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They're Sliding in the Side Door

Peoples Energy Resources Corp. (PERC) has learned from Cobisa's mistakes and is trying to slide in the side door. Cobisa's proposed electric generating plant was rejected primarily due to its planned use of large amounts of water. To our farming neighbors, water is their most valuable resource, and a rather scarce commodity. PERC has now obtained land in the industrial park south of Rio Communities, an area zoned for heavy industry.

The small amount of water PERC says they will use is to come from Rio Grande Utilities, which serves the area. PERC proposes to build simple-cycle (gas turbine) units, having a total capacity of 280,000,000 watts (280 MW). At full load, that's a lot of heat going very inefficiently up the stack. To quote their engineer at the last air quality hearing, "over a trillion BTUs of thermal pollu-tion." Because thermal pollution is not toxic, our Air Quality Bureau is unable to regulate it. The greatest amount of heat generated by the plant will be when the demand for electricity is high and the plant is operating at full load. This usually occurs when the weather is hazy, hot and humid. Just when our evaporator coolers are the least effec-tive and our windows are wide open.

After the plant is up and running, they will probably propose the use of Combined Cycles Units in an effort to use all that wasted heat. Combined Cycle Units are steam driven and use much more water. Currently, Rio Grande Utilities, which feeds water to the industrial park, is being sold to a California company. As we have all heard, California is short of electric power. Should PERC wish to enlarge its facility, they would find it a simple matter to buy the needed water from a now-California-based water company.

Let us face facts. The sole purpose of the 280 MW generator to be installed in our back yard is to make money for Peoples Energy Resources Corporation of Chicago. All their so-called benefits to the community are simply excuses for putting it here. With all the wide-open space in New Mexico, why put it here? PERC claims because they will have easier access to their (read "our") needed resources. Whatever rules and regulations we have in place appear to be easily bypassed or overcome.

Before moving here, I worked for the second largest power company in the United States. I chose to live here because of the peaceful lifestyle, quiet atmosphere, friendly people and, of course, the climate. Now the big boys from Chicago are coming and want to change it. They'll send their profits back to Chicago, their electric power out of state, and our valuable resources up in smoke. The few permanent jobs they offer require skills our local residents may not have. Even some of the temporary jobs require skills not often used in Valencia County.

As far as reducing the cost of our electricity, I think not. Price and profits of regulated companies are controlled by the Public Utilities Commission. Normally, Power Distribution Companies like PNM purchase the cheapest power available from the power pool, even over that which they produce, if it is found reliable and more economical to do so. The power generated by this facility will be fed into the network controlled by the Western States Power Pool. Having expensive equip-ment stand idle is, of course, a waste of investor money. So the so-called peaking station will sell its generated electricity any time there is opportunity and someone is willing to pay for it.

Gas turbines are basically jet engines driving an electric generator. Unless sufficiently muffled, they- can be quite noisy. Currently, there are no state or county regulations controlling audible noise. Currently, the ambient noise at the border of existing homes in Rio Communities is 40 dba. This is very quiet and about the smallest detectable noise on the average sound level meter. Any noise above that level will easily be heard.

It would be more logical if they built their plant where water is more plentiful, additional heat is not a problem, and the noise wouldn't bother anyone, like the California coast. California needs the power, we don't. PNM has more than enough power to supply this area. If and when we should ever need it, California can send us their surplus electricity.

Edwin Spitznagel is a resident of Rio Communities

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