EPA Carbon Rule reinforces need to shift energy investments in New Mexico away from coal

June 2014

COALNew Energy Economy welcomes the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) federal standards on harmful carbon pollution that will require utilities to cut carbon emissions by 30% by 2030.

“Given the unequivocal evidence of global climate disruption and the damage it is wreaking on communities across the country, President Obama and the EPA’s leadership on carbon regulation comes at a critical time and should be celebrated. While we applaud the administration’s progress, we believe the targets are too modest and the plan’s timeline for state’s implementation proposals is unnecessarily protracted given the urgent need to mitigate climate disruption. Further, the incorporation of emissions trading and offsetting creates opportunities for utilities to dodge the responsibility to either pay for their pollution at a level equivalent to the human health and environmental damage they create or to change to cleaner energy sources,” says Mariel Nanasi, Director of New Energy Economy.

Nanasi continues, “Though the modest targets set by the EPA fall short of the recommendations in the Kyoto Protocol and do not adequately address the threats of climate disruption outlined by recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) and the National Climate Assessment, they are an important start. These standards are achievable and most importantly, they begin to provide the impetus for changes in our energy supply which will hopefully lead to the necessary comprehensive shift in our energy mix that is needed to protect our children and our planet. We know that solar and wind are cost effective today and present a critical opportunity to shift from harmful, global-warming-causing energy sources to cleaner energy sources.”

The nation stands at a crossroads. Solar and wind are increasingly out-competing coal and nuclear across the country. Renewable energy provides local jobs and sustainable economic development that can be the foundation for an economic revitalization built on clean energy sources. The EPA’s carbon rule leaves a great deal of flexibility and openness to states to determine the most effective plan for compliance. Unfortunately, New Mexico’s largest electric monopoly, Public Service Company of New Mexico continues to pursue deeper investment in coal. Currently, PNM’s energy portfolio consists of 58% coal with only 2% solar, and 5% wind. While an anti-haze/clean air ruling by the EPA last year is forcing PNM to close down two units at the San Juan Coal plant, PNM is pursuing the purchase of an additional 132 megawatts of coal in its replacement power proposal – posing significant risk to rate-payers as the EPA’s carbon rule and pending coal ash regulation ensure that the coast of coal will continue to rise.

New Mexico can do better. Conservation and energy efficiency should be central part of our state’s energy plan as well as solar and wind. Further, as coal plants are retired, we need to take the opportunity to replace coal with renewables to the greatest extent possible. New Energy Economy along with local public health, environmental, and rate-payer groups is pushing for a replacement power plan based on renewables as well as a date certain to close down a third unit of San Juan (2018) and the fourth Unit by or before 2023. THAT will ensure that New Mexico meets the carbon standards set by the EPA rule and that New Mexicans are protected against the financial risks, environmental, and public health costs of coal.

“There’s a strong link between economy health and energy choices. With substantial investment in solar and wind, which New Mexico has in abundance, we could be providing jobs in the new energy economy and reducing public health and environmental costs associated with coal pollution. Yet at the same time as they are closing two coal units, PNM is purchasing an additional 132 megawatts of coal. PNM’s failure to deploy renewables in New Mexico even as solar and wind prove cost-competitive is harming our economy and our health. With regulation like the Carbon Rule, the cost of energy to rate-payers and New Mexican tax payers will continue to rise unless we successfully push our utilities, like PNM, to stop investing in coal and to invest instead in clean energy,” states Nanasi.

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