LTE: El Paso should follow New Mexico’s lead in rejecting El Paso Electric’s proposed fracked-gas power plant: Newman 6

El Paso Electric (EPE) has proposed the development of a new fracked-gas plant in El Paso, a city that already faces unhealthy air quality.

In the year 2021, it is not only disappointing to see our city slide further into dependence on fossil fuels, it is offensive. The community of El Paso has previously brought up these points in a public meeting with the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality. However, I would like to reiterate the many arguments against the proposed plant which concern the health of El Pasoans, the environment, and the economic burdens that EPE will cause.

While Kelly Tomblin, EPE’s CEO, writes about servicing the community–the company’s actions are quite contradictory. The proposed Newman 6 plant she and the company wish to build in El Paso will emit particulate matter and other toxins, