EPA pushes on Four Corners Plant

The Environmental Protection Agency is trying to take a bigger bite out of Four Corners pollution. On Thursday, the agency announced a supplemental proposal to reduce emissions from the nearby Four Corners Power Plant, the nation’s largest single source of smog-causing nitrogen oxides

The EPA plan would reduce NOx emissions from the current 45,000 tons per year to 5,800 tons, 3,200 tons less than EPA’s initial proposal. The call comes on the heels of the agency’s proposal in October for new controls at the aging power plant. At that time, Arizona Public Service forwarded an alternative solution, whereby three of the plant’s older units would be retired and selective catalytic reduction – the best pollution control available – would be installed on the remaining two boilers.

In October, Mark Schiavoni, APS Senior Vice President of Fossil Generation, commented “This course of action represents the best alternative for APS and its customers and provides a cleaner environment while preserving a needed reliable and affordable supply of energy for the Southwest.”

While APS has yet to comment on the supplemental proposal, the EPA is excited about the prospect of reducing the emissions even more. “This plant is the nation’s largest source of nitrogen oxides,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “By reducing its emissions by 87 percent – rather than our initial proposal of 80 percent – we will all be able to see the results and breathe cleaner, healthier air.”

Mike Eisenfeld, of San Juan Citizens Alliance, welcomes the additional reduction in emissions, but added that a variety of other fixes are needed at the plant. He also noted that the vast majority of energy from the Four Corners Power Plant is transmitted to Phoenix and Tucson, but the Four Corners airshed and tourism economy bear the brunt of that cheap power.

“It’s a move in the right direction, but there are numerous other issues plaguing this facility including its coal source, leases and other regulatory permitting,” he said. “In my opinion, people should be standing up and demanding the elimination of these emissions. This haze is harming tourism in the Four Corners. We ought to be asking for something a little more dramatic.”

Meanwhile, the EPA is trying to get another Four Corners polluter to clean up its act. The agency has proposed a plan to reduce emissions by 80 percent at the San Juan Generating Station, which is located just outside Farmington and not far from the Four Corners Power Plant. This Thurs., Feb. 17, the EPA will hold a public hearing on the proposal at San Juan College. An open house is scheduled for 3-5 p.m. and the hearing begins at 6 p.m.

Lori Goodman, of the Navajo group Diné CARE, argued in favor of the new controls. “Our people and the entire Four Corners region have suffered greatly over the last four decades from the horrible effects of burning dirty coal,” she said. “It is time that the utilities clean up this dirty legacy for the people and businesses that call this place home, as well as for visitors to this beautiful area.”

Big Colorado water shortage projected

Colorado will go thirsty in coming decades if the state continues to imbibe at its current rate. Population will continue to grow and competition for water will intensify, according to the Statewide Water Supply Initiative (SWSI), a report approved at a recent meeting of the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

The report finds that if water use follows current trends, large supplies will have to be shifted away from agriculture. The result will be significant loss of farmlands, economic damage to the state’s agricultural regions and potential environmental harm. The report concludes that between 500,000 - 700,000 irrigated acres could be dried up by 2050.

“Used as a statewide planning tool, this report provides comprehensive information to water providers, state policy makers and the Colorado General Assembly as they take steps to map out a path forward for Colorado water,” said Jennifer Gimbel, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

The report calls for the implementation of a mix of solutions

in order to provide water for citizens, agriculture and the environment. Conservation and reuse must be coupled with the transfer of agricultural water and the development of new supplies. It recommends pursuing these strategies concurrently and immediately.


Drilling pitched near Canyonlands

Drill rigs could be moving into some of Southeast Utah’s prized natural landscapes. Last week, the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration auctioned off dozens of mineral leases in the vicinity of Canyonlands National Park and Muddy Creek and the Dirty Devil in the San Rafael Swell.

SITLA offered up 29 separate lease parcels for oil and gas and mineral development, and many of them are deemed to be of wilderness-quality. Several were proposed for protection in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, setting the stage for new well-pads, roads, pollution and other destructive impacts associated with drilling. The largest concentration of leases are located southeast of Canyonlands National Park and inside the Harts Point, Shay Mountain and Bridger Jack Mesa proposed wilderness areas.

Mountain bike bill falls short in Denver

An effort to encourage mountain biking went over the bars in the Colorado Legislature this week. The Mountain Bike Safety Act was quickly defeated in committee.

Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, introduced the Colorado Mountain Bike Safety Act, to assist landowners who want to build singletrack on their property. The act would have released them from liability for injuries caused by the inherent risks of mountain biking. Brophy said that he had hoped the bill would further spur tourism and healthy recreation all over Colorado.

“I hear from landowners around the state who want to open trails but are concerned about liability and insurance,” he said. “This bill protects them while providing more opportunities for people to get outdoors and enjoy all that Colorado has to offer.”

However, the bill failed to pass muster. In spite of nearly three hours of testimony and Brophy’s offer of three amendments to satisfy concerns, it did not carry.

– Will Sands




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High and dry

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