— By Lisa Meerts —

The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has scheduled two public hearings for the proposed Desert Rock Power Plant and one for the Four Corners Power Plant this week.

The agency will record formal comments at the hearings but will respond in writing after the public comment period for each proposal ends.

The EPA issued a draft air permit for the Desert Rock Power Plant in July that it says contains the most stringent pollution controls to date. Sithe Global Power, the Houston-based company that intends to build the plant, needs the permit before it can begin construction. The comment period ends Oct. 27.

"We're walking the walk with this draft permit," said Frank Maisano, spokesman for Sithe Global. "It's a very positive step that it's been issued as aggressively and strongly as it is."

Proponents argue the Desert Rock Power Plant will bolster the economy of the Navajo Nation and provide energy to a region where demand continually increases. But opponents worry a third power plant in the Four Corners will damage the environment.

The San Juan Citizens Alliance, a regional non-profit organization devoted to the environment, wrote in a release that the EPA permit is inadequate because it neglects to consider pollutants like mercury, ozone and greenhouse gasses. The group also claims the EPA based its model of plant pollution from inappropriate sources.


Advertisement

The EPA said future permits, like an operating permit, will address pollutants it did not consider in its draft air permit. The mercury standard will be determined by the Clean Air Mercury Rule.

The Desert Rock Power Plant, to be located outside Burnham on the Navajo Nation, would generate 1,500 megawatts of electricity with two 750 megawatt units. Project owners said construction would take four years and cost $2.5 billion. It would also create 400 permanent jobs split between the plant and the coal mine, and 1,000 temporary jobs during each year of construction.

The EPA also scheduled an informational meeting and public hearing about the Federal Implementation Plans (FIPs) for Four Corners Power Plant. The FIPs lay out federally enforceable limits on certain pollutants. The public comment period ends Nov. 6.

The Sierra Club filed a lawsuit this summer, pressuring the agency to finalize its plans. According to EPA officials, questions about which jurisdiction the Four Corners Power Plant falls under prevented the agency from setting these limits more quickly.

Managers at the Four Corners Power Plant, located in Upper Fruitland, say they voluntarily met pollution standards and will continue to do so.

EPA hearings

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency scheduled two public hearings regarding the Desert Rock Power Plant. They will take place:

  • 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. today at the Iron Horse Inn, 5800 N. Main Ave., in Durango, Colo.

  • 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Shiprock High School Auditorium, Highway 64 West, in Shiprock.

    The EPA also plans an informational meeting from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and public hearing from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. regarding the Four Corners Power Plant on Thursday in the Animas Room at the Courtyard Marriott, 560 Scott Ave., in Farmington.

    Lisa Meerts: lmeerts@daily-times.com