Power plant enters planning process
The Four Corners region could be facing a hazy future. A massive, new coal-fired power plant planned for the region is undergoing review, and the public is being asked to comment on the proposal.
The $2 billion plant would be the third coal-burning plant in the San Juan Basin. It would be built on the Navajo Nation roughly 20 miles south of Kirtland and has been tagged the Desert Rock Project. It's estimated that the plant would generate enough energy for 1.5 million homes.
"It's a very large plant at 1,500 megawatts," said Dan Randolph of San Juan Citizens' Alliance,
A fourth, smaller plant, named the Mustang Project, is also seeking approval to begin construction between Farmington and Grants, N.M. Originally, the plant was expected to be operational by next year, but there have been delays. Mustang has categorically refused to consider alternative and environmentally friendly technologies, yet recently received a $20 million subsidy under President Bush's so-called Clear Skies Initiative.
While these plants are not within La Plata County's viewshed, they are well within its airshed, according to Randolph. Plus, local air quality is already significantly impacted by the two existing power plants in northern New Mexico.
"A good respiratory health study for the basin has not been done at all," Randolph said. "Before we put more smoke up in the air, we should know what the impacts already are."
The Bureau of Indian Affairs has invited the public to submit written comments through Dec. 17 on the Desert Rock plant. There is also one public hearing planned in the region and it will take place Tuesday, Dec. 7, at the Farmington Civic Center.
"At this point, there is only one public meeting scheduled locally," Randolph said. "We're pushing for an additional meeting in Shiprock."
Randolph concluded that this scoping period is an opportunity for locals to raise issues they would like to have addressed during the review process. Written comments can be sent through Dec. 17 to: Eloise Chicharello, director, Navajo Regional Office, Bureau of Indian Affairs, P.O. Box 1060, Gallup, N.M., 87305.
Buena Vista voters repeal RGI
One of the poster children for Durango's proposed Responsible Growth Initiative has gone away. On Nov. 2, Buena Vista voters repealed an initiative that required a popular vote for large annexations. It had been in existence for five years and touted as a success story by proponents of Durango's similar measure, which was also rejected by voters Nov. 2.
Buena Vista resident Randy Loback told the Denver Post that easing development restrictions was the only way to keep the town from dying. Loback noted that residents, "used to be concerned about what's affecting them now. I think a lot of people have turned their thoughts to the long term. What's good for their kids?"
In particular, Buena Vista residents were interested in boosting sales tax revenues by attracting commercial properties. The Post noted that residents have realized that the summer tourism economy is not enough for Buena Vista.
"We have young people graduating who have to move because there's very little here in terms of finding jobs that can pay for you to live," said Mayor Sharyle Solis.
Public lands "passport" in works
Bikers, hikers and all users of public lands may have to start carrying a "passport" when they recreate. An Ohio congressman has successfully pushed a measure through Congress that would require members of the public to purchase an "America the Beautiful" pass to recreate on all land managed by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Reclamation.
Ralph Regula, R-Ohio, succeeded in attaching his bill as a rider to the giant Omnibus Appropriations Bill recently enacted in the lame duck session of Congress. The bill was never passed by the House and was never introduced, given a hearing or voted upon in the Senate. Omnibus bills are considered "must pass" legislation because of the potential for a government shutdown.
Regula's bill, HR 3283, allows the federal land management agencies to charge access fees for recreational use of public lands by the general public. The bill has been highly controversial and is opposed by hundreds of organizations, state legislatures, county governments and members of the public.
"This was a victory of pork over principle," said Robert Funkhouser, president of the Western Slope No-Fee Coalition. "Ralph Regula is responsible for the first tax increase of the Bush administration."
The Regula bill will go into effect when Fee Demo expires at the beginning of fiscal year 2005 unless the new congress acts to derail it. Failure to carry the pass will be a criminal offense punishable by up to $5,000 and/or six months in jail. The America the Beautiful Pass is expected to cost between $85 and $100 annually.
"This is an abuse of position by Congressman Regula" according to Funkhouser. "Changing public land policy in the middle of the night via a rider is despicable. Once again the congressman has proven to be hostile to rural and Western values and will stop at nothing to push his agenda."
Fugitive pot grower nabbed
Members of the Southwest Drug Task Force recently concluded a three-year investigation with the arrest of former La Plata County resident Edward Pole. Pole was arrested on Thursday in Humble, Texas, after evading officers since December 2001. Pole was involved with a "sophisticated" marijuana cultivation operation located at the La Plata County home of Lynn Crandall. Crandall and Pole had been charged in U.S. District Court with charges related to conspiracy to manufacture marijuana, conspiracy to distribute marijuana and money laundering.
According to investigators, Pole is believed to have traveled to Canada, Panama and Costa Rica after learning about the December 2001 bust. The task force was able to locate Pole in Texas after he re-entered the United States several months ago.
The Southwest Drug Task Force is a multi-jurisdictional investigative body comprised of the La Plata County Sheriffs Office, Ignacio Police Department and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. The Southwest Drug Task Force routinely files criminal cases in both Colorado State Court and the U.S. Federal Court System.
- compiled by Will Sands