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New Mexicans "Die In" at PNM

Ask Utility to Put an End to Deadly Energy at San Juan Generating Station

ALBUQUERQUE, NM— Concerned over the health, environment, and economy of New Mexico, local residents, students and mothers, led by WildEarth Guardians, protested in a new way today. A dozen attendees in creative costumes told Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) to stop the “criminal activity” and consider clean air and public health by voluntarily retiring its coal burning San Juan Generating Station. 

Students covered the public sidewalks outside of PNM’s Albuquerque office with body outlines symbolizing the 33 deaths a year caused by air pollution from the San Juan Generating Station. The first public chalk-art protest of its kind in the state, PNM employees were not only greeted by a creative “crime scene,” activists also stood outside PNM headquarters dressed in convict costumes and wearing PNM CEO Pat-Vincent Collawn facemasks. They covered PNM’s sign with mock police tape reading “Global Warming Crime Scene” and carried banners telling the utility to “Stop the Murder” and calling PNM “Coal Criminals.” 

WildEarth Guardians activists stood in formation, banners behind images of body outlines on the street. Albuquerque Police (APD) came on segways and peacefully monitored the protest. Activists told the story of San Juan coal to officers, who seemed sympathetic. PNM employees were seen watching from their office windows above.      

“Coal is criminal,” said attendee Leia Barnett, local student and PNM ratepayer. “PNM says they want to protect the best interest of ratepayers, but if they really cared about us, they would stop poisoning the air with deadly energy.”

Spurred by reports attributing 33 deaths a year to San Juan coal, as well as 600 asthma attacks, 31 asthma-related emergency room visits, and other health impacts, and with news that PNM intends to force ratepayers to pay for more pollution from the San Juan Generating Station, citizens gathered to convey the harrowing effects of the utility’s actions as it jeopardizes the lives and clean air of the state and beyond.

“WildEarth Guardians has been vigilantly protecting clean air throughout the West,” said Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy Program Director of WildEarth Guardians. “Today we are asking that PNM see the San Juan Generating Station for the liability it truly is and power past coal.”

The estimated health costs associated with San Juan Generating Station total more than $250 million dollars a year, and with leaked reports that PNM intends to pass a bill in the 2012 Legislature to guarantee cost recovery from ratepayers in order to cover the continued operation of the coal plant, activists are asking PNM to start pursuing sound investments instead of San Juan coal.

Elizabeth Hatrick of Albuquerque, NM held an enlarged mock blank check addressed to PNM from the state of New Mexico with a slash going through it. “We won’t pay PNM to pollute,” she said. Nine months pregnant, she added, “I don’t want my kids growing up in a toxic air zone.”

WildEarth Guardians today also delivered a letter to PNM CEO Pat-Vincent Collawn signed by over 400 New Mexicans asking the utility consider alternatives to San Juan coal when faced with clean up.

“PNM has been fighting the EPA’s clean up plan for the San Juan Generating Station thinking they don’t have to comply with federal clean air laws,” added Nichols. “If PNM thinks the costs of coal are too expensive, then it’s time to make smarter investments in clean energy.”

New Mexico has a 20% renewable energy requirement that PNM is not on target for meeting. Reports show a combination of rooftop solar and wind energy could supply New Mexico’s power needs by more than seventy-fold.  And while utilities in Colorado and other states are retiring coal-fired power plants, opting against investing millions in the face of mounting environmental liability, New Mexicans are wondering why their state is lagging behind.

Operated and primarily owned by PNM, the San Juan Generation Station is an 1,800 megawatt power plant that every year releases thousands of tons of toxic air pollution from its smokestacks.  Located 15 miles west of Farmington, the plant consists of four boilers and releases more than 18,000 tons of smog forming nitrogen oxide gases, 51 pounds of mercury, and more than 13,000,000 tons of carbon dioxide—as much as is released by more than 2.3 million passenger vehicles.

Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wildearth_guardians/sets/72157628085147820/

Raw video footage:  http://youtu.be/MK7XRmmERZI, downloadable: https://rcpt.yousendit.com/1279704710/fd0eb89d1178dff87b422c763bfbd466

Twitter: OccupyPNM


 

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