Comment period for potential new rule closes Feb. 26; comments on repeal are due on Jan. 16

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FARMINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency is continuing the process to repeal the Clean Power Plan in soliciting comments from the public regarding a potential new rule to limit greenhouse gas emissions from electrical utility generating units.

The call for comment is part of an advance notice of proposed rulemaking published on Dec. 28 in the Federal Register, and the comment period closes on Feb. 26.

The EPA proposed to repeal the Clean Power Plan on Oct. 16 in response to an executive order issued by President Donald Trump in March.

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Critics of the plan say that the EPA oversteps its authority in enforcing the Clean Power Plan, and in the proposed repeal, “the EPA proposes a change in the legal interpretation underlying the (Clean Power Plan) to an interpretation that is consistent with the text, context, structure, purpose and legislative history of the (Clean Air Act), as well as with the agency’s historical understanding and exercise of its statutory authority,” according to the advanced notice of proposed rulemaking.

The notice includes information about available systems of greenhouse gas emissions reductions, heat rate improvements for boilers and natural gas-fired combustion turbines, and potential interactions with other regulatory programs. 

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In the Four Corners, the ongoing repeal process likely won’t affect changes at the San Juan Generating Station, according to Dan Ware, spokesman for majority-owner PNM. Two of the coal-fired power plant's four units were shuttered in December, and the other two are scheduled to be phased out by the end of 2022 in a "purely economic decision (that) has less to do with the Clean Power Plan," Ware said. 

"We work very hard with both state and federal agencies on compliance with regulations that govern the emissions from our facilities," Ware said in an email. "Our goal is to provide safe, reliable, affordable power to our customers. While it’s not appropriate to comment specifically on the CPP, we do support the EPA setting a reasonable and flexible framework for compliance with realistic time frames for implementation. We have a good working relationship with these agencies and look forward to that continuing into the future."

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A representative from APS, the majority owner of Four Corners Power Plant, did not respond Tuesday to questions about the proposed repeal and a potential new rule, or their effects on the coal-fired plant.

Mike Eisenfeld, energy and climate program manager with the San Juan Citizens Alliance, said the Four Corners region is a place that is seeing the repercussions from “historically high carbon dioxide emissions” and it is important to address the implications of carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.

“They’re going through this exercise to replace it, but what are they going to replace it with? They’re going to do nothing. We can’t afford a do-nothing response,” Eisenfeld said. “… Until this administration gets replaced, we’re not going to see proactive environmental regulations at all. Given what we know about climate change, continuing emissions from coal-fired power plants -- that’s negligent.”

The EPA is also accepting comments on the proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan through Jan. 16, according to the Federal Register.

Megan Petersen covers business and education for The Daily Times. Reach her at 505-564-4621 or mpetersen@daily-times.com.

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