UPDATE: PNM plan would eliminate coal power by 2031

The company would replace the coal-generated power with solar, wind, nuclear and natural gas power

Hannah Grover
The San Juan Generating Station is pictured in Waterflow.
  • The draft Integrated Resource Plan is open for public comment. A final plan will be submitted to the PRC in July
  • If the plan is adopted, Farmington will see a loss of high-paying jobs, according to the executive summary released with the plan

FARMINGTON — Public Service Company of New Mexico's draft Integrated Resource Plan released Wednesday would eliminate coal power from the company's resources by 2031, which would impact both the San Juan Generating Station and the Four Corners Power Plant.

The plan is currently open for public comment and a final version will be filed with the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission in July. A PNM press release states company representatives will travel to communities throughout the state to hear comments. People can also email comments to irp@pnm.com.

The executive summary released along with the plan states that retiring the 497-megawatt share of San Juan Generating Station in 2022 would provide long-term cost savings for customers. PNM is the majority owner of the generating station.

The company's coal supply agreement with San Juan Generating Station expires in 2022 and its agreement with Four Corners Power Plant expires in 2031. The recent draft Integrated Resource Plan calls for the company to eliminate coal-generated power after those two agreements expire. PNM would replace the energy it currently gets from coal with wind, solar, nuclear and natural gas.

In a press release, Pat Vincent-Collawn, PNM's CEO and resources chairman, said the company's responsibility is to act in the best interest of the customers.

"This plan outlines the most effective way to deliver reliable, affordable and environmentally sustainable energy going forward," Vincent-Collawn said.

The executive summary released with the plan states it will result in job losses for the Farmington area and the high-wage positions will not be easy to replace.

"PNM will work with the most affected communities to mitigate the impact of these changes," the summary states.

Warren Unsicker, CEO of Four Corners Economic Development, said about 650 people are employed at the San Juan Generating Station and the mine that supplies the coal. These people rent houses, buy cars and purchase groceries in the community, he said.

"The cascading effects for the community are huge," Unsicker said.

However, the Integrated Resource Plan only looks at effects for rate payers and does not look at community impacts such as the loss of tax revenue.

Sierra Club, a nonprofit environmental group, said in a news release that PNM's plan "is a clear demonstration that coal is no longer economically sustainable." The Sierra Club stated the Four Corners area offers vast solar potential and a massive energy transmission network that could allow for creation of clean-energy jobs and provide affordable, reliable energy to the region.

Ultimately, the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission will decide whether to approve the plan and Unsicker encouraged people to contact PRC commissioners. He said Four Corners Economic Development will be talking to the PRC about the plan and will post updates online at realpeoplerealjobsnm.com.

While Four Corners Economic Development is working to save the jobs at the power plant, it is also encouraging new industries to locate in San Juan County.

In addition to losing jobs at the San Juan Generating Station and San Juan Mine, PNM's plan could also create job losses at Four Corners Power Plant.

The Four Corners Power Plant as seen on Friday south of Fruitland.

Arizona Public Service Electric Company owns the majority of Four Corners Power Plant. APS released its Integrated Resource Plan earlier this month. According to a press release, APS plans on reducing its coal generation and increasing its environmental controls at existing coal generating units. APS plans on continuing operations at Four Corners Power Plant, however it hopes to reduce nitrogen oxide levels by 90 percent by installing selective catalytic reduction devices at the plant next year, according to the integrated resource plan.

PNM owns a 13-percent share in the Four Corners Power Plant, which receives coal from Navajo Mine. Navajo Mine is owned by Navajo Transitional Energy Company.

"We will continue to meet our obligations according to our contract with Four Corners Power Plant and continue to invest in clean energy projects," said Clark Moseley, the CEO of Navajo Transitional Energy Company, in an emailed statement.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

Editor's note: This story, originally published on April 17, has been changed to more accurately reflect the Sierra Club's analysis of the PNM draft plan. The environmental group did not praise the plan.