FARMINGTON — The Public Service Company of New Mexico has taken another step to meet federal emissions rules at San Juan Power Generating Station and close two units at San Juan Generating Station.
In December last year, PNM submitted a filing with the New Mexico Public Regulatory Commission to gain approval for processes that would enable the generating station to meet federal emission standards.
The filing contains a proposal to close two units at the station by the end of 2017, to reroute power from Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station to serve PNM customers and to install emission reducing technology, all of which need PRC approval to happen.
According to the executive summary of the filing, PNM is proposing to close units two and three to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency's Regional Haze Rule.
"Approval of PNM's Application will also enable the company to move forward with plans to reduce its use of coal and significantly increase its use of cleaner fuels, including natural gas and solar," the filing stated.
As a result, PNM is asking for 134 megawatts of power from a unit in Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station to be used to replace power lost as a result of the closures. PNM has partial ownership in one unit at the nuclear facility.
PNM has future plans to build a 144 megawatt natural gas power facility to be used for peak usage, said PNM spokeswoman Valerie Smith, and also build a 40 megawatt solar facility. PNM will ask PRC to approve those plans in the future.
The closure of the two units would reduce PNM's power capacity at the generating station by 340 megawatts and the company plans to make that up in three different parts, all of which need PRC approval, Smith said.
As part the current filing, PNM also is asking permission to install select nitrogen oxide reducing technology on units one and four. PNM officials have stated the installation would cost between $60 to $80 million.
Meanwhile, the PRC utility department plans to review PNM's filing, said commission chairwoman Theresa Becenti-Aguilar, D-District 4.
Though the filing didn't place a deadline for the PRC to make a decision, Becenti-Aguilar expects the commission to take up the matter within 12 months.
"The utilities staff reviews the docket," Becenti-Aguilar said, adding that they will make recommendations to the commission.
However, Becenti-Aguilar said she is concerned about the people who may be affected by the units closing at the generating station.
"Is there a way that the economic opportunity can be restored after the two units are closed at San Juan Generating Station," she asked.
Smith said PNM doesn't plan to have any layoffs as result of the units closing.
Mike Eisenfeld, New Mexico energy coordinator for San Juan Citzens Alliance, said he hopes the PRC's review of the filing will ensure that the generating station complies with Regional Haze Rule and the Clean Air Act.
"It's imperative that this proposal meets the standards in the Clean Air Act," Eisenfeld said.
He added that he hopes the PRC will consider long-term plans for the remaining units at the station, including possible early closure.
"I hope the PRC gains a conceptual understanding of how this proposal is fitting into the spirit of the Clean Air Act," he said.
The filing with the PRC is a continuation of approvals PNM must have before they can retire the units at the generating station, Smith said.
In September, the New Mexico Environment Department's Environmental Improvement Board approved the state's plan for emission reduction at the station in September. Since then the plan has been sent to the EPA for approval.
PNM finalized a non-binding plan with the EPA and the New Mexico Environment Department as an alternative to installing more expensive emission reducing technology that PNM and state officials said would be too costly and could lead to potential closure of the San Juan Generating Station. The plan was revealed in February 2013.Erny Zah is The Daily Times business editor. He can be reached at 505-564-4638.and firstname.lastname@example.org.