El Paso Electric, Montana Vista residents reach agreement

El Paso Electric, Montana Vista residents reach agreement
MGN Online

POSTED: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - 10:40am

UPDATED: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - 1:18pm

El Paso Electric and a group of Montana Vista residents, Far East El Paso Citizens United (FEEPCU), have reached an agreement after a year of ongoing legal battles over the proposed construction of a Power Station near Zarazoza and Montana. The construction will proceed in the proposed area following El Paso Electric's agreement to a number of components proposed by FEEPCU. 

As part of the agreement, El Paso Electric and FEEPCU have agreed on the creation of a Citizens Advisory Panel, made up of EPE staff, neighborhood representatives and other community partners. The panel allows the Montana Vista community to address any concerns related to the implementation of the power plant, including illegal dumping, humane control of stray animals, emergency response training and planning as well as community alerts and any additional issues that may arise out of the plant operations.

Ralph Carrasco, leader of FEEPCU and life-long Montana Vista resident said, "While we wish the plant was not in our neighborhood, we are very pleased with the settlement agreement, particularly EPE's agreement not to build additional turbines and possibly install solar panels at the plant. The other terms of the agreement also hold a lot of promise for the future of Montana Vista and surrounding neighborhoods. EPE has given serious consideration to our concerns and we are looking forward to working together.”

In addition, the agreement includes components regulating El Paso Electric operations such as:

  • No power generation on the MPS site beyond installation of MPS Units 1-4, except for up to 5 MW of solar;
  • Establishing a fund for energy efficiency measures for eligible residents within a one-mile radius of the MPS fence line; and
  • A commitment to energy efficient equipment and lighting fixtures at the power station, including IESNA “dark skies.”

“Our meetings have strengthened the relationship between EPE and Far East El Paso, and we look forward to working closely with the community in the years ahead,” said Tom Shockley, EPE’s Chief Executive Officer. “This power station is part of a larger plan to replace older, less efficient generation to reliably serve the growing needs of our customers and remain a national leader with a low carbon footprint and increase our use of renewables.”

El Paso Electric believes that the community agreement will strengthen the relationship between Montana Vista residents and EPE. The power plant still requires Texas permits from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), but EPE officials believe that the permit should be issued in the near future. The last component of the project approval is the issuance of a final EPA greenhouse gas permit. On September 21, 2013, EPA issued a draft air permit for EPE’s proposed Montana Power Station. On December 4, 2013, the Sierra Club filed comments with the EPA regarding EPE’s choice of natural gas generating technology. This action is in-line with its stated agenda for carbon-free energy production by 2050.

El Paso Electric expects that the EPA will issue the required permit, but the ability of parties to petition for further review of that decision may delay EPE’s ability to begin construction of the generating units into the second half of 2014. 

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