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Colo. official speaks out on N.M. power plant

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DENVER (AP) - The head of the Colorado health department says the state opposes the fast-tracking of the permit process for a proposed coal-fired power plant in New Mexico.

In a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency, Jim Martin said July 11 the EPA should not make a final decision on an air permit application for the Desert Rock plant south of Farmington until environmental impacts are fully addressed.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson also has said more time is needed for review.

Houston-based Sithe Global Power and the Dine' Power Authority, an enterprise of the Navajo Nation, are partnering on the $3 billion plant to be built on tribal land. Developers have said the plant's

technology would be cleaner and more efficient than what is used in existing plants.

The EPA filed a consent decree in June to act on a permit for the plant by July 31, after developers accused the agency of dragging its feet on a permit application filed in early 2004.

''Arriving at a decision by July 31 will shortcut consideration of the hazardous air pollution, mercury and carbon dioxide emissions from this coal-fired power plant,'' Richardson said in comments filed July 11 opposing the consent decree. ''These emissions will have real effects on the people of New Mexico, their environment and the state's wildlife.''

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Martin, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, also wrote his letter in response to the consent decree.

''Colorado will be directly impacted by the emissions from this proposed 1,500-megawatt, coal-fired power plant,'' Martin wrote. ''The Four Corners region is already home to two other coal-fired plants that are adversely impacting air quality in the area.''

He said the proposed plant raises unresolved air pollution issues relating to mercury controls and emissions, greenhouse gases, ozone and haze.

''Many sectors of Colorado's and New Mexico's economies, including agriculture, recreation and tourism, could experience significant impacts if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced,'' Martin wrote.

New Mexico officials also filed a motion to intervene in the case to ensure the EPA fulfills statutory requirements under the Clean Air Act prior to issuing a permit for the plant.

Proponents of the plant say it would bring $52 million in annual revenues to the tribal government and provide up to 400 jobs on a reservation suffering from high unemployment.

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