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EPA extends stay by 45 days at New Mexico generation plant

EPA extends stay by 45 days at New Mexico generation plant
EPA extends stay by 45 days at New Mexico generation plant

New Mexico utility PNM Resources recently announced that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had made plans to extend its administrative stay by 45 days as it looks to implement a federal air quality standards plan.

The longer period will allow the EPA to address the regional haze that has come from the San Juan Generating Station as the agency looks to help the facility comply with its Clean Air Act. Now, the EPA will remain on premises until November 29, 2012.

By staying throughout November, the EPA is giving the utility more time to decide between standards established by the New Mexico Environment Department and those set by the EPA. The stay does not, however, give the company more time to be compliant with the 2016 start date of a federal implementation plan.

"We are encouraged to hear that the EPA is interested in considering the recently proposed state alternative,” said Pat Collawn, PNM Resources chairman, president and CEO. “We have supported efforts over the past 90 days to explore alternatives that could provide environmental benefits, while also reducing costs for customers. We think the proposed state alternative offers a potential way forward to achieving this goal.”

PMN will have to comply with the federally mandated plan, which entails providing a tight timeline when it comes to implementing Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) technology all on units of the generation facility. To ensure it meets this deadline, the utility has signed deals with engineering, procurement and construction contractors to have the SRC technology installed efficiently and swiftly. Each contract will include stipulations that allow PMN to scrap the project in the future if SCR technology is found to be unnecessary by the 2016 deadline.

The decision stems from companies' ability to comply with either the federal Clean Air Act or New Mexico's own clean air regulations, with costs related to the EPA's regulations reportedly much higher.

EPA investigation into Clean Air Act violations, which the agency says are issued to prevent some 230,00 early deaths by 2020, can often lead to costly downtime. However, keeping strong records on asset performance can greatly reduce this period. 

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