Feds Settle Power Plant Emissions Case

Tuesday, June 30, 2015 @ 02:06 PM gHale

There was a federal Clean Air Act settlement last week with Arizona and New Mexico-based utility companies to install pollution control technology to reduce harmful air pollution from the Four Corners Power Plant located on the Navajo Nation near Shiprock, New Mexico, federal officials said.

The settlement, reached with the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), requires an estimated $160 million in upgrades to the plant’s sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution controls.

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The settlement also requires $6.7 million to end up spent on three health and environmental mitigation projects for tribal members and payment of a $1.5 million civil penalty. EPA expects the actions required by the settlement will reduce harmful emissions by 5,540 tons per year.

“This settlement is a significant achievement for air quality and the health of the people of the Navajo Nation and the surrounding region,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The agreement will require stringent pollution controls as well as public health and environmental projects that will have lasting benefits for the Navajo people. It is also a reflection of how serious we are about addressing environmental justice issues in Indian country.”

“Today’s action will improve indoor air quality in 750 Navajo homes through new clean-burning stoves, and help the Navajo economy by creating jobs installing weatherization,” said Jared Blumenfeld, Regional Administrator for EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region. “In addition, the settlement creates a $2 million trust fund that will provide Navajo citizens with respiratory care, and lead to insights into the health impacts of air pollution.”

“This settlement will reduce pollution from the Four Corners Power Plant for years to come, and requires the plant’s owners to fund significant health and environmental projects that will further benefit the Navajo Nation and other communities impacted by the plant,” said U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez for the District of New Mexico.

Arizona Public Service Company (APS) is the operator and primary owner of the Four Corners Plant. El Paso Electric Company, Public Service Company of New Mexico, Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District and Tucson Electric Power Company are current co-owners of the plant and Southern California Edison Company is a former co-owner of the plant. The settlement resolves claims the companies violated the New Source Review provisions of the federal Clean Air Act by unlawfully modifying the Four Corners Power Plant without obtaining required permits or installing and operating the best available air pollution control technology.

The pollution controls for NOx required by the settlement improve the Selective Catalytic Reduction controls for the Four Corners Power Plant finalized by EPA in 2012 under the Clean Air Act’s regional haze program. The current controls for SO2 will end up upgraded to increase their efficiency. These additional upgrades will reduce SO2 emissions by approximately 4,653 tons per year and NOx emissions by approximately 887 tons per year.

SO2 and NOx, two predominant pollutants emitted from power plants, have numerous adverse effects on human health and are significant contributors to acid rain, smog and haze. These pollutants form particulates that can cause severe respiratory and cardiovascular impacts and premature death.