The public comment period for the Environmental Protection Agencys proposed plan to clean up the Four Corners Power Plant ends Monday. Fans of clean air should make their opinions known. Forty-eight years of filth is enough.
Supporters of EPA action should include anyone who lives, works or breathes in Southwest Colorado. The Four Corners plant is one of the dirtiest in the nation, and its influence on this area is serious and wide-ranging.
Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., weighed in Wednesday. He sent a letter to the EPA administrator supporting the agencys efforts to clean up the Four Corners Power Plant as well as the nearby San Juan Generating Station.
Bennets action is welcome. It is also appropriate. Pollution does not respect state lines, and those power plants put Colorado residents at risk in several ways.
The Four Corners plant has been justified with the usual arguments: We need the power; coal is affordable; and the plant provides jobs.
But the power has gone mainly to Phoenix and California and much of it is no longer needed, or at least no longer wanted. California is moving away from buying coal-generated electricity.
The few jobs mostly benefit New Mexico and Arizona. And coal is affordable only if many of its real costs are foisted off on other people.
That would be us. What Colorado gets from those plants is impaired visibility, increased levels of pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and, of course, mercury. Anglers have been cautioned about mercury contamination in fish taken from some area lakes. How is that for marketing Southwest Colorado?
Defenders of polluting industries and technologies often try to cast reform efforts as a question of economic progress vs. simplistic environmental purity. But to a large extent, in Southwest Colorado the environment is the economy. Whether they come to vacation, to ski, to explore ancient cultures and artifacts, to hunt, fish, hike and camp or to live, people are attracted to this area by its amazing vistas and its seemingly pristine natural beauty.
Bennet was right to recognize that. In his letter he wrote, Much of the economy of Colorados portion of the Four Corners region relies on the visitors and tourists that come from around the world to see the iconic mesas and National Parks that define this area. Unfortunately, ... airsheds such as Mesa Verde National Park and the Weminuche Wilderness Area have been degraded by pollution that National Park Service modeling attributes to the power plants.
As Bennet suggests, in this case environmental concerns, health issues and Southwest Colorados economic future are not only aligned but identical. Urge the EPA to go forward with cleaning up the Four Corners Power Plant.
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