It has been decades since the Four Corners region has seen the likes of a project the size and scope of the proposed Desert Rock Power Plant. The $2.5-billion, 1,500-megawatt facility continues to move forward and, should it be built, would be the third coal-fired generation facility in San Juan County.
Both Four Corners Power Plant near Fruitland and San Juan Generating Station in Waterflow — two of the largest coal-operated plants in the West — have produced power for more than 30 years. Both plants have provided San Juan County with a strong economic base, adding millions of dollars to what has been an energy-dominant local economy for more than 50 years.
The Desert Rock Power Plant, which would be located 25 miles southwest of Farmington on the Navajo Nation, continues to progress through the necessary procedures to gain eventual approval. Most recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a series of public information meetings on the plant's draft air permit in four communities in the region earlier this month. Next up are two air permit public hearings on Oct. 3 in Durango and Oct. 4 in Shiprock. The EPA will collect comments from the public at both events. Anyone who wants to comment on the draft air permit has until Oct. 27 to do so.
We encourage anyone who has an interest in this major project to either attend a hearing or submit comments in writing by late October. The first hearing is scheduled from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Oct. 3 at the Iron Horse Inn, 5800 N. Main Ave., in Durango. The second hearing is set during the same time sessions on Oct. 4 at the Shiprock High School Auditorium. Why no Farmington hearing? Good question — and one the EPA will have to answer during its return in early October.
Comments on the draft air permit can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, faxed at (415) 947-3579 or mailed to Robert Baker, Air-3, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 75 Hawthorne St., San Francisco, Calif., 94105.
Following potential approval of the air permit, Desert Rock would then need to obtain an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) from the Department of Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs. Project developers, led by Sithe Global of Houston, hope to begin construction of the plant by the summer of 2007.
The potential economic benefits of Desert Rock are undeniable. About 400 permanent jobs split between the power plant and coal mining operations, more than 1,000 temporary construction jobs during a four-year construction period and millions of dollars in tax benefits to the Navajo Nation, San Juan County and the state of New Mexico.
As long as the proposed power plant meets required environmental standards, we continue to support the development of Desert Rock. The key is for citizens to stay informed and active throughout the permitting process. Much still has to happen for Desert Rock Power Plant to become a reality, including a possible Industrial Revenue Bond (IRB) agreement with San Juan County that would make the plant economically viable.
We will continue to cover the important news concerning Desert Rock, keeping a keen eye on all developments that affect the residents of the Four Corners. We also encourage locals to attend one of the public hearings to learn more and voice their opinions and concerns about the plant.