Gov. Bill Ritter today praised the federal Environmental Protection Agency for recommending reconsideration of the recently issued air permit for the proposed Desert Rock Energy Facility in the Four Corners region.
In a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Gov. Ritter also asked for a thorough and thoughtful review of air emission controls for the existing nearby Four Corners Power Plant and the Navajo Generating Station.
"I encourage you to reconsider the recently issued air permit and address the environmental impacts from the existing power plants in the Four Corners area. These are common sense measures that should be taken to protect – and improve – air quality," Gov. Ritter wrote. "The Four Corners Power Plant is one of the largest sources of air pollution in the country, and it is critical that it is cleaned up so that people can breathe easier and we can improve our Western vistas in this scenic and historic region."
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment officials also expressed concerns about the issuance of the air permit for Desert Rock, as well as the environmental impacts from the existing and proposed facilities.
"We appreciate EPA's willingness to review these important issues, including the appropriate control of mercury emissions from a plant as large as Desert Rock, and the impact such a facility could have on ozone and the vistas in the region," said Jim Martin, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
In March, Gov. Ritter and Colorado Attorney General John Suthers jointly urged the EPA to reconsider its decision to permit the proposed Desert Rock Power Plant, and asked that emissions controls be installed at the Four Corners Power Plant. Click here to read the news release.
The Desert Rock Energy Facility is a coal-fired power plant proposed for construction on Navajo Nation lands about 30 miles southwest of Farmington, N. M.
The Four Corners Power Plant, located on Navajo Nation lands about 25 miles west of Farmington, is the largest single nitrogen oxide source in the nation.
The Navajo Generating Station is a 2,250 megawatt coal-fired power plant located on Navajo Nation lands near Page, Arizona.
Here is the complete text of Gov. Ritter's letter:
May 22, 2009
Lisa Jackson, Administrator
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Ariel Rios Building
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20460
Dear Administrator Jackson:
I commend your recent decision to request a reconsideration of the air permit for the Desert Rock Energy Facility (DREF) in northern New Mexico. Throughout the permitting process, the State of Colorado has actively requested a thoughtful, robust review of the various environmental effects that would flow from approving such a significant project in the Four Corners region of the Southwest. I appreciate your actions to ensure that such a review will occur.
The Four Corners region is a beautiful and unique environment that unfortunately suffers from some of the highest levels of mercury deposition in the nation, affecting the water bodies and aquatic life in the region. Colorado presently has 25 Fish Consumption Advisories in place for mercury in our lakes and reservoirs. The region is also close to Clean Air Act "Non-Attainment" status with the 2008 8-Hour Ozone standard, registering a three-year average of 75 parts per billion at a northern New Mexico monitor not far from where DREF would be located, and adjacent to Colorado.
Colorado was extremely disappointed that EPA in 2008 truncated the DREF Clean Air Act permit review, expediting completion of the review and issuance of the PSD permit for the facility. Your decision to take a hard look at this PSD permit, a permit that would set the course for a major emitting facility in an area of important environmental, aesthetic, and cultural significance, is a positive and correct step for the people and the environment in this region of the country. Colorado appreciates EPA's willingness to review these important issues, including appropriate control of mercury emissions from a plant of this size, and the impact the facility could have on ozone and vistas in the region. It would be very damaging if a facility were approved by EPA that, due to lack of appropriate evaluation, pushes the region into Non-Attainment status for ozone, or that adds to the already unacceptable burden of mercury deposition in the environment.
I also urge the EPA to thoroughly and thoughtfully review the appropriate level of air emissions controls at the Four Corners Power Plant and the Navajo Generating Station under the "Best Available Retrofit Technology" (BART) provisions of EPA's Regional Haze regulation. The EPA Region IX is presently considering BART for these facilities and, consistent with Colorado's previous communications with EPA, I support the agency's rigorous review of appropriate NOx controls for these two facilities as the data reflect that they have a dramatic level of visibility impact on surrounding Class I Areas.
The Four Corners Power Plant is the largest single emitter of NOx in the nation (44,649 tpy, 2006 CAMD), and the Navajo Generating Station is ranked 4th in the nation for NOx emissions (34,744 tpy, 2006 CAMD). The Four Corners Power Plant is located only 32 miles from Mesa Verde National Park, and these facilities are in close proximity to important world-renowned Class I Areas (e.g., La Garita Wilderness, and Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, among others). Considering their very significant NOx emissions, and their direct and close proximity to critical Class I Areas in and around the Colorado Plateau, EPA's review should consider all cost-effective NOx controls, which can and should include Selective Catalytic Reduction. Significant NOx reductions from these two facilities in particular, given their combined emissions, would benefit visibility in Class I Areas in this important region of the country, and would also support the improvement of ozone levels in the northern New Mexico area that is so close to Non-Attainment status.
Thank you for your work on these important matters. We look forward to continuing to work with you on these and other issues.
Bill Ritter, Jr.