Sierra Club settlement with PNM utility
Sierra Club Reaches Legal Settlement Obligating Utility PNM, San Juan Coal Company to Clean Up Water Pollution from Coal Facilities
Sierra Club Calls on PNM to Move New Mexico Beyond Coal to Clean Energy
Albuquerque, NM — Today the Sierra Club reached a legal settlement obligating the utility Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) and San Juan Coal Company (a subsidiary of BHP Billiton, Ltd.) to stop ground and surface water contamination that the group alleges comes from toxic coal ash waste and other sources at the San Juan Coal Mine and San Juan Generating Station coal-fired power plant. The settlement obligates the companies to build structures including a “slurry wall” and a recovery trench to prevent contaminants from traveling toward the San Juan River, pumping the pollution instead into a lined storage pond.
“This settlement will help clean up northern New Mexico’s water after years of exposure to pollution from the San Juan Generating Station and coal mine,” said Nellis Kennedy-Howard, Sierra Club Beyond Coal campaign senior representative in New Mexico. “While these mandatory measures will keep toxic pollution out of the San Juan River basin, coal continues to pollute New Mexico as it’s mined and burned. PNM ought to invest in creating energy from clean sources like solar panels, instead of exposing our air, water and land to ongoing toxic pollution from coal. We must move New Mexico beyond coal, to clean, local sources of energy.”
PNM is the largest utility in New Mexico, and currently doesn’t meet the state’s minimum requirements for investment in clean energy, a Renewable Portfolio Standard of 10%. The company owns 46% of shares in the San Juan Generating Station coal-fired power plant, which spews dangerous pollutants like nitrogen oxides, smog, soot and sulfur dioxide into the air.
In addition to establishing the groundwater recovery system, the legal settlement obligates PNM, and San Juan Coal Company to fund $2 – 3.7 million in additional projects to restore the San Juan River basin watershed, control existing pollution sources at the facilities, and monitor downstream waterways.
The settlement resolves the lawsuit that the Sierra Club initially filed on April 8, 2010 in the Federal District Court for the District of New Mexico against PNM, PNM Resources, San Juan Coal Company, and BHP Billiton alleging surface and ground water pollution illegal under the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
Sierra Club was represented by Charlie Tebbutt of the Law Offices of Charles M. Tebbutt, P.C., Walton Morris of Morris Law Office, P.C., and Megan Anderson of the Western Environmental Law Center.