AG seeks to slow coal-fired plant's approval process

Chris Rizo Jul. 10, 2008, 3:59pm

Gary King (D)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (Legal Newsline)---New Mexico Attorney General Gary King has filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and supporters of the proposed Desert Rock power plant on Navajo Nation trust land in the Four Corners area of the state.

"New Mexico cannot afford to sit idly by as attempts are being made to skirt the legal requirements for a new coal-fired power plant to be built in the state," King said Thursday.

The Democratic attorney general filed the joint petition along with the New Mexico Environment Department, his office said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said the agency will issue a decision on the coal-fired plant's air permit by July 31, as part of a proposed settlement of a lawsuit Desert Rock developers brought against the agency for allegedly delaying action on a needed permit for the plant.

The state seeks to intervene in the federal lawsuit because the July 31 deadline would mean that the EPA would act on the permit before it completes obligatory environmental reviews, the AG's office said.

Among other things, the EPA must consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the impacts of Desert Rock on endangered species, a process that can take several months to complete, before the permits can be issued.

"This permitting process is truly putting the cart before the horse. We believe there a number of regulatory issues that need to be addressed by the EPA before it can make a decision on this permit," King said.

"The effects on fish and other wildlife under the Endangered Species Act must be considered; carbon dioxide pollutant levels must be determined; compliance with new federal standards for ozone pollution must be met; and the maximum achievable control technology standards for hazardous air pollutants have yet to be addressed by the EPA," he added.

In a letter last month to the EPA, King and Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson warned that fast-tracking the permit for the Desert Rock project could worsen air quality and adversely affect the health of those in the region.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo by e-mail at

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