Energy

Local City Working To Save Coal Plant, Protecting More Than 1,000 Jobs

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter

In a move that will save jobs and the local tax base, the city of Farmington, New Mexico, announced a plan to keep the San Juan Generating Station running for years longer than expected.

The San Juan Generating Station — an 847-megawatt coal plant located in the northwestern corner of New Mexico — had already been slated for retirement. State regulators in late 2018 approved a plan by the Public Service Company of New Mexico, the plant’s owners, to shut it down by 2022 and completely exit from coal by 2031. It had appeared that the facility would follow the same fate as many other beleaguered coal plants in the U.S.

However, in an announcement that surprised even the plant’s owners, Farmington City Manager Rob Mayes revealed he’s reached an “initial agreement” to keep San Juan Generating Station operating.

“After two years of what feels like a nearly full-time focus on a single critical issue, we have reached a milestone that few people thought remotely possible,” Mayes said in a prepared statement. “By identifying and entering into an agreement with a capable new owner to continue operations of San Juan Generating Station and associated San Juan Mine well beyond 2022, we have potentially saved 1,600 jobs of real people and countless New Mexican families.” (RELATED: Coal Plant Closures In 2018 Didn’t Stop Carbon Emissions From Rising)

The plan involves transferring ownership of the coal facility to Acme Equities, a private holding company based in New York City. Mayes said the city and ACME are “finalizing the details” of the agreement and will soon begin negotiations on transferring interests of the plant. The end result, according to the city manager, will benefit numerous local communities.

“[T]he prospect now exists to maintain the property tax base for the Navajo Nation, Central Consolidated Schools, San Juan County, San Juan College, Farmington and the State of New Mexico, and to avoid countless incalculable negative economic impacts to our businesses and community members,” Mayes stated.

If the city of Farmington had not intervened, the San Juan Generating Station would have followed in the footsteps of a many coal facilities. 2018 was brutal for the coal sector, with at least 20 different plants either closing down or switching to natural gas.

U.S. President Donald Trump acknowledges coal miners during a Make America Great Again rally at the Civic Center in Charleston, West Virginia, U.S., August 21, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

U.S. President Donald Trump acknowledges coal miners during a Make America Great Again rally at the Civic Center in Charleston, West Virginia, U.S., August 21, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Faced against cheap natural gas and subsidy-backed renewables, coal plants have been rendered unprofitable in many regions across the U.S. The Trump administration has worked to try and stave off the closures, implementing an ambitious “energy dominance” agenda that has helped power the country’s energy industry. President Donald Trump has even go so far as to personally call out energy companies to keep their coal facilities open.

Nevertheless, 2018 marked the second-highest year in the U.S. history for coal plant closures.

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