Sierra Club wins Four Corners pollution deadline from EPA

FARMINGTON, N.M. - The Sierra Club won a commitment on Dec. 13 from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to finalize a pollution control plan for the Four Corners power plant near Farmington, N.M.

The Sierra Club's Rio Grande (NM) Chapter filed suit in Federal Court this past July to force the EPA to develop enforceable pollution limits at the Four Corners plant. Today, the Sierra Club agreed to settle the suit when the EPA committed to issue pollution limits for the Four Corners plant by April 30, 2007. The agreement was lodged today in Federal District Court in Albuquerque, and will become effective upon approval by the Court.

"Our children will breathe easier now that the EPA has finally committed to doing its job," said John Buchser, chair of the Sierra Club's Northern Group.

The Four Corners plant is one of the nation's largest, generating 2400 megawatts of electricity, but also one of the dirtiest in the country. The plant emits over 15 million tons of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, particulates and carbon dioxide annually, along with 590 pounds of toxic mercury. It is the top nitrogen oxide polluter of all power plants in the United States.

The Four Corners plant has operated without a pollution permit since it was built between 1960 and 1971 due to past disagreements on whether the state, Navajo Nation or federal EPA had the power to regulate the plant. The EPA decided in 1999 that it had the responsibility to issue a federal pollution control plan for the Four Corners plant, but never finalized one.

Four Corners is the only power plant in the nation to operate without a pollution permit.

"This is another example of the Sierra Club's work to improve the air people breathe in the Southwest," said Susan Martin, chair of the Sierra Club's Rio Grande Chapter in New Mexico. "Because of the size of the Four Corners plant, and the extraordinary levels of pollution it produces, this settlement, followed by enforcement of the Clean Air Act, will make a big difference to all of our citizens and generations to come."

The Four Corners plant is operated by Arizona Public Service Company, which shares ownership with Southern California Edison, Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM), Salt River Project, Tucson Electric Power and El Paso Electric.

Assuming it is approved by the Court, the Four Corners agreement is just one on a list of victories for clean air for the Sierra Club in the Southwest. Last year the Sierra Club's Rio Grande Chapter settled a lawsuit against PNM's San Juan power plant, also near Farmington, which resulted in the company committing to a major clean up of emissions from that plant.

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