Lawmakers get update on power plant
Indian Affairs Committee has two more meetings scheduled this week on the Navajo Nation
SHIPROCK — The New Mexico Legislature’s Indian Affairs Committee heard an update about the San Juan Generating Station during the first of three meetings this week on the Navajo Nation.
In Wednesday’s meeting at Diné College’s south campus in Shiprock, New Mexico Environment Department Cabinet Secretary Ryan Flynn spoke about the state’s work to address the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.
The plan, which the EPA announced in August, sets the carbon pollution reduction requirements for each state by 2030.
It also requires every state to create its own plan to achieve the target set by the EPA.
Flynn said the state department’s goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 36 percent. He said the state plans to send the proposal to the EPA by 2016, with the option of a one-year extension.
He said the state is well positioned to meet the EPA’s target because of the proposed closure of units 2 and 3 at the generating station, as well as the retirement of other facilities in New Mexico.
Flynn added the EPA’s plan is creating a paradigm shift by relying on environmental factors, rather than economic ones, to drive the demand for electricity in the country.
Noah Long, a senior attorney with Natural Resources Defense Council’s Energy Program, also spoke at Wednesday’s meeting. He said developing a plan requires discussion between utility companies, workers, communities, environmental stakeholders and state governments.
“The processes that go best are the ones that give some lean time to air those different points of view and come up with a long-term solution that makes sense,” Long said.
Ron Darnell, Public Service Company of New Mexico's vice president for public policy, reiterated the company’s proposal to shut down two units of the generating station by 2017.
Additionally, the company will install emission reduction technology on the remaining units, he said.
Those kinds of action will position the generating station to meet future environmental regulations, including those in the Clean Power Plan, he said.
The presentation by PNM included an update about the company’s Navajo Workforce Training Initiative at San Juan College and at Navajo Technical College in Crownpoint.
The program, which recently completed its second year, has graduated 37 participants, said Cathy Newby, director of Tribal Government and Customer Engagement at PNM.
In 2013, PNM committed $1 million for job training over five years for Navajo workers in the Navajo Nation’s Northern Agency.
“We will continue to build and support these programs,” Newby said.
During comments from state lawmakers, Rep. Sharon Clahchischilliage, R-Kirtland, who co-chairs the Indian Affairs Committee, said she appreciated the state Environment Department’s response to the Gold King Mine spill, which released more than 3 million gallons of toxic wastewater into the Animas and San Juan rivers in August.
The committee will meet at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Mitten Rock-Red Valley Senior Center, near the New Mexico and Arizona state line.
They will meet at 9 a.m. Friday at the Huerfano Chapter house.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-546-4636 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her @nsmithdt on Twitter.