San Juan Generating Station Air Pollution Challenge

Commissioned in 1973, the San Juan Generating Station (SJGS), a coal-fired power plant in northeast New Mexico, is one of America’s largest single sources of harmful air pollutants including nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. The pollution from the San Juan coal plant causes increased rates of asthma, heart attacks, strokes, cancer, birth defects and infant mortality. The cost to human health is estimated at $255 million a year, according to the Clean Air Task Force. Moreover, the pollution exacerbates climate change, causing record-setting droughts and wild fires with dire economic consequences in the Southwest.

In 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered SJGS’s owner, New Mexico power company PNM Resources (PNM), to install pollution controls on the smokestacks to bring the plant into compliance with the Clean Air Act. Even though PNM had years of warning, it filed a lawsuit challenging EPA’s decision. On behalf of regional and national conservation groups, WELC joined the lawsuit to ensure the company complied with EPA’s mandate. As a result of our and others’ defense of the mandate, half of the plant’s coal-burning capacity was retired in 2013.

The retirements are a good start, but the fight is not over. WELC and its allies will continue to advocate for full and fair compliance with bedrock environmental laws and work to ensure that PNM replaces SJGS’ coal-fired power with energy efficiency and clean, renewable energy from the sun and wind.

Our most recent challenge targets a 25-year extension of the dirty coal complex, green-lighted by the U.S. Department of Interior without considering any clean energy alternatives. For 54 years, dirty coal has harmed this area’s public health, communities, wildlife, and climate. We’re working hard to ensure a speedy transition from the dirtiest fuel on Earth to the abundant sun, wind, and other renewable opportunities the region offers. We filed a case on behalf of Navajo, citizen, and environmental groups the week of Earth Day 2016.