The San Juan Generating Station
The San Juan Generating Station and San Juan Mine complex (SJGS/SJM) is New Mexico’s single largest polluter. While the facilities provide electricity to 500,000 customers, they do so at a great cost to the health of surrounding communities and the environment.
In April of 2017, the Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) announced that SJGS will close in 2022. The San Juan Mine, which sells coal solely to SJGS, now faces an uncertain future.
When PNM leaves will they ditch and leave workers, the environment, and the economy in the dust? As BHP Billiton did with the nearby Navajo Mine?
This potential scenario is not acceptable. Closure of this complex threatens a region already reeling from the loss of oil and gas jobs. Lost royalty monies, disappearing jobs, and expensive reclamation are a likely end result. After decades of profiting, PNM could walk away from the pollution they’ve caused and the economic turmoil that follows in their wake. They have a responsibility to help facilitate a just transition, but will they fulfill it?
Thankfully, we don’t have to solely rely on PNM.
For the first time ever, the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) is completing a comprehensive environmental analysis of the mine-mouth complex. Instead of producing another lame Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that tries to justify the incomprehensible extension of the mine’s life we suggest they use this opportunity to face the facts: There is no future for coal.
Accepting this reality creates space for a new conversation: How do we transition away from these facilities in a just, orderly fashion?
In the face of SJGS’s impending closure, OSM could use this opportunity to initiate the process of transition planning. OSM can lead by creating a necessary framework that ensures: worker protections, worker re-training and meaningful environmental clean up. This includes a comprehensive assessment of plant and mine contamination and coal ash waste. It also means studying beneficial uses for polluted areas, including solar installation.
What are the impacts of SJGS and the San Juan Mine?
Renewables are the cheaper future.
The coal industry is failing.
Last year’s major coal company bankruptcies were the first major warning sign. In February 2017, the owners of the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona announced a 2019 closure date because coal is no longer profitable. In March the owner of SJGS, the Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM), proposed closure of the plant in 2022, replacing it with wind, solar, and natural gas.
The reality is that other energy options, including renewables, are cheaper – especially in New Mexico.
New Mexico is the perfect state for renewable energy – both solar and wind. The state has the third largest solar potential in the nation, yet only ~10% of the state’s electricity is generated with renewables. Through wind and solar alone, New Mexico could easily provide PNM’s needs – several times over.
In 2016, several renewable energy projects went online in New Mexico:
- A 140 MW solar project in Roswell and Chavez County is the largest in the state at a cost of 3.5 – 4.2¢/kWh.
- Xcel Energy plans to install a 522 MW wind project in eastern NM for 2.3¢/kWh.
Currently, coal prices are around 7¢/kWh – nearly twice as expensive!
We’re watching the SJGS/SJM Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
In early 2017, OSM began their EIS for SJGS/SJM. The analysis will determine the future of the coal complex – it’s our opportunity to demand a transition away from coal, and it’s OSM’s opportunity to make a plan for closure that includes protections for workers, the economy, and the environment.
In 2016, OSM approve 25 more years of operations at the neighboring Four Corners Power Plant through an EIS. Will that happen again? How did it happen in the first place?
We’re watching this EIS process to make sure OSM is doing it’s job – representing the public’s best interests. We’ll track the process and grade them for their actions. Stay tuned.
Stay Informed About San Juan Generating Station.
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