Four Corners plant rates at top in pollution category

By Lisa Meerts, Farmington Daily Times, 7/30/07

No power plant in the country emits more total nitrogen oxides than the Four Corners Power Plant, according to a new report compiled from government data called "Dirty Kilowatts."

It and the San Juan Generating Station both made lists of the 50 dirtiest power plants in the U.S. for three pollutants. Neither power plant, however, were among the dirtiest for sulfur dioxide, a haze-causing pollutant. And taken on a per megawatt basis, both fell off lists for carbon dioxide and mercury.

Richard Grimes, environment and health safety manager at the Four Corners Power Plant, said controlling nitrogen oxide remains its biggest challenge. A large plant producing 2,040 megawatts, it likewise puts out a large amount of emissions. There was a positive side to the report, he added.

"If you look at the composite score for the power plant, we don't make the top 50," he said.

The plant has been retrofitted with some pollution control technology that has cut nitrogen oxide emissions in half and sulfur dioxide emissions by almost 90 percent. As are many plants, Four Corners also has begun to investigate ways to address carbon dioxide emissions.
"That's going to be a very large challenge for all fossil fuel industry," he said.

The Environmental Integrity Project has compiled the data for four years and has it available at Ilan Elvin, an attorney representing the nonprofit group, said the same power plants often reappear on the lists, which looks at carbon dioxide, mercury, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions. It compares total emissions to per megawatt emissions.

The only way a power plant comes off the list is when it cleans up and that happens only when it becomes mandated, he said. The project is pushing for carbon dioxide regulations as well as stricter limits for regulated pollutants.

"Without federal or state legislation, based on the track record of the electric power industry, we don't expect to see these power plants make these reductions," said Elvin.

The Four Corners Power Plant may be in compliance with all standards but that's no excuse for being the No. 1 emitter of nitrogen oxide, he said. Large power plants across the country have successfully dropped their nitrogen oxide emissions, so it should not be too difficult, he added.

The 2,480-megawatt WA Parish power plant in Texas, for instance, cut its nitrogen oxide emissions by 90 percent after installing $430 million worth of technology. David Knox, communications manager for NRG, which runs the plant, said it was required because Houston exceeded the health-based ozone standard.

Jeff Buell, a spokesman for PNM, which runs the San Juan Generating Station, said the numbers contained in the report do not tell a new story. The plant meets all the limits set in its air permits and continues to work toward reducing emissions by, for instance, installing $300 million of new pollution-control equipment.

The Environmental Integrity Group puts out the information to show people who live near power plants what exactly blows out of smoke stacks and to help legislators see the problems, said Elvin. Should new coal-fired power plants continue to be built, the pollution issues will increase.

"We hope this report shines a light on some of those (dirty) power plants but the question is whether coal can be a part of our energy future," he said.

Lisa Meerts:



Reprinted as an historical reference document under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law.