Reader view: Shut down PNM’s factory of death

Perhaps you think it is outrageous that I call a coal power plant a factory of death. However, if you do your research, as I have, you will find the toxic record of coal power disturbing. The cocktail of chemical poisons (mercury, arsenic, heavy metals and radioactive ash) released by burning coal kills thousands of people in the U.S. every year.

And, as the worst producer of greenhouse gasses, coal plants are culpable in the historic extinction of a dozen species and thousands more to come over the next 100 years: only a miracle could reverse this eventuality. Furthermore, greenhouse warming has rendered millions of acres of agricultural land unusable in Australia and West Africa.

Coal burning is the primary offender behind this assault on our planet’s living systems. And I haven’t even touched on the damage caused by mining coal. It is no wonder that all Public Service Company of New Mexico’s partners in the New Mexico San Juan coal plant have fled. There is no future in coal. The plant and its coal mine are a toxic legal liability, not an asset.

Even Wall Street gets it: Market analysts are downgrading utilities because of their reliance on coal. Any other commercially viable way of generating electricity is considerably less toxic.

PNM uses 19th-century technology to generate our power. It also seems it used 19th-century thinking to prepare its future plans. PNM sees return to its shareholders, rather than the health and life of our grandchildren, as its primary mission. It reminds me of tobacco company executives in the 1950s: The research that demonstrates how its product kills people is clear, but there is still profit to be made with business as usual.

PNM’s plan does not factor in the true cost of continued coal burning in New Mexico. It does not factor in the continued loss of life and health and the requirement that coal has to go in order to ensure the habitability of our planet. A responsive, ethical Public Regulation Commission must send PNM back to the drawing board and ask the company to shut down its death factory sooner.

It might seem like a tough decision, but it is the right decision. Our grandchildren deserve it. Investing in renewables with natural gas to augment would demonstrate courageous leadership. It’s also what New Mexicans want. New Mexico can lead with clean energy and boost its struggling economy.

Glenn Wikle is an electrical engineer and computer scientist who represents District 2 on the Santa Fe Public Schools Board of Education. He has lived in Santa Fe County for 18 years.

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