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Last updated 11:01PM ET
December 16, 2017
KSUT Regional
KSUT Regional
Desert Rock Gets Thumbs Down From Residents
(2007-07-20)
(ksut) - HOST LEAD: A Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Desert Rock Power plant is getting an almost unanimous thumbs down at public hearings now underway, including one last evening in Durango.
But developers of the northwest New Mexico plant say they're confident the plant will remain on track.
KSUT's Victor Locke reports.

HANGUAL: WHAT WOULD IT BE LIKE FOR THE FOUR CORNERS AREA TO NO LONGER BE VIEWED AS A CULTURAL BREATHTAKING HISTORICAL AREA OF BEAUTY. INSTEAD, THERE WILL BE CAUTION SIGNS, DON'T EAT THE FISH, DON'T SWIM, WHAT WILL MESA VERDE LOOK LIKE WHEN THERE'S A HISTORICAL SIGN RIGHT NEXT TO A TOXIC SIGN.
VICTOR: Shaheen Hangual was one of more than 50 people who spoke at the IronHorse Inn last night, almost unanimously against the proposed 1.5 megawatt coal fired Desert Rock Power Plant.
Durango was the third of ten public hearings held by the Bureau of Indian Affairs Navajo Office on a draft environmental impact statment for the 3-billion dollar plant energy giant Sithe Global wants to build Southwest of Shiprock, on the Navajo Reservation.
Sithe claims the Northwest New Mexico plant will bring an economic boost to the improverished Navajo's, providing hundreds of jobs and about 50-million dollars a year in income to the tribe.
But many speakers say the economic gains won't be worth the environmental, health, cultural and other impacts the plant will have.
The very credibility of the EIS was questioned by speaker after speaker, such as Tom Klema.
KLEMA: I SUSPECT THAT THE SCIENTIFIC DATA THAT IS BEHIND THIS PROJECT IS BEING MANIPULATED SO THAT WE WILL SORT OF BELIEVE THAT THERE REALLY IS NO PROBLEM WITH THIS POWER PLANT.
Others, like Thaddeus Beeley termed the EIS deficient, in part because it did not explore alternative energy sources, such as solar or wind power.
BEELEY: INSTEAD OF DOING THE CLEANER ALTERNATIVE, WHY NOT GO FOR THE CLEANEST. YOU KNOW, IT'S LIKE TRYING TO FIND A CLEANER WAY TO DRINK HEROIN OR SHOOT POISON OR SOMETHING...YOU KNOW...DON'T DO IT AT ALL.
The testimony continued for more than three hours.
It's estimated 150 people showed up for a similar hearing earlier yesterday in Towaoc and another 150 Tuesday night in Farmington.
Like Durango, most speakers at those hearings oppose Desert Rock.
Sithe Global's Frank Maisano says he isn't surprised by the turnout at the hearings.
And he says it is having an effect.
MAISANO: IT'S ALREADY AFFECTED US IN THAT WE HAVE WORKED HARD TO MAKE ADJUSTMENTS TO WHAT WE'VE PROPOSED IN AIR COOLING VERSUS WATER COOLING WHICH WILL SAVE 85-PERCENT MORE WATER IN THE PROCESS, IS ONE OF THOSE AREAS.
The plant will still use 28-hundred gallons of water per minute.
Some, like Mike Eisenfeld of the San Juan Citizen's Alliance which Maisano credits for the large turnout at the hearings, question whether Sithe will be able to find that much water on the Navajo Reservation.
But Eisenfeld says that's only one uncertainty.
The Alliance has joined in a lawsuit challenging a permit for the coal mine Desert Rock would use.
The plant still lacks an air permit.
And, Eisenfeld says it's clear the public doesn't want the plant.
EISENFELD: THERE'S A LOT OF PEOPLE IN FARMINGTON, CORTEZ, DURANGO, WHO'VE COME OUT TO THE PAST THREE PUBLIC HEARINGS AND IT'S VIRTUALLY UNANIMOUS. I MEAN FOUR OR FIVE PEOPLE HAVE SAID DESERT ROCK WOULD BE A GOOD THING. EVERYBODY ELSE, IT'S LIKE, THERE'S PROBLEMS, AND SOME OF THESE PROBLEMS HAVE SIGNIFICANT VALIDITY BECAUSE THE DRAFT EIS IS DEFICIENT.
The BIA plans to issue the final EIS in December.
Maisano says Sithe would like to start construction on the plant in the middle of 2008.
But even that's uncertain.
MAISANO: THERE'S GONNA BE LAWSUITS AND OTHER THINGS LIKE THAT, SO AH, THE DELAY IS NOT AN ISSUE FOR SITHE GLOBAL. THE DELAY IS AN ISSUE FOR THE NAVAJO NATION, BECAUSE WHETHER WE BUILD THIS YEAR OR NEXT YEAR OR THE YEAR AFTER, WE'RE STILL GONNA BUILD.
From KSUT, Four Corners Public Radio, I'm Victor Locke.
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