Sometimes when you’re sifting thru general news, you run across a couple of items with 6 degrees of separation that truly make you go “huh??”. Such is the case in the legal battles of the proposed hybrid dry cooled coal-fired Desert Rock plant in New Mexico.
Early this year, the Navajo Nation and Sithe Global Power filed a lawsuit against the EPA for delays in issuing an air quality permit by the July 31st deadline for the proposed plant. New Mexico’s AG said it couldn’t be done because it would be in violation of the Endangered Species Act.
Desert Rock spokesman Frank Maisano said the lawsuit was filed because the EPA broke the law by not deciding on the permit within the required time. By law, the EPA must make a decision within 12 months of receiving a completed application. Desert Rock’s application was deemed complete in May 2004.
“That’s easy math – it’s more than three years overdue at this point,” Maisano said.
The EPA agreed to the July 31 deadline to decide on the permit as part of a settlement of the lawsuit, but the state entities decided to intervene because they believe the permit cannot be acted upon until other environmental reviews are completed.~~~
In a news release, Attorney General Gary King said, “This permitting process is truly putting the cart before the horse. We believe there are a number of regulatory issues that need to be addressed by the EPA before it can make a decision on this permit.”
The issues King’s office raised include the plant’s possible effects on fish and wildlife, carbon-dioxide pollution and compliance with federal standards for ozone pollution.
Maisana, the Desert Rock representative believes they are missing the point of the lawsuit. Instead he accuses them of the delays simply because they are against the construction of the plant because it’s coal and not more expensive alternative energy… despite the advanced technology proposed.
“It’s not about the substance of the permit; it’s about why it’s taking so long for them to respond to it. They’re trying to delay this project again, and the only reason they’re doing that is because they’re against it. The only thing a delay does is hurt the Navajo nation. Shame on the New Mexico government for imposing its will on Navajo sovereignty.”
Now the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, San Juan Citizens Alliance and DinÃ© Care (a group founded by some of the Navajo tribal members opposed to the power plant) make up an environmental coalition opposed to the project, and are prepared to file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
As if on cue, and adding fuel to the coal fire, Gov. Bill Richardson sent a letter on June 19th from his gubenatorial office, accusing the EPA of “fast tracking” the process under pressure from Desert Rock. That is, if you can call four years total, from application to today, “fast tracking”.
In July of 2007, the NM Governor had this to say on his Governor’s Blog”.
I am gravely concerned about the potential environmental impacts of the proposed Desert Rock Energy Facility. I firmly believe, as currently proposed, the Desert Rock Energy Facility would be a step in the wrong direction.
I received the results of a scientific review done by the New Mexico Environment Department of the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the Desert Rock Energy Facility. The EIS fails to adequately address a number of the State’s serious concerns. As planned, this new facility will adversely impact air quality, exacerbate existing environment problems, and negatively impact scarce surface and ground water resources. Because Desert Rock has potential statewide impacts, I called for additional hearings on the draft EIS to be held in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Per my direction, the New Mexico Environment Department has submitted tough comments to the Bureau of Indian Affairs outlining these serious concerns.~~~
I hope that the Navajo Nation considers these important concerns of the State and strives to address them. I respect the sovereignty of the Navajo Nation and the rights of tribal governments to determine their economic futures and to pursue positive change within their communities. I understand the dire economic conditions and high unemployment rates on the reservation and respect the Navajo leadership’s courage and commitment to bettering the lives of its citizens. While each sovereign may disagree or have concern regarding the other’s action, it should not pose a barrier to communicating and discussing those concerns on a government-to-government basis.
Oddly enough, it was just one month later that year when then candidate Bill Richardson went on TV to tout his support for carbon clean coal.
Huh? Perhaps he meant to say he’s for carbon clean coal, but not in *his* backyard…
But, this is only more substantive proof of how the political powers never hesitate to apply intimidation and pressure when it comes to AWG. It was only last fall when the Kansas Dept of Health and Environment denied a license to twin fired coal generators based on the supposed consensus on AWG. Attempts at providing affordable energy is being thwarted at not only federal, but state levels with disturbing regularity.
Now I told you that story so I could tell you *this* story….
It appears the UN has no problems subsidizing new coal fired plants in India and China as part of their pollution cutting projects in the “developing” world…. much to the chagrin of the enviros.
Note: Linked thru digg.. otherwise you’d have to subscribe to read the article in full on WSJ. Just click on the headline.
A United Nations program designed to combat global warming has started doing something no one expected: It is subsidizing fossil-fuel power plants that spew millions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere annually.
In the past year or so, 13 big plants in India and China that burn natural gas have won the U.N.’s blessing as aids in the fight against climate change. As a result, owners of the plants earn millions of dollars a year from a U.N. program intended to spur construction of solar panels, wind turbines and other renewable-energy projects.~~~
The U.N. is now venturing further onto controversial turf. In recent months it has opened the door to subsidizing new coal-burning plants. Advocates argue that modern, cleaner-burning fossil-fuel technology is expensive, and without help paying for it, owners would build old-style plants that pollute more.
U.N. officials strongly defend their approach. For more than a year, they have been taking a harder line in judging proposed emission-cutting projects of all stripes, they point out. And since the world is widely expected to continue to get most of its energy from fossil fuels for decades, U.N. officials say it’s entirely appropriate for the program to subsidize plants that burn that fuel more cleanly.~~~
Critics say the U.N. program is straying from its purpose of promoting renewable-energy projects. “Coal is, like, climate enemy No. 1,” says Michael Wara, a Stanford University lecturer who has published several papers criticizing the U.N. program. For every unit of power it produces, burning coal generates more greenhouse gas than burning natural gas.
uh… evidently, someone forgot to alert the NM Governor of the UN’s dual face on AWG and fossil fuel energy…
What’s particularly heinous about the UN subsidies is that the plants would have gone ahead without the UN funds anyway, and that this money depletes funds that would actually be used for their AWG alternative energy pet projects. Instead, they justify the aid because “the world is widely expected to continue to get most of its energy from fossil fuels for decades…”.
One of the fundamental principles of the U.N. initiative, called the Clean Development Mechanism, is that it should subsidize pollution-cutting projects only if they would otherwise be too expensive to build. The Tata Power plant, however, will be built whether or not it gets the U.N. program’s financial aid. The power plant “has to go on. We’ve already started the project,” says Prasad Menon, Tata Power’s managing director.
In addition, the Indian government essentially required the plant to use high-efficiency technology. Mr. Menon argues the project should still receive the U.N. subsidies because “it’s a good move for the West to encourage India to move in this direction.”
It appears that the tact change in the UN’s program just may be cutting their nose off their proverbial climate change face.
Under the U.N. program, companies in wealthy nations can meet their environmental obligations at home by financing pollution-cutting projects in the developing world. Companies in the developing world get cash, while the companies in the West get “carbon credits” — permission slips to continue coughing out their own carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The system is designed to curb world-wide emissions at the lowest possible cost.
But the system works only if the developing-world projects actually cut emissions. If projects such as coal-and gas-fired plants India and China would have been built even without financial aid, then the U.N. program isn’t actually cutting emissions.
ooops… So much for wise use of money management for stopping the world’s impending doom. But then, when you’re as mismanaged, administration heavy and corrupt as the UN, expecting them to actually put their money where their AWG mouths are is highly unlikely.
As for Desert Rock, there’s 18,000 Navajo familes without electricity. The tribe members are split… but those opposed have many other things on their mind besides emissions. A Reuters article appearing on their Desert Rock blog Mar 28th tells of the two sides of the coin.
Joe Shirley, the Navajo president, wants it for the 400 long term jobs, and the $50 mil annual income to the Navajo Nation. But the longer the opposition can drag out the building process, the more expensive a proposition it becomes to implement – eating into their budget to use the more expensive, clean technology. Convenient, eh?
Tribe members that oppose the plant are those who may get transplanted because of the building site. Others worry that the strip mining may degrade the soil, and/or are peeved that the electricity generated would be sent elsewhere instead of fulfilling their own desperate needs for power. They have plans to build a 500mw wind farm, which may help additional families get the needed power. But that still leaves them shy for their needs. And considering some of advantages of solar systems is a lower running cost – i.e. no supervision, less maintenance – this certainly cuts into the permanent jobs created.
So the dichotomy remains… as the UN provides financial aid to the equivalent elsewhere, Bill Richardson and his environmental pals stand firm in the path of not only power for the Navajos, but what could serve as a much needed economic boost with job growth. If the UN thinks it’s good enough for China and India, and those to come in the future, why not for the Navajo Nation, here today?
Vietnam era Navy wife, indy/conservative, and an official California escapee now residing as a red speck in the sea of Oregon blue.