Nature, Electricity Generation Collide in Recent Decisions
Pollution concerns at two power plants in New Mexico may impact its long-term viability, while an endangered species has halted plans for a wind farm in Washington state. Environmental issues raised concerns over their impact on surrounding wilderness areas.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is requesting public comment on options for reducing air pollution from two power plants — Four Corners Power Plant and Navajo Generating Station — in New Mexico that affect air quality and visibility at nearby national parks, wilderness areas, and national monuments.
The EPA is providing a 30-day public comment period on the advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR). Although the ANPR focuses on the visibility improvements at the surrounding national park and wilderness areas, and the cost of implementing retrofit technology at the two power plants, the agency said it will accept comments on other factors such as the remaining useful life of the facilities, existing controls at the facilities, energy and non-air quality environmental impacts.
The two power plants are said to be the largest pollution sources in the United States.
The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has decided not to lease 2,560 acres of state trust land to SDS Lumber Co. for possible future expansion of its proposed Whistling Ridge Energy Project because the land is a habitat for the threatened northern spotted owl, reports iStockAnalyst (via the Columbian). However, DNR said it may reconsider the option at a future date.
SDS Lumber has applied for a permit to build a 42-turbine, 70-megawatt wind farm on a logged-over ridge it owns, but considered expanding the proposed energy project north onto adjacent state trust land, according to the article.
Other government agencies also expressed concern over the planned expansion. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has warned that the project could cause high wildlife mortality especially among bats and raptors, and the Forest Service and the National Park Service have concerns about how the 426-foot-high turbines would affect scenery and the recreational experience in the gorge, according to iStockAnalyst.
Last month, the agency had to defend a wind turbine lease on forest land in Pacific County after a team of biologists said the proposed turbines would harm or kill marbled murrelets, robin-sized seabirds that nest in that area, according to the article.
The DNR currently has 24 active wind power leases that consist of five wind farms for a total of 65 turbines operating on state trust land, according to the article. The leases provide $670,000 annually for the state’s Common School Fund.
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