FARMINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed new regulations to stiffen carbon emission controls for coal-fired power plants. However, it appears that the Four Corners Power Plant is one of a handful of plants not immediately affected by the EPA's proposed rule because it sits on Navajo tribal land.
"The EPA is not proposing CO2 emission performance goals for either Indian country or U.S. territories," the proposed rule states.
The rule states that the EPA would meet with tribes and territories to create a plan to reduce carbon emissions.
"The EPA does plan to establish CO2 emission goals for both Indian country and territories in the future," the rule states. "The EPA plans to conduct additional outreach before setting these goals."
Arizona Public Service, primary owner of the plant, couldn't confirm the status of the Four Corners Power Plant as it relates to the proposed rule.
"We're still reading and evaluating (the rule) and seeing how it's going to impact Four Corners Power Plant," said Steven Gottfried, APS spokesperson.
The EPA released the proposed rule Monday morning. It is intended to reduce the country's overall carbon pollution, generally referred to as greenhouse gases, from the electric power sector by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Though the rule has specific outcomes and a yearlong comment period, local power plant operators and other stakeholders are still reviewing the 645 page document.
Four Corners Power Plant is scheduled to close three units to meet other environmental regulations, but Gottfried couldn't comment on whether this would have any bearing on the new rule.
The proposed rule delegates power to the states to determine the specifics of how they will meet proposed standards, said PNM senior vice president of Public Policy Ron Darnell in a press release.
"The EPA's draft rule to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants is a lengthy and complex document and the standards published today are state-specific and focus on statewide reductions, not on a single source of emissions or on a single utility. As a result, it's too early to tell how it will affect PNM specifically," he wrote.
He added that the EPA assured the utility that carbon reductions resulting from compliance from the regional haze rule will be counted. He said that the existing plan reduces carbon emissions by 50 percent.
The rule also says the EPA will consult with tribes who have coal-fired plants, like the Navajo Nation.
Navajo Nation EPA Director Stephen Etsitty said his staff is still reviewing the proposed rule and plans to submit a formal comment to the EPA. He said the new rule was expected.
"We knew that this was going to be coming out," Etsitty said in a phone interview.
The Navajo Nation has two coal-fired power plants on its reservation, Four Corners Power Plant and Navajo Generating Station near Page, Ariz.
He said the Navajo EPA will "take advantage" of consultations with the EPA and work with them for proposed rules for existing power plants.
New Mexican Democratic leaders support the new rule.
U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich applauded the new proposed rule adding that New Mexico is already transitioning away from coal-based energy.
"Climate change is a fact that is a problem in New Mexico today and not just at some far off date in the future. We're already seeing the effects of climate change manifest in more extreme drought conditions, larger wildfires, shrinking forests, and increased flooding when we do receive precipitation," he said in a press release.
New Mexico Attorney General Gary King also talked about the need to address global warming.
"We have an obligation to protect future generations from these threats, which could have profound effects on our communities, farms and businesses if not addressed," he said in a release.
However, Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, said that the regulations will cost the economy billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs while having a marginal effect on global carbon emissions.
"The president and the EPA are using these regulations to force states into using cap-and-trade systems that could not even pass in the Senate with a filibuster-proof Democratic majority," said Pearce in a release from the Congressional Western Caucus, of which he serves as co-chair.
"The administration's radical war on coal is nothing more than a war on the poor."Erny Zah is The Daily Times business editor. He can be reached at 505-564-4638. and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @ernyzah on Twitter.