For Immediate Release, September 2, 2008
Center Appeals EPA Permit for New Coal-Fired Power Plant;
Agency Disregarded Effect on Endangered Species, Climate Change
WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity today appealed the Environmental Protection Agency’s July 31, 2008 approval of a Clean Air Act permit to construct and operate the Desert Rock Energy Project. EPA approved the permit for the proposed 1,500 megawatt coal-fired power plant near Farmington, N.M., without first considering its effect on threatened and endangered species, as required by the Endangered Species Act.
Today’s appeal to EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board challenges the agency’s refusal to consider the environmental harm that the new power plant would inflict on the critically endangered Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker and other species. In granting a “prevention of significant deterioration” permit to Sithe Global LLC, the EPA failed to analyze how the plant would affect endangered and threatened species and determine whether those effects weigh against issuing a permit to build the plant.
"The Environmental Protection Agency indisputably was required to consider the consequences of approving this permit,” said Amy Atwood, senior attorney for the Center. “Their refusal to do so is a patent violation of the Endangered Species Act .”
Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that in connection with a related environmental analysis, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees may have been threatened by representatives of the company seeking the permit, Sithe Global LLC, not to consider the proposed plant’s potential contribution to climate change or consumption of the region’s precious water resources. One e-mail states that “ Sithe Global had taken the issue back to ‘ Washington, D.C.,’” and that agency employees in New Mexico “would soon be instructed by ‘ Washington’ not to address or pursue the climate change questions.”
The Desert Rock power plant could emit hundreds of millions of tons of greenhouse gases over its 50-year lifespan, exacerbating local contamination problems in the process. Climate change is already contributing to long-term drought, weakening the ability of species like the highly endangered Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker to survive and recover. In addition, the plant would contribute more contamination to the fishes’ habitat for mercury, selenium, and other contaminants.
Desert Rock would be built near three existing coal-fired power plants: the San Juan Generating Station, an 1,800 megawatt facility located 15 miles west of Farmington; the Four Corners Power Plant, a 2,040 megawatt plant about 25 miles west of Farmington; and the Navajo Generating Station, a 2,250 megawatt station located on the Navajo Nation near Page, Ariz.
“The Four Corners Power Plant, San Juan Generating Station, and Navajo Generating Station are some of the largest and highest-polluting coal-fired power plants in the nation,” Atwood said. “Adding yet another coal plant to the Four Corners region could be disastrous for local species struggling to survive, and only exacerbate further the problem of global warming.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is dedicated to ensuring that atmospheric carbon dioxide pollutant levels are reduced to below 350 parts per million (ppm), which leading climate scientists warn is necessary to prevent devastating climate change. Further development of greenhouse-intensive energy sources like coal-fired power plants is fundamentally incompatible with achieving this goal. If greenhouse emissions are not immediately reduced, the current atmospheric carbon dioxide level of 385 ppm will rise to approximately 500 ppm by mid-century, triggering mass wildlife extinctions, catastrophic global weather and ecosystem changes, and tragic human suffering.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national nonprofit conservation organization with more than 180,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
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