit out the door for political expedience and ignoring the fact that it will emit massive quantities of CO2 and other pollutants,” said Nick Persampieri, attorney for Earthjustice. His group filed the appeal on behalf of Diné CARE, Environmental Defense Fund, Grand Canyon Trust, Natural Resources Defense Council, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Sierra Club and WildEarth Guardians.

Persampieri alleged that the agency was coerced into granting the permit because of a lawsuit filed by Desert Rock developers. He added that the notice of intent to sue was filed by Jeff Holmstead, a Desert Rock lawyer who also happened to be the former head of EPA’s air division.

Among the appeal’s other criticisms are that the EPA failed to include emission limitations for carbon dioxide; did not analyze whether the plant violates national ozone standards; did not consult with other agencies on endangered species issues; did not consider impacts related to mining or waste disposal; and failed to complete a Maximum Achievable Control Technology analysis. The groups are asking that the agency withdraw the permit and complete all of the required analyses.

“This permit is another example of the rush by the agency’s political appointees to hand out gifts to industry before President Bush leaves office,” said Dailan J. Long, of Diné CARE. “It ignores how emissions from Desert Rock will threaten air quality and endanger the health of people who live in the Four Corners region.”

Frank Maisano, Desert Rock spokesman, said that the appeal came as no surprise and he alleged that the groups are forwarding false claims in an effort to delay the process.

“There are really no surprises in this appeal that the opponents of Desert Rock have filed,” he said. “They are the same tired arguments that are misconstrued, misleading and just plain wrong.” And as he has before, Maisano added that delays only hurt the Navajo Nation. “What will another 45 days do?” he asked. “For opponents, nothing. For the Navajo Nation, it will cause more unnecessary delays in what has already been a long walk toward opportunity.”



Animas Mountain forums announced

The Durango public now has the say on whether the Bureau of Land Management’s compromise solution for Animas Mountain goes far enough. The agency announced its public process for the thinning project this week, and a variety of open houses and meetings have been set.

Since 2002, the San Juan Public Lands Center has worked aggressively to mitigate the threat of wildfire by thinning trees and scrub in the wildland-urban interface around Durango. Early last year, the BLM announced that the popular trails system on Animas Mountain would be the next area to go beneath the hydromower blade. Potential damages to the recreational resource sparked major public opposition and sent the agency back to the drawing board.

Last week, the BLM released its new, preferred alternative to mitigating wildfire threat on Animas. Under the “mini-mower” alternative, 100-foot corridors around trails would be hand-thinned. A smaller, Bobcat-sized hydromower would then thin the remainder of the mountain. Because of the smaller mower, no major road construction would be necessary and associated erosion issues would be eliminated. The agency would then rehabilitate any damage to the trail system.

“We certainly have heard what the public’s wants and desires are,” Craig Goodell, project manager, said. “But we also recognize the need to mitigate the fuels load up there. This is our attempt to strike a balance.”

Despite this attempt, the “mini-mower” option is drawing mixed reviews. However, Durangoans can now decide for themselves. On Tues., Aug. 26, the BLM will hold a public open house to offer information and take comments on the plan. The session is set for 5-8 p.m. in the San Juan Public Lands Center Sonoran Rooms, 15 Burnett Court.

The public process will continue Sept. 10 when the BLM discusses the project with the City of Durango’s Open Space Advisory Board. That meeting begins at 5 p.m. in the Durango Recreation Center. And Sept. 16, the Durango City Council will consider a possible access agreement for the project during a 6:30 p.m. public hearing in City Council Chambers. The BLM is also accepting public comments on the Draft EA through Sept. 30. Comments may be submitted in writing to Craig Goodell, project leader, San Juan Public Lands Center, 15 Burnett Court, Durango, CO 81301, or via e-mail to:


Whitewater Hall of Fame taps Ford

A local boater, activist and Animas River fixture will join the International Whitewater Hall of Fame this fall. Kent Ford has been selected by the Hall of Fame Board of Governors to join the Class of 2008.

A total of six honorees will join the hall this year, and they were nominated from more than 20 affiliate organizations and voted in by 75 internationally recognized whitewater paddlers. They were chosen for their contributions to the sport and business of whitewater.

Ford’s background includes instruction, world championship titles, coaching for the U.S. Team, and working as an announcer at the last four Olympic Games. His instructional books and videos make him one of the sport’s most recognized paddlers. As a member of the U.S. Whitewater Slalom and Downriver Team between 1977 and 1995, he was a three-time U.S. National Champion and two-time World Champion in C1. Ford was also a member of the second team in history to win the team competition twice.

Among other inductees are: Eric Jackson, top rodeo boater and founder of Jackson Kayaks; six-time Wildwater world champion Gilles Zok; and explorer Mick Hopkinson, who has made first descents in Nepal, Pakistan and New Zealand.

A formal induction ceremony is set for Oct. 11 at the Nantahala Outdoor Center in Bryson City, N.C.

– Will Sands



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January 11, 2024
High and dry

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