San Juan County weighs intervening with PRC on power plant plan

Dan Schwartz The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The San Juan County Commission will hold a special meeting Wednesday to discuss the possibility of getting more deeply involved in supporting a Public Service Company of New Mexico plan to keep the San Juan Generating Station operating.

San Juan County has not yet presented any testimony or documents that the Public Regulation Commission can consider when voting on PNM's plan, a compromise that would shutter two coal-fired units so the plant will meet federal haze regulations. None of that type of evidence has been submitted by the cities of Farmington, Bloomfield or Aztec, or Four Corners Economic Development, either.

On July 28, Assistant Attorney General Cholla Khoury attended a County Commission meeting and told commissioners that their support for the plan so far, which includes letters and petitions, is only public comment and will not be part of the final review.

Khoury asked that the commission consider becoming an intervener in the case so the PRC can consider their support as evidence.

"There's still plenty of time for them to join," said James Hallinan, spokesman for Attorney General Hector Balderas.

County Operations Officer Mike Stark said commissioners are scheduled to discuss whether they want the county to become an intervener in the case at the 12:15 p.m. meeting on Wednesday at 100 South Oliver Drive in Aztec.

The commission will also discuss how to enter testimony from the rest of the community as evidence, he said.

"That was a good suggestion," he said.

The plan that many local officials hope the PRC approves would shut down two units at the Waterflow power plant in 2017 and retrofit the remaining two stacks to meet federal haze regulations. It would replace the lost generation with natural gas, nuclear and solar energy.

If the PRC does not approve the plan, officials say, PNM will likely close the power plant.

Approximately 750 people work at the power plant and its coal mine, and the company pays them about $88 million a year in taxes.

Dan Schwartz covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606 and Follow him @dtdschwartz on Twitter.