The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Tuesday granted PNM a 90-day stay in the effectiveness of the federal plan that would force the Albuquerque, N.M.–based utility to install pollution controls at its 1,800-MW San Juan Generating Station by September 2016 to meet visibility requirements of the Clean Air Act in New Mexico.

PNM has argued—with the backing of the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R)—that the federal agency’s mandate would cost New Mexico’s electric ratepayers about $750 million or more. The EPA’s estimate was $345 million. The parties contend that a technology proposed by the NMED, selective noncatalytic reduction, could meet the same federal visibility rules for just $77 million—or about one-tenth of the cost.

Gov. Martinez petitioned the EPA last October to issue a stay of the implementation of the federal plan. At the same time, PNM has taken its case to federal court to appeal the EPA’s mandate. The governor and the NMED are also in federal court appealing the EPA’s decision to adopt a federal plan. The court has not yet ruled on the matter.

“[Tuesday’s] announcement provides a fresh opportunity to consider alternative approaches to meet the regional haze requirements at San Juan Generating Station,” said Pat Collawn, PNM Resources chairman, president, and CEO. “We believe the state plan works for the environment and for the people in our state, but we are open to other balanced approaches that consider customer costs, environmental benefit, and the economic impact to the citizens of the state, particularly the Four Corners Region. We welcome this new development and look forward to a collaborative effort to identify effective alternatives for moving forward.”

Sources: POWERnews, EPA, PNM

—Sonal Patel, Senior Writer (@POWERmagazine)