Environmental groups challenge Desert Rock decision
By Cornelia de Bruin, The
Daily Times, AUGUST 15, 2008
BURNHAM — A coalition of seven
environmental groups, represented by Earthjustice attorney
Nick Persampieri, Thursday filed a challenge to the
federal Environmental Protection Agency's July 31 decision
to grant an air permit for Desert Rock.
Desert Rock Power Plant is the
1,500 megawatt pulverized coal-burning plant proposed
near Burnham, about 30 miles southwest of Farmington
on the Navajo Nation.
"We feel EPA placed the public
health and the environment at risk by not doing a number
of required analyses before it issued the permit,"
The challenge to the EPA's Environmental
Appeals Board in Washington, D.C., enumerates five main
points it states were not addressed in advance of the
permit. They include:
- Failure to do a Maximum Achievable
Control Technology analysis for hazardous air pollutants.
- Improper analysis of whether the
plant violates national ozone standards — of special
concern in San Juan County, where ozone levels hovered
at the new federal ozone level of 0.75 parts per billion
of ozone to air much of the summer.
- Failure to include emission limitations
for carbon dioxide — an issue within New Mexico because
of Gov. Bill Richardson's 2005 executive order mandating
greenhouse gas emissions be reported.
- Failure to consider impacts related
to mining, disposal of combustion waste and impacts
on the region's scarce water supplies.
- No consultation with other agencies,
as required, on the impacts of the plant on endangered
"This was a politically motivated
decision to issue the permit in response to Sithe's
suit against EPA," Persampieri said. "EPA
caved in to the pressure and issued the permit without
doing the analyses."
Sithe Global is funding the plant's
construction. It will be operated by Diné Power
Authority, an entity created by the Navajo Tribal Government.
"We are also very concerned about
mercury pollution, especially because the fish in the
San Juan River are already compromised," Persampieri
said. "Advisories already exist for several lakes
in the Four Corners area."
The groups want the Environmental Appeals
Board to withdraw the permit and require the agency
to complete the required analyses. The coalition contends
the double actions ultimately would lead to denial of
or significant changes to the permit.
"This permit is another example
of the rush by the agency's political appointees to
hand out gifts to industry before President Bush leaves
office," said Dailan J. Long of Diné CARE,
a Navajo tribal group that opposes the plant.
Frank Maisano, Desert Rock spokesman,
said the latest challenge is simply more of the same
from environmental groups.
"They're misconstrued, they're
misleading and in some cases they're just plain wrong,"
he said. "This is the most strict permit that EPA
has ever issued."
The appeal seeks a 45-day extension
of time, until Oct. 17, in which to file a supplemental
brief with a complete and detailed description of each
of the objections.
EPA had no comment on the petition —
the first of several expected to be filed.
"We don't comment on pending litigation,"
said EPA Region 9 spokeswoman Margot Perez-Sullivan.
Gov. Richardson and New Mexico Environment
Department indicated on July 31 their intentions to
challenge the permit decision.
Challenges must be filed within 30 days
of EPA's decision, giving those preparing the documents
until Aug. 30 to complete them.
Thursday's petition was filed by the
Sierra Club, Diné CARE, San Juan Citizens Alliance,
Grand Canyon Trust, WildEarth Guardians, Environmental
Defense Fund and Natural Resources Defense Council.
Cornelia de Bruin: email@example.com