NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – State lawmakers are trying to figure out how to clean up the San Juan Generating Station that closed last December. They want to make sure no dangerous materials are leaking out to the surrounding community.
Lawmakers discussed possible plans at the Roundhouse Saturday as to what could be next for the coal-fired power plant.
State Representative Anthony Allison (D) is sponsoring House Bill 142, and he has concerns of the lasting impacts the generating plant could leave on the local San Juan water supply.
“I am bringing this legislation to require an independent comprehensive assessment and cleanup of the San Juan generating station and its affiliated mine site,” said Representative Allison.
After more than 50 years of operation, the City of Farmington shut down the plant, and now advocates are testifying the site needs to be cleaned up.
“The clean-up that is required by this bill is the bare minimum. New Mexico communities deserve accountability. They deserve clean air and water, and they don’t deserve health problems as a sacrifice for coal generation empowering our cities,” said Earth Care New Mexico organizer Sofia Nieto.
House Bill 142 would give both the state’s Environment and the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources departments a sum of $700,000 to ensure the generating station does not release toxins into the environment.
“Cleanup plan required in this bill will ensure that toxic metal contaminants don’t leach into the ground and leak into waterways or otherwise harm the public, animals, or agriculture and cause negative public health consequences,” said Representative Allison.
If passed, the bill would require the two departments to perform an inspection to determine if there is any contamination of land or waterways and prevent off-site pollution. The findings of the inspection would be given to lawmakers no later than April 2024.
Representative Allison said proper disposal, regular groundwater monitoring, and reporting to the public are also needed to prevent foreseeable harm to surrounding communities.
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House Bill 142 also asks owners of the generating station to prioritize hiring its previous employees as well as other New Mexicans for the clean-up. The bill would also authorize anyone impacted by the pollution or the Attorney General to use the findings of the investigation to pursue civil or criminal charges.
State legislators have tabled House Bill 142, saying it needs more clarification. They said they will revisit it once it’s amended.