The Four Corners Power Plant
The Four Corners Power Plant (FCPP) and Navajo Mine complex is a pollutant spewing, climate change inducing, economically unstable monster.
The Obama administration, despite promises to address climate change, has approved the coal complex’s permit for another 25 years, saying the impacts to climate change will be ‘negligible’. This is far from true.
The FCPP, a coal fired power plant, spews the climate equivalent of over 11 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. Over the 25 year extension this could result in over $11 billion in climate change costs – hardly negligible.
Extending the life of the operation unnecessarily puts yet another generation’s economic stability and health at risk. Investing in a dying and dangerous industry, instead of the clean and growing renewables industry, is shortsighted and foolish.
US solar jobs outnumber coal jobs nearly 4:1.
New Mexico’s solar energy potential dwarfs the output of FCPP.
Investing in a dangerous and dying industry, instead of a clean and growing one, is shortsighted and foolish.
Problems with the mine-mouth complex
With the coal industry in permanent decline, the Navajo Mine struggling to stay afloat, and FCPP needing hundreds of millions of dollars to modernize its antiquated facilities, extending operation of the FCPP and Navajo Mine complex for 25 years is a bad choice for the region’s economy.
Mining, burning, and disposing of waste associated with a mine-mouth coal operation is horrible for the environment, contaminating land, water and air with unacceptable levels of toxins, contributing to runaway climate change, and depleting rivers in one of the country’s most arid regions.
Communities in the San Juan Basin are already feeling the cumulative health impacts of 50 years of the FCPP operation. Toxic pollutants from the power plant are known to contribute to cancer, organ damage, imparied development, and early mortality. Studies show San Juan County, NM, has higher incidences of chronic respiratory diseases compared with New Mexico or the rest of the United States.
Over 50 years of pollution
The Four Corners Power Plant (FCPP) and Navajo Mine are old. They were built way back in 1962. The power plant was only designed for a 50-year life span, but in 2015 the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) approved an extra 25 years.
For most of its lifetime the power plant had five units, but in 2013 they shut down Units 1-3 to comply with new Environmental Protection Agency emissions requirements. Despite this closure, the plant is still a major pollution behemoth. Units 1, 2, and 3 were the smallest, only responsible for 25% of the plant’s capacity. Units 4 and 5, the biggest and dirtiest, remain.
Pushed as a result of a 2012 lawsuit (involving SJCA and partners), the DOI analyzed the environmental impacts of the Four Corners Power Plant and Navajo Mine together. This was an unprecedented concept: because the mine and the power plant are connected actions (exclusively mine to mouth) they therefore need to be analyzed together in a more comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
But when the comprehensive EIS was finally published, it was grossly inadequate and proposed an inappropriate 25-year extension of operations. When the DOI approved the extension in 2015, SJCA and partners filed intent to sue over violations of the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
In 2015, the Department of the Interior approved a 25-year extension of the Four Corners Power Plant’s operating permit. The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that informed the decision was egregiously inadequate so we sued over the approval. You can read the full complaint. But here’s a summary:
ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT:
The 25-year extension gravely threatens the habitat and continued existence of the Colorado pikeminnow and Razorback sucker, both endangered species of fish in the San Juan River. The EIS unlawfully relies on a faulty U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biological opinion and does not adequately address the impacts of the power plant on these species.
NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ACT:
The EIS, which is required under the National Environmental Policy Act, is based on an arbitrary, capricious, and unlawfully narrow statement of purpose. The EIS also fails to consider reasonable alternatives to the 25-year extension, the cumulative impacts of air pollution on public health, and the impacts of toxic coal ash disposal at the power plant.