FARMINGTON — Potential job losses topped discussion at the Farmington City Council meeting on Tuesday.
The council expressed disapproval of the so-called "revised state implementation plan" for haze reduction at San Juan Generating Station, but tabled a resolution expressing that disapproval until a work session next week.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is requiring the coal-fired power plant near Waterflow, as well as the Four Corners Power Plant near Fruitland, to reduce haze-causing emissions.
The New Mexico Environment Department's Environmental Improvement Board will vote on the plan for San Juan Generating Station during meetings on Sept. 5 and 6 in Farmington. An agenda has not yet been released.
"The intention of this is just to put an exclamation point on how devastating to the economy this could be," said Councilor Gayla McCulloch.
Although local officials say the plan is likely to be approved, they hope some amendments will be made to help the local economy.
And the effects of the plan closure could extend beyond Farmington.
"There doesn't seem to be a balance here," said Kim Carpenter, San Juan County CEO, in a phone interview before Tuesday evening's city council meeting. "Both of the power plants are under attack. There's been poor planning and administration by the EPA. They haven't taken into account the actual costs, and it's unfortunate because it is going to be a burden on our economy."
Both power plants are under pressure by the EPA to reduce nitrogen oxide and other emissions. The Public Service Company of New Mexico, which operates San Juan Generating Station on behalf of its owners, plans to shut down two of the four units at the plant as part of the "revised state implementation plan." Arizona Public Service Company, which operates Four Corners Power Plant, plans to shut down three of the five units at the plant.
The unit shutdowns will result in the direct loss of hundreds of high-wage jobs and will decrease demand for coal from San Juan Mine and Navajo Mine, Carpenter said.
The loss in jobs and wages could permeate throughout the county's economy, he said.
"When you have four of the top five property tax paying entities in the county being impacted, you're going to suffer," Carpenter said. "I am hopeful that there will be some other alternatives."
New Mexico Rep. Sharon Clahchischilliage, R-Kirtland, said the closures will negatively affect her constituents.
"I think we're losing people already," she said. "There are people who've relocated to Texas and Oklahoma already. The Navajo Nation is looking at this very closely. I'm very concerned."
Clahchischilliage said both power plants employ many of her constituents and the high-wage jobs are essential for residents in Shiprock, Kirtland, Upper Fruitland and other communities in her district.
The plant and mine workers also have an economic impact on Farmington, Aztec and Bloomfield, she said.
"Without these jobs it really leaves a lot of communities in a bad way," Clahchischilliage said. "It changes their financial status. The survival of Farmington's economy depends on the business generated by those plant workers."