San Juan County takes steps to require power plant demolition upon closure

With less than a year left before San Juan Generating Station’s scheduled closure, San Juan County officials are concerned that the facility could become an eyesore if it is retired in place rather than immediately demolished. In the past, the plant’s majority owner, Public Service Company of New Mexico, has said retirement in place—which means […]

San Juan County takes steps to require power plant demolition upon closure

With less than a year left before San Juan Generating Station’s scheduled closure, San Juan County officials are concerned that the facility could become an eyesore if it is retired in place rather than immediately demolished.

In the past, the plant’s majority owner, Public Service Company of New Mexico, has said retirement in place—which means making the facility safe and fencing it off but not demolishing it—would save customers money. If the owners choose to go that route, it could be decades before the facility is demolished.

But an ordinance that the San Juan County Commission is expected to adopt would require demolition of coal-fired power plants upon closure.

The commission approved publishing a notice of intent to adopt the ordinance during its Tuesday meeting and a final vote on the measure is scheduled for Nov. 9.

The ordinance requires the owner of a coal-fired power plant located in San Juan County to submit a proposed remediation plan at least three months prior to the retirement of the facility.

San Juan County has two coal-fired power plants—San Juan Generating Station and Four Corners Power Plant—however the Four Corners Power Plant is located on Navajo Nation lands and falls under the tribe’s jurisdiction.

In addition to PNM, the San Juan Generating Station is owned by Tucson Electric Power, the City of Farmington, Los Alamos County and Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems. The ordinance states that these owners can jointly submit a remediation plan or the plans can be submitted separately, but each owner would be required to submit a plan.

San Juan County Attorney Joe Sawyer said the plans must describe how the remediation will occur and how it will be funded.

These plans would be evaluated by a qualified engineer, which San Juan County will hire.

“After the plan is approved by the county with the assistance of a qualified engineer, the facility will be demolished upon requirement according to the plan and in accordance with state and local law,” Sawyer said during the commission meeting.

San Juan County maintains that the ordinance falls in line with the Energy Transition Act, which the state Legislature passed in 2019.

This act provides a funding mechanism for power plant decommissioning through securitization, which allows PNM to access low-interest bonds to refinance past investments into the power plant. These bonds are also intended to fund economic development efforts in impacted communities as well as workforce training for the workers who will lose their jobs when the plant closes.

The City of Farmington is working to take ownership of the San Juan Generating Station in 2022 and transfer the majority ownership to Enchant Energy, a company with plans to retrofit the power plant with carbon capture technology.

If that occurs, County Manager Mike Stark said Enchant Energy would be required to submit the remediation plan.

“When the facility ceases to operate…the right thing [for the owners] to do would be to make sure that we don’t have a visible eyesore on the landscape or any lingering negative environmental consequences,” he said. “This ordinance would help to ensure that.”

Not all of the infrastructure at the power plant will be required to be demolished as some of the infrastructure is needed for other projects. The substation at the facility will continue to be used, including possibly as a tie-in for the Invenergy transmission line. Prior to discussing the ordinance, the San Juan County Commission heard a presentation from Invenergy about the transmission line that would transport renewable energy generated in Union County to San Juan County and would cross eight counties in New Mexico.

The water conveyance infrastructure at the San Juan Generating Station also has future uses. In an update to the Indian Affairs Committee on Tuesday, State Engineer John D’Antonio said the Navajo-Gallup water supply project could use that infrastructure as an intake location for the San Juan lateral.

The San Juan Generating Station takes water from the San Juan River and stores it in a reservoir for use in the power plant. These facilities could be repurposed to provide additional storage and water conveyance, D’Antonio said.

Stark said the large infrastructure, including the smokestacks that can be seen for miles, will have to be demolished under the ordinance.

County Commissioner GloJean Todacheene said PNM has met with community leaders in the past and spoke about being good neighbors and good stewards of the land.

“They need to be held to what they used to tell us,” she said.

We're ad free

That means that we rely on support from readers like you. Help us keep reporting on the most important New Mexico Stories by donating today.

Related

Both Republicans and Democrats skeptical of guv’s proposals for special session

Both Republicans and Democrats skeptical of guv’s proposals for special session

A representative from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office outlined on Thursday the bills the governor’s office will back during the upcoming special session, but…
Senators throw support to embattled Ivey-Soto

Senators throw support to embattled Ivey-Soto

By Justin Horwath, New Mexico In Dept Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto is running for a fourth term despite the state Democratic Party’s decision to censure…
AG announces legislative priorities for upcoming special session

AG announces legislative priorities for upcoming special session

Attorney General Raúl Torrez announced on Thursday his legislative priorities for July’s special legislative session, including the creation of a crime victim’s unit to…
PNM seeks rate increase

PNM seeks rate increase

Customers of New Mexico’s largest electric utility may pay more for energy in the future. The Public Service Company of New Mexico filed an…
DOE announces funding to help bring technologies to market

DOE announces funding to help bring technologies to market

National laboratories across the country, including Sandia National Laboratories, will use millions of dollars in federal funding to spur the deployment of projects related…
LANL plans to release highly radioactive tritium to prevent explosions. Will it just release danger in the air?

