No changes for New Mexico coal-fired plant with Trump order

By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Part of a coal-fired power plant in northwestern New Mexico is still scheduled for retirement despite President Donald Trump's executive order Tuesday to roll back measures aimed at tackling global warming. And the state's largest electric provider has no plans to shift gears when it comes to promoting cleaner energy, a spokesman said.

 

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Part of a coal-fired power plant in northwestern New Mexico is still scheduled for retirement despite President Donald Trump's executive order Tuesday to roll back measures aimed at tackling global warming. And the state's largest electric provider has no plans to shift gears when it comes to promoting cleaner energy, a spokesman said.

Trump made good on a campaign promise to unravel the previous administration's efforts to restrict coal use. Several of the mandates could be suspended, rescinded or flagged for review to boost domestic energy production in the form of fossil fuels.

The president argued his order would revive the coal industry and create a level playing field for workers.

"It will take time to see how the president's actions may or may not impact our business going forward," said Pahl Shipley, a spokesman for Public Service Co. of New Mexico.

Pressure to limit regional haze-causing pollution and other emissions from coal-fired power plants resulted in an agreement between the utility and federal and state regulators to close two units at the utility's San Juan Generating Station by the end of 2017.

The agreement was years in the making, and Shipley said the utility doesn't expect Trump's order to change the planned retirement or the company's efforts to continue to integrate cleaner resources into its portfolio. The utility already has invested nearly $270 million in solar farms across the state in recent years.

The utility is also determining the future of the remaining units at the San Juan plant and whether they will operate beyond 2022. A preliminary analysis showed closing the plant could provide long-term benefits to customers. Affordability and environmental responsibility are among the factors the utility will consider before making a final decision.

Environmentalists have been pushing for years to close the plant, citing pollution concerns.

Many of the groups that have criticized coal-fired power plants in the Four Corners region — where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet — expressed concern about Trump's order.

They say renewable energy and energy efficiency programs have created jobs for New Mexico and that maintaining the effort will help reduce pollution and the state's high unemployment rate.

Supporters of the region's coal-fired plants have countered that closing them would leave plant workers and coal miners without jobs. Many are held by members of the Navajo and Hopi tribes.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas joined other attorneys general Tuesday to oppose Trump's order. The prosecutors warned that legal action could be an option for keeping the federal pollution mandates in place.

U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich also sent a letter along with several congressional colleagues to the president asking him to rescind the order.

The New Mexico Democrats argued that the order fails to support the solar and wind industry, which according to their estimates account for nearly 144,000 jobs and $83 billion in existing capital investment in Western states.

U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, the sole Republican member of New Mexico's congressional delegation, said former President Barack Obama's initiatives "crippled economic opportunity in New Mexico and across the nation" and that overturning the regulations will reduce the overreach of the federal government and ensure access to affordable energy.

Pearce also said reinvesting in New Mexico's energy resources will mean more revenue for public schools and other government programs.

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