Last updated 12:21PM ET
December 17, 2017
KSUT Regional
KSUT Regional
EPA Approves Permit For Desert Rock
(2008-07-31)
(ksut) - 07.31.08.EPAGrantAirPermit

HOST LEAD: The Environmental Protection Agency has approved an air quality permit for a proposed 1500 megawatt power plant in the four corners.

KSUT's Sarah Baumgartner reports.

GEORGE HARDEEN: THE ONLY SURPRISED IS HOW LONG IT TOOK. THE OPPOSITION DIDN'T HELP WITH THAT.
SARAH: George Hardeen and other members of the Navajo Nation Administration have waited for four years for the Environmental Protection Agency to approve the air quality permit for the proposed $3 billion dollar Desert Rock power plant.
Hardeen says that the Navajo Nation welcomes the permits approval. However, there's been much opposition of the coal-fired power plant by environmental groups and local and state officials, in both New Mexico and Colorado.
Mike Eisenfeld is the New Mexico Energy Coordinator for the San Juan Citizens Alliance. Eisenfeld says that when the EPA approved this permit, they didn't have the people in mind.
MIKE EISENFELD: I THINK THAT THE EPA HAS MADE A POLITICAL DECISION HERE. THAT THE HEALTH OF PEOPLE OF THE FOUR CORNERS REGION IS WORTH SACRIFICING FOR CONTINUED RELIANCE ON FOSSIL FUEL GENERATION OF ELECTRICITY. AND I THINK IT'S A VERY UNFORTUNATE CIRCUMSTANCE BUT NOT SOMETHING THAT I'VE NOT BEEN EXPECTING.
Desert Rock would be located 25 miles southwest of Farmington on the Navajo Nation.
Hardeen says that Desert Rock will positively impact the Navajo Nations economy and the environment.
HARDEEN: THE NAVAJO NATION NEEDS DESERT ROCK TO HELP JUMP-START ITS ECONOMY. ITS GOING TO BE ONE OF THE CLEANEST COAL FIRED POWER PLANTS EVER BUILT ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD. IT'S A SOLUTION TO ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS NOT A CONTRIBUTOR TO ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS. AND ITS GOING TO EMPLOY THOUSANDS OF NAVAJOS.

But Eisenfeld says it's going to affect more that just that Navajo land and that Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. needs to think of all the impacts that the plant would have.
EISENFELD: JOE SHIRLEY WOULD LIKE TO PORTRAY THIS AS A NAVAJO NATION ONLY PROJECT BUT AS EVIDENCE BY THE AIR QUALITY PERMIT HEARINGS AND THE EIS HEARINGS THERE A LOT OF PEOPLE HERE IN THE FOUR CORNERS WHO BELIEVE THAT WE DESERVE BETTER.
Hardeen explains the next steps in establishing the power plant.
HARDEEN: GREEN LIGHTS GO ON SO THAT THEY CAN CONTINUE WITH THE PROCESS. BUT THIS IS NOT THE END OF IT. NOW THERE'S A COUPLE MORE STEPS TO GO. AND WE'RE PROBABLY STILL A YEAR AWAY FROM BREAKING GROUND.
Eisenfeld agrees that this is a big step in the process and says that he and the San Juan Citizens Alliance will be working hard to fight construction of Desert Rock.
EISENFELD: THIS IS ONE OF A DOZEN PERMITS THAT ARE NEEDED FOR DESERT ROCK TO EVER BE CONSTRUCTED. AND WE WILL LOOK AT OUR OPTIONS IN TERMS OF APPEALING THIS PERMIT. WE WILL BE VERY DILIGENT ABOUT MAKING SURE THAT DESERT ROCK IS NEVER BUILT.
The San Juan Citizens Alliance has 30 days to appeal the EPA's approval of the air permit.

From KSUT, Four Corners Public Radio, I'm Sarah Baumgartner.


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