LANL plans to release highly radioactive tritium to prevent explosions. Will it just release danger in the air?

By Alicia Inez Guzmán, Searchlight New Mexico Last fall, the international community rose up in defense of the Pacific Ocean. Seafood and salt purveyors,…
Stansbury outlines funding secured for early childhood and youth services programs

Stansbury outlines funding secured for early childhood and youth services programs

U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury secured $8.3 million for childhood development and youth services in the 1st congressional district through federal community project funding. Stansbury,…
Amid new graduation requirements, what do high schoolers want to learn?

Amid new graduation requirements, what do high schoolers want to learn?

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican The main things that bring Brayan Chavez to school every day: Seeing, talking to and engaging with…
Special ed teachers hope lawmakers OK pay raises, admin changes

Special ed teachers hope lawmakers OK pay raises, admin changes

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican Brittany Behenna Griffith has a laundry list of adjectives to describe the ideal special education teacher:…
Heinrich questions FDA leadership on baby formula safety, mifepristone

Heinrich questions FDA leadership on baby formula safety, mifepristone

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf answered questions about the safety of human milk formula and mifepristone on Wednesday. Sen. Martin…
Health workers fear it’s profits before protection as CDC revisits airborne transmission

Health workers fear it’s profits before protection as CDC revisits airborne transmission

Amy Maxmen, KFF Health News Four years after hospitals in New York City overflowed with covid-19 patients, emergency physician Sonya Stokes remains shaken by…
Lujan Grisham, Biden admin announce $10 million in federal funds for tribes, pueblos

Lujan Grisham, Biden admin announce $10 million in federal funds for tribes, pueblos

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Friday $10 million in funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act was awarded to six tribal nations and…
Abortion medication access remains after Supreme Court ruling

Abortion medication access remains after Supreme Court ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Texas-based Christian group trying to restrict access to abortion medication on Thursday. The case, FDA v. the…
How abortion care has changed since Dobbs 

How abortion care has changed since Dobbs 

In the month of March 2024 alone, 1,650 clinician-provided abortions took place in New Mexico, according to the reproductive research organization, the Guttmacher Institute.…
Many Democrats endorsed by reproductive rights group won primaries

Many Democrats endorsed by reproductive rights group won primaries

With nearly 53 percent of the precincts reporting as of 11 p.m. Tuesday, most of the legislative candidates endorsed by Planned Parenthood Votes New…
New Mexico food banks say food insecurity is on the rise

New Mexico food banks say food insecurity is on the rise

Food insecurity is on the rise as state benefits have decreased and the future of federal benefits have an uncertain future.  Sonya Warwick, director…
Abortion medication access remains after Supreme Court ruling

Abortion medication access remains after Supreme Court ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Texas-based Christian group trying to restrict access to abortion medication on Thursday. The case, FDA v. the…
How abortion care has changed since Dobbs 

How abortion care has changed since Dobbs 

In the month of March 2024 alone, 1,650 clinician-provided abortions took place in New Mexico, according to the reproductive research organization, the Guttmacher Institute.…
Republican Herrell signs onto what critics call anti-transgender message

Republican Herrell signs onto what critics call anti-transgender message

Republican candidate Yvette Herrell, who is running against Democrat Rep. Gabe Vasquez for New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District seat, committed herself to a message…
Post-primary, Biden leads Trump in NM

Post-primary, Biden leads Trump in NM

President Joe Biden leads former president Donald Trump in the race for New Mexico’s five electoral seats, according to a poll commissioned by NM…
Democrats announce spending on CD2 race

Democrats announce spending on CD2 race

The Democratic National Committee announced on Monday that it will spend $70,000 for organizing staff to aid U.S. Rep. Gabe Vasquez, the Democrat trying…
Heinrich leads U.S. Senate race as general election campaigning starts

Heinrich leads U.S. Senate race as general election campaigning starts

Incumbent U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich starts the general election for his second reelection campaign ahead by seven points over his Republican challenger. According to…
Post-primary, Biden leads Trump in NM

Post-primary, Biden leads Trump in NM

President Joe Biden leads former president Donald Trump in the race for New Mexico’s five electoral seats, according to a poll commissioned by NM…
New Mexico food banks say food insecurity is on the rise

New Mexico food banks say food insecurity is on the rise

Food insecurity is on the rise as state benefits have decreased and the future of federal benefits have an uncertain future.  Sonya Warwick, director…

GET INVOLVED

© 2023 New Mexico Political Report