Dirty coal requires cleanup or retirement

Posted: Jun 1, 2012

Written by

The Durango Herald

As a region situated downwind of two of the dirtiest coal-fired power plants in the United States, Southwest Colorado is no stranger to the effects that energy source has on air quality. Haze-filled canyons and eerily Technicolor sunsets are commonplace throughout the area, a phenomenon owed to visibility inhibitors that emit in large quantities from the Four Corners Power Plant and San Juan Generating Station near Farmington. The associated effects on human and environmental health are not inconsequential.

It is beyond time to stand firmly in defense of coal and instead look for ways to lessen its harmful effects as an energy source, as politicians across the country are too often tempted to do these days. That reality is not lost on the Environmental Protection Agency, which has been busily making rules requiring such a cleanup, and the two plants closest to home here are in negotiations with the agency’s regional offices over just how those rules will finally affect the facilities.

A significant factor in those discussions, as with all such regulatory processes, is the economic fallout that accompanies any cleanup requirements. Installing adequate scrubbing technology is no small line item, and passing the cost along to electricity consumers is correspondingly challenging for power plant operators – and doing the math is driving some plants to close or convert to cleaner fuels such as natural gas. There is pain in that transition, but given the harmful environmental and human consequences of the unfettered burning of coal, investing in the shift is worth the cost over the long term.

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