Pass the San Juan Coal Plant Clean Up Act

San Juan Coal Plant Clean Up Act

House Bill 142

UPDATE: Bill passed and is on the Governor’s Desk to sign

HB142 the Generating Facility and Mine Remediation Act was rolled last week when concerns brought up by EMNRD and NMED were raised. Those concerns have been addressed and committee substitute will be heard tomorrow at 9:00AM to ensure that the 59 million tons of coal ash at the abandoned San Juan Generating Station plant and mine are properly cleaned up and the San Juan river watershed is protected from toxic contamination.

The revised bill authorizes NMED and EMNRD to hire outside consultants, environmental engineers, hydrologists, geochemists and other professionals who have experience with coal plant and mine closures to perform an independent comprehensive assessment and report back to the legislature.The assessment will be posted on line no later than July 1, 2025 a copy of the remediation and restoration study shall be provided to the legislature with specific measurable steps, informed by input from impacted communities, to oversee and enforce full remediation and restoration plans. A presentation of the study shall occur at a meeting of the legislative interim committee  and shall  detail how the energy, minerals and natural resources department and the department of environment shall ensure timely environmental compliance with the owners of the  generating facility and mine to protect public health and welfare. The bill also requires yearly updates to the legislature. 

Last week San Juan residents, farmers and water protectors showed up in force to implore lawmakers to prevent toxic contamination of our precious water. This week we expect the committee substitute to be adopted without public comment, but we ask everyone who hasn’t done so to click on the button below to email committee members about your support for HB 142. The more you personalize the subject and the message, the better.

House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee

Matthew McQueen, Chair Saturday, February 4, 2023  –  9:00AM  –  Room 317 Please contact Representatives to Pass the Bill .thank you 

House Energy, Environment & Natural Resources Committee Members
RepresentativeMatthew McQueen50DChair
RepresentativeDebra M. Sariñana21DVice Chair
RepresentativeJames G. Townsend54RRanking Member
RepresentativeCynthia Borrego17DMember
RepresentativeMeredith A. Dixon20DMember
RepresentativeMiguel P. García14DMember
RepresentativeRod Montoya1RMember
RepresentativeGreg Nibert59RMember
RepresentativeAngelica Rubio35DMember
RepresentativeLarry R. Scott62RMember
RepresentativeNathan P. Small36DMember
House Environmental Committee

Problem to be solved: Public Service Company of New Mexico (“PNM”) has closed its flagship coal plant, San Juan Generating Station (SJGS) and the adjacent San Juan Mine (SJM), after 50 years of operation. There is a history of contamination of the San Juan site at its 250-acre site. An independent comprehensive assessment must be performed in order to develop a comprehensive cleanup plan. 

Essentially, WE NEED A SECOND OPINION. PNM says no problem; the people say we want other advice.

In essence, what will the bill do:

1. Legislature to allocate money to NMED/EMNRD to do an independent comprehensive study of San Juan Generating Station and mine

2. devise a plan with community input to actually clean up 

3. monitor & enforce plan (overseeing PNM and other owners to implement plan)

4. report back to legislature on progress. 

Representatives Anthony Allison and Reena Szczepanski are the lead sponsors on the bill. 

Link to the one pager

one pager on San Juan Coal Plant Clean Up Act
back side of One pager

Common Ground Rising Letter

 Dear New Mexico Legislators, February 3 2023 

Don’t Kick The Can Down the Road.

The tribal sovereigns and communities on the San Juan River Basin deserve your protection and care to vote in favor of the “San Juan Coal Plant Clean Up Act.”  All stakeholders in this effort must have an agreement on the capability to anticipate, prepare for, respond to and recover from impacts and minimize damage to social well-being, including damage to the economy, health and the environment. Voting in favor of this bill is the first step to implementing resilience in the Four Corners. This act is a pathway towards restoration of the site conditions as they were before the land disturbance.   

During the recent Legislative hearing concerns were brought up about health privacy. Please  see the mapping screening tools that aggregate the social disparate information for consideration regarding implementing regulations, ordinances, on social and health impacts in an impacted area. These screen mapping tools give a picture of the vulnerability in the community. Privacy information would be that same for any google map on the internet that would be able to direct a home food delivery service. The information looks at the area rather than specific home addresses. These tools are public tools and are not considered classified information. Individual health data is protected with these tools. An example would be the general number of hospitalizations from asthma, lung cancers, and premature deaths, not specific information of name and age, such as, John Doe, age 55. Rather would show up as a number of someone who died from lung cancer, lived 5 miles downwind from the coal plant, lived on a contamination plume and whose drinking water was from groundwater wells. This information is crucial in determining the economic and cumulative impact from the contamination on the community. Industry has spent much money in New Mexico preventing these numbers from going public and being considered. Now technology has given public access to communities, local, state and federal agencies to access data in order to make sound decisions.            

Economic risks – The economic risks posed by potential contamination of groundwater wells and the San Juan River are enormous. The river is a primary water source for Navajo and Jicarilla Apache people – well over 50 percent of the San Juan River watershed are Native American lands. The impacts of contamination will be much more widespread, with nearly every major population in New Mexico impacted by the river, whose waters are diverted to feed the Rio Grande reaching all the way to Albuquerque. 

200,000 acres of land are irrigated in the San Juan watershed and recreational boating, fishing and rafting bring vital economic dollars to local communities. To ensure that toxic chemicals from the San Juan site do not contaminate groundwater and flow into the San Juan River, it is critical to remove coal ash from any risk of contact with groundwater. If coal ash comes in contact with groundwater, hazardous toxins will continue to leach into water in perpetuity. Contamination of the river via careless industry oversight poses an enormous economic risk to our state.

The health of the San Juan watershed and the people who depend on it cannot be left in the

hands of corporate executives. It must be independently verifiable, transparent and thorough. 

Comprehensive cleanup now will prevent an environmental, health and economic disaster later. An independent assessment and remediation plan will include measurable steps & shall:

  • This is an opportunity to be informed by input from impacted community members; 
  • ensure that toxic metal contaminants don’t leach into the ground and leak into waterways or otherwise harm the public, animals or agriculture and cause negative public health consequences;
  • create necessary closure provisions and corrective actions that include safe and appropriate
  • disposal of waste, regular groundwater monitoring and regular reporting available for the public on accessible internet sites.

An independent assessment could PREVENT leaking of toxic contaminants into the San Juan

River, a catastrophic intergenerational injustice that must be avoided in New Mexico, where

water is already a precious and dwindling resource. Rather than rubber stamp industry plans, an independent comprehensive assessment of the potential dangers and impacts to health and the economy is necessary to protect the San Juan community and those downstream.

Vote to protect our waters, our communities and the sovereign nations.

Don’t kick the can down the road, we need a real solution.