Antoinette Reyes, Organizer,
Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club
(c) 575 342-1727
Emma Pabst, Campaign Representative,
Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign
(c) 512 228-9705
Dr. David Garcia, Chaparral resident
Former Doña Ana County Commissioner
Miguel Escoto, West Texas Field Advocate, Earthworks
(c) 915 500-9751
NOTE: All of the individuals quoted in this release are available to speak to the press.
EL PASO, TX -- Today, the Chaparral Coalition for Community Health and the Environment, the Sierra Club, and Earthworks (the Community Groups) reached an agreement with El Paso Electric (EPE) that will substantially reduce air pollution in El Paso and southern New Mexico. The agreement will temporarily block new fossil fuel power plant construction while pushing EPE toward a clean energy future. In exchange for these concessions from EPE, the Community Groups agreed to withdraw their legal case challenging EPE’s application for an air permit for Newman 6, a new unit that EPE intends to construct at the Newman methane gas power plant.
“The legal deck was stacked against us, fighting a utility like El Paso Electric,” said Dr. Jeanette Lara, a Chaparral resident. “The health and climate concessions we forced from EPE were because we worked hard to organize our community. The struggle is not over until EPE replaces all its fossil fuels with the clean, renewable energy that we deserve and the world desperately needs.”
Under the agreement, El Paso Electric:
Is prohibited from ever constructing another fossil fuel unit at the Newman power plant site after Newman 6 is built;
Is prohibited from constructing any new fossil fuel units, anywhere, for the next four years, with limited exceptions;
Must begin the process of retiring two existing gas units, which were constructed before the passage of the Clean Air Act of 1970 and lack basic emissions controls;
Must reduce CO2 pollution from Newman 6 by 500,000 tons—the equivalent of taking 100,000 cars off the road, or planting 8 million trees.
Must reduce ozone-forming NOx pollution from Newman 6 by 50 tons;
Must dedicate funds to reducing ozone-forming volatile organic compound (VOC) pollution across El Paso County, fully offsetting the emissions from Newman 6;
Must create a fund to support the impacted communities and mitigate the local effects of pollution generated by Newman; and
Make environmental reports from Newman Unit 6 publicly available online.
“We do not want Newman 6. But if it’s going to be built anyway, it’s better built with this settlement than without it.” said Dr. David Garcia, Former Doña Ana County Commissioner and Chaparral resident. “Newman 6 will now pollute our community less than it would have otherwise, and EPE will pay into a fund to support the community they are impacting.”
This settlement follows unsuccessful attempts by the El Paso City Council and the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission to block the construction of Newman Unit 6. EPE is prohibited from providing New Mexicans with power from this plant, meaning the project’s high price tag will be footed entirely by Texas ratepayers. This settlement was the result of intense community organizing and public advocacy, but more work remains to be done; while the Newman 6 methane gas-fueled power plant will operate more cleanly than it would have otherwise. EPE--the only private monopoly electric utility in Texas---has still decided to lock in years of fossil fuel consumption despite EPE’s own experts showing that all gas projects are more expensive than those that include any level of renewables. Meanwhile, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just announced a “code red for humanity” regarding the emergency need to reduce carbon emissions.
"It is tragic that, just after the world’s climate scientists put us on red alert, the sunniest city in Texas is locking itself into decades more fossil fuel generation,” said Miguel Escoto, an organizer with Earthworks who lives in El Paso. “Through unrelenting legal and public pressure, we were able to bring EPE to the table and get these health and climate concessions. The fact that this deal is the best the community could possibly, legally accomplish is a demonstration of the complete failure of our regulatory systems, and I’m proud of how my community stood up to pollution and climate injustice.”
“This agreement is an important step towards achieving cleaner air in El Paso, even though far more needs to be done to reduce emissions in the El Paso area” said David Baake, a Las Cruces-based attorney who represented the Community Groups in challenging the Newman 6 air permit. “We have forced El Paso Electric to substantially reduce dangerous emissions and to commit to a moratorium on fossil fuel development--a historic achievement that can and should serve as a precedent for utilities across the country. But as long as El Paso Electric continues to run any of its fossil fuel units, our community will continue to suffer. The next step is for EPE to commit to achieving 100% clean energy--and we will keep fighting to make sure it does.”
“After Unit 6 is completed, El Paso Electric committed to no new fossil fuel generation at Newman ever again,” said Antoinette Reyes from the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club. “While we are far from attaining a 100 percent clean and renewable grid, this settlement brings us that much closer while also giving a traditionally marginalized community of color a fighting chance.”
“The money we secured for the Chaparral community is just the beginning,” said Emma Pabst, Sierra Club Campaign Representative. “Fracked gas pollution causes huge health problems, including higher rates of asthma, often in communities that have already been hit hard by the pandemic. Until El Paso Electric truly says ‘no’ to fossil fuels altogether, we and the Chaparral community will continue to push.”
About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.
Earthworks is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the adverse impacts of mineral and energy development while promoting sustainable solutions. For more information, visit www.earthworks.org.
About the Chaparral Coalition for Community Health and the Environment
The Chaparral Coalition for Community Health and the Environment includes people who live within two miles of the proposed Newman plant and oppose the expansion of dirty fossil fuel infrastructure in their backyard.