Settlement Agreement Requires $8 Million in Environmental Remediation, and Conservation Projects at New Mexico Coal Ash Minefill

A consent decree requiring the Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) and San Juan Coal Company (SJC) to invest $8 million in environmental projects and pay more than $2 million in attorney and expert fees, was submitted for judicial approval in the New Mexico US district court late last week.

The lawsuit was initiated by the Sierra Club in 2010 to halt discharges from unlined coal ash waste disposal areas associated with PNM’s San Juan Generating Station and SJC’s San Juan Mine. Sierra Club alleged in its complaint that more than 40 million tons of coal ash waste was dumped in massive unlined pits and that these pits lead to the contamination of groundwater in excess of state and federal standards. EIP was involved in this case from the beginning, through early grants of support and the participation of EIP Coal Combustion Waste Initiative Director Jeff Stant.

The agreement requires the defendants to construct a recovery system consisting of a slurry wall and recovery trench, which will facilitate the capture and monitoring of waste water. It also requires monitoring of coal-pile run-off. SJC and PNM will fund three additional projects- 1) an ecosystem restoration project to restore and study habitat along a 186 mile stretch of the San Juan River; 2) a study to determine the source of bacterial pollution of the Animas, La Plata, and San Juan Rivers; and 3) a project that will coordinate stakeholders and identify sources of selenium pollution in the San Juan River. The case is  No. 10-cv-00332-MCA-LAM, Sierra Club v. San Juan Coal Company, BHP Billiton, LTD., Public Service Company of New Mexico, and PNM Resources, Inc.

To view the Consent Decree, click here.