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Updated: Friday, 02 Mar 2012, 10:34 AM MST
Published : Friday, 02 Mar 2012, 10:34 AM MST
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A federal appeals court Thursday denied a request by Gov. Susana Martinez's administration and Public Service Company of New Mexico to delay pollution control requirements from taking effect at a coal-fired power plant in northwest New Mexico.
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals refused their request to put off regulations adopted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last year. The requirements are aimed at curbing haze-causing pollution at the San Juan Generating Station.
The ruling means PNM will have to start investing money to comply with the requirements within the next five years while it continues to appeal the agency's mandate in court.
PNM said the mandate, which would cost New Mexico ratepayers and others at least $750 million, could eventually be struck down by the courts.
"We remain committed to resolving this issue and, ultimately, to installing the most cost-effective, new visibility controls on the San Juan power plant," PNM president and chief executive Pat Vincent-Collawn said.
PNM believes it has a strong case to make that EPA violated the Clean Air Act and its own regulations in determining the best technology for the plant, she said.
Environmental groups were pleased with the appellate court's decision.
Suma Peesapati, a staff attorney with Earthjustice, said it signaled that the public interest and the environment outweighed PNM's claims.
"We don't know how long it's going to take to resolve this case through the courts," she said. "Ultimately, PNM is going to have to do something with this plant to comply with the Clean Air Act."
PNM and state officials have petitioned the agency to adopt New Mexico's plan for dealing with haze-causing pollution. They argue it would accomplish the same thing as the EPA plan but at a lower cost to ratepayers.
At issue is whether PNM should install selective catalytic reduction technology, as mandated by the EPA. New Mexico's plan calls for a different technology that would reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 20 percent annually.
Environmental groups have argued the EPA plan would do more to cut down on emissions.
"Now it's really time for PNM and Gov. Martinez to stop standing against the health of our communities who breathe this coal plant's pollution day in and day out," said Sarah Jane White, a member of the Navajo group Dine CARE.
The 1,800-megawatt plant is New Mexico's single largest source of electricity and also provides power to customers in California, Arizona and Utah. PNM owns 46 percent of the plant and operates it on behalf of eight other owners.
PNM has already issued a request for proposals for design and construction of the EPA-required technology. About $246 million of the total project cost would be spent through 2013, a time in which the court appeals could still be pending.
PNM's share of the initial cost is expected to total about $22 million through the end of 2012 and about $113 million through 2013.
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