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Update: October 3, 2022

After 50 years of operation, the San Juan Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant that was the beating heart of both the energy and economy of northwest New Mexico, has closed its doors. 

While the town of Farmington holds out hope that the plant can be repurposed as a facility to capture carbon, at the moment, none of what were four power-generating units are working. The last one, unit four, shut down this week.

The closure of the Public Service of New Mexico plant was a logical sequel to the state legislatures passage of a law in 2019 — the Energy Transition Act — designed to phase out the state’s production of fossil-fuel energy by 2045.

The company has been trying — unsuccessfully, so far — to extricate itself from ownership of another large coal plant, the Four Corners Generating station. Its legal efforts continue. 

Both the now-shuttered San Juan plant and the Four Corners plant were part of a generation of half a dozen or so plants built in the Four Corners area in the 1960 and 1970s, which were central to the economy of the region and its Native residents, particularly the Navajo. The plants’ polluting emissions also had a major impact on residents’ health.

There is continuing debate over whether the ratepayers or the shareholders of PNM should bear the cost of the plant’s closure and the transition to clean energy.

Update: May 23, 2022

It took 2 ½ years and a new administration in the White House for the EPA to decide in March to restore California’s ability to set its own air pollution limits for motor vehicle tailpipe emissions. The federal government granted this waiver more than 50 years ago, largely because California’s air was dramatically more polluted than the rest of the country; it revived the waiver on March 14 of this year.

It took two months for a coalition of 17 Republican state attorneys general to go to court seeking revocation of the waiver, again. The move comes shortly after the release of the American Lung Association’s annual report on air pollution across the country . California locations, particularly regions of the San Joaquin Valley around Fresno, Bakersfield and Visalia, still rank in the top five for regions plagued with ozone and long-lived particulate pollution.

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia follow California’s lead in setting standards; the group represents almost 40 percent of the national auto market. The 17 states seeking to strip California of its independence in controlling tailpipe pollution are led by Ohio’s attorney general. They include Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah. Both Texas and Utah also had metropolitan areas ranking in the top 10 of areas most polluted by ozone: Houston in Texas and Salt Lake City in Utah.

Read the original story from September 2019.


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Staff and Contributors

Felicity Barringer

Lead writer

A national environmental correspondent during the last decade of her 28 years at The New York Times, Felicity provided an in-depth look at the adoption of AB 32, California’s landmark climate-change bill after covering state’s carbon reduction policies. MORE »

Geoff McGhee

Associate editor

Geoff McGhee specializes in interactive data visualization and multimedia storytelling. He is a veteran of the multimedia and infographics staffs at The New York Times, Le Monde and ABCNews.com. MORE »

Xavier Martinez

Xavier Martinez

Editorial Assistant

Xavier graduated from Stanford in 2023 with a degree in economics and is currently a master’s student in Stanford’s journalism program. He has written about the high phone call costs faced by U.S. inmates, temporary Mexican workers’ interactions with the labor market and the efficacy of government healthcare assistance programs. A lifelong lover of charts and maps, he enjoys combining data journalism with narrative-style reporting. 

‘& the West’ is published by the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University, which is dedicated to research, teaching, and journalism about the past, present, and future of the North American West.

Bruce E. Cain

Faculty Director

Kate Gibson

Associate Director


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