A proposal to build a $163 million natural gas-fired generating unit appears certain to move forward, despite a vote by the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission disapproving the project.
The El Paso Electric company has long said that the new 228-megawatt facility is needed to respond to the growing power needs of residents in both El Paso and southern New Mexico.
But a coalition of environmental activists, among others, have questioned that need and charged that the new facility would contribute to area air pollution.
In making its decision, the PRC said that El Paso Electric had failed to take into consideration the requirements of the Energy Transition Act, a New Mexico law mandating the implementation of carbon-free power for residents of the state.
More specifically, the commission said the facility would not comply with a New Mexico state law mandating the implementation of carbon-free power for residents of the state.
According to that law, El Paso Electric would be required to provide carbon-free power by no later than 2045. The Newman 6 plant, however, which would not be carbon-free, has a projected life span of 40 years.
“We commend the PRC for protecting its ratepayers from higher costs and more pollution by requiring compliance with the Energy Transition Act,” said Stephanie Dzur, an attorney with the Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy, one of the groups opposing construction of the new facility.
The PRC vote come in the wake of an October decision by the Public Utility Commission of Texas approving the project.
Despite the PRC vote, El Paso Electric is expected to push on with its project, which it hopes to have up and running by 2023, but now only allowing the facility to serve customers in metro El Paso.
The new plant, to be built in what is known as a simple-cycle configuration, is set to go up on a 175-acre site near Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard on the north side of the city.
By Garry Boulard
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