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.
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
Pollution & the West
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.
Staff and Contributors
Syler Peralta-Ramos is a member of the Stanford class of 2020. He has lived in Wilson, Wyoming his whole life and developed a keen interest in nature photography and conservation from a young age, inspired by the multitude of photographers that congregate in the Teton region as well as his parents who also share a love for photography.
‘& 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