AZTEC — The San Juan County Commission on Tuesday passed a resolution in support of a plan to close two stacks at San Juan Generating Station.
On the same day, the Farmington City Council issued a resolution against the plan.
Public Service Company of New Mexico, the New Mexico Environment Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have reached a pending agreement to shut down units two and three at San Juan Generating Station by 2017. The plant is located at 6800 N. County Road in Waterflow.
The state environment department's Environmental Improvement Board is holding a two-day meeting in Farmington during which the board could vote in favor of or against the plan. The meeting starts today at San Juan College.
If the board approves the plan, it will need final EPA approval before it is enacted.
In addition to closing two of the generating station's four units, the pending plan also directs PNM to install selective non-catalytic reduction technology on units one and four; build a natural gas power plant near the generating station; not lay off workers; and donate $1 million to the PNM-Navajo Nation Workforce Training Initiative and $150,000 to Four Corners Economic Development, said PNM spokeswoman Valerie Smith.
"Although (closing units at San Juan Generating Station) is very difficult for the community, we believe it's the best plan going forward," Ernie C'de Baca, vice president of government affairs for PNM, told commissioners on Tuesday. "It took months and months of negotiations."
The plan was hatched during negotiations between PNM, the EPA and the state of New Mexico.
The EPA had ruled that PNM had to install selective catalytic reduction technologies on the plant's four stacks to reduce regional haze. PNM said installing those technologies would cost from $750 million to $1 billion and are too costly to continue operations at the power plant.
The county commissioners' resolution on Tuesday was declared after the commission voted on Aug. 20 in favor of a resolution that was against any plan leading to the closure of units at the generating station. At the end of the meeting, the commission met in a closed session, and, after reconvening, the commissioners unanimously voted to rescind their resolution until discussing the resolution with PNM.
County Commissioner Jack Fortner said he feared the original resolution could be harmful to the community because it could pressure the state environment improvement board to vote against the negotiated plan, which could lead to a total closure of the power plant.
"The state implementation plan is a plan that was reached, and it's the best plan there's going to be. ... If we have the plan rejected, the result would be to shut down all the units (at San Juan Generating Station)," Fortner said. "We accept it even though we're not happy about it."
Farmington City Councilor Dan Darnell said the city council was careful to include language that didn't diminish the work PNM spent negotiating to try to keep the two units operating.
The city's resolution states that Farmington's governing body is against a plan that would shut down any units at the generating station. It also says that if the plan to shut down units two and three moves forward, the city expects the proposed natural gas plant, donations and lack of layoffs to happen.
"In a perfect world, our resolution would look more like the county's, but that wasn't on the table," Darnell said. "But as elected officials, how could we be in support of something that's not in the best interest of our community?"
Darnell said he had second thoughts about supporting a resolution against an agreement that PNM reached with the EPA. But, he said, in the end he chose to support the document because it sent a strong statement to the EPA.
"I want to acknowledge the hard work that PNM went through in negotiating a way that we could comply with the EPA," Darnell said. "I supported the resolution because it sends a message to the EPA that you can't come into a community and throw your weight around without considering the economic health of the community."Ryan Boetel covers crime for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel on Twitter.