DURANGO, Colo. — When La Plata County Commissioner Kellie Hotter learned coal-fired power plants generate the electricity supplied to the area, she said she could not support a resolution opposing one in northwest New Mexico.

"I care about the ramifications to the citizens, but how dare we be hypocritical when we do the same thing to someone else," she said. "If we want to be good stewards, we need to start at home first."

The La Plata County Commissioners passed a resolution 4-0 on Tuesday that asked the Bureau of Indian Affairs to choose the no-action alternative on a draft Environmental Impact Statement, which would prevent construction of the proposed coal-fired Desert Rock Power Plant. Hotter abstained from voting. The Durango City Council also passed a similar resolution 4-0. Durango Mayor Doug Lyon also abstained from voting because he said the resolution exceeded the city's jurisdiction.

The proposed 1,500-megawatt Desert Rock Power Plant would be the third coal-fired power plant in the area. It would cost $3 billion to build, permanently employ 400 people and employ as many as 1,000 during the four-year construction phase. It would be located near Burnham. The Diné Power Authority, a Navajo Nation enterprise, and Houston-based Sithe Global have partnered on the project.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs released a draft Environmental Impact Statement on the power plant in May.


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Critics argue the plant will damage air quality by releasing yet more pollutants into a region that already suffers from ground-level ozone problems.

Members from both governmental agencies who approved the resolutions said the community needed to take a stand on the Desert Rock Power Plant to protect its air, even if the resolutions have no strength.

"We made no claim that we have authority to override a decision, there is no pretense of authority," said Durango City Councilor Leigh Meigs. "It's a statement on behalf of the citizens."

A representative from the Navajo Nation approached her after the meeting and said the tribe is pursuing alternative energy, the exact goal of the council, she said.

"That's what the city is saying with its resolution. Let's encourage more of that," Meigs said.

The Durango City Council has purchased green energy credits from the La Plata Electric Association (LPEA), the rural co-operative that supplies power to the city. It has not taken action on coal-fired power plants proposed in Kansas by Tri-State, the power company that feeds electricity to LPEA.

La Plata County Commissioner Wally White, who voted for the resolution, said he believes Desert Rock would harm local residents with its pollution and therefore required action by the commission.

"It affects everyone here, not just a few. It affects every one of our citizens," he said.

Power plants proposed elsewhere by Tri-State do not, White added.

Furthermore, he is not convinced Desert Rock would benefit the Navajo Nation because it would not supply the reservation with electricity.

Frank Maisano, a spokesman for Sithe Global, said the company considers the resolutions unfair, particularly given the freedom La Plata County has in development natural gas resources.

"They're gaining benefits from natural resources, like gas. It's a little bit hypocritical of them to turn around and say to the Navajo Nation, oh, you can't do it," he said.