EPA proposes two actions to improve New Mexico’s environment

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took two major actions that will bring significant environmental benefits to the people of New Mexico.

In the first action, EPA announced a $500 million cleanup plan for the Molycorp Superfund site near Questa. In the second action, EPA announced a clean air plan which will significantly protect public health and improve visibility by reducing pollution at a San Juan County power plant.

EPA’s first action is the cleanup plan, formally known as a Record of Decision (ROD), for the Molycorp, Inc., site. The Superfund site is owned by Chevron Mining Inc. (CMI).

The remedy selected by EPA includes the excavation of contaminated soil and waste rocks, interception of water draining from waste rock piles at the mine site, underground mine dewatering and water treatment, covering contaminated material at the tailings facility, and treating ground water at the tailings facility.

EPA estimates the clean-up will cost over $500 million and could reach $800 million. Chevron Mining Inc. is expected to carry out the clean-up. The site includes an operational mine and milling facility, a tailing facility and a tailing pipeline running from the mill to the tailing facility. Contaminated material from the Molycorp site includes about 328 million tons of acid-generating waste rock, over 100 million tons of tailing, and acid-rock drainage at the mine and seepage at the tailing facility. The site is near Questa, New Mexico.

EPA’s second action is the Federal Implementation Plan proposed under the Clean Air Act for the San Juan Generating Station power plant which will significantly reduce harmful emissions and improve visibility and respiratory health for the surrounding area.

The plant’s operators will be required to install the best pollution-control technology available for this type of facility, which uses four coal-fired generating units. The controls are expected to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) by approximately 83 percent.

In addition to public health benefits, the reduced nitrogen oxides emissions will also help improve visibility in the area by about 65 percent and decrease by over 80 percent the numbers of days the plant causes noticeable visibility impairment.