New Mexico Attorney General Gary King is hoping that a new Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) under Barack Obama’s administration will provide a fair hearing in his appeal of an air permit. On July 31, 2008, the EPA granted an air permit to the proposed 1,500 megawatt coal-burning plant, but King hopes that a new administration might force the EPA to reconsider.
Sithe Global Power LLC currently plans to build the plant on Navajo reservation lands approximately 25 miles southwest of Farmington, New Mexico. Leaders of the Navajo Nation have supported the project primarily because of the job creation and revenues it will bring. However, on November 18, King filed an appeal to EPA to consider new evidence. King notes that San Juan County, the region where the Desert Rock plant would be built, reached non-attainment status for ozone levels in October.
Recent events involving Utah’s Bonanza Power Plant might also support King’s arguments. On November 13, the EPA’s Appeals Board ruled that the agency must reconsider Bonanza’s air permit after it found that there was no valid reason for choosing not to regulate the plant’s green-house gas emissions. The Bonanza Power Plant would emit about a third of the planned Desert Rock facility’s estimated 12.7 million tons of carbon dioxide.
King said that he has talked to energy and environmental representatives about the Desert Rock facility and how carbon dioxide issues should be addressed by EPA now and in the future. King believes that a decision could come before the end of January and hopes that the new EPA will address all related issues fairly.
At this point, it is unclear to what degree a “greener” Obama EPA will invite appeals of other apparently settled environmental decisions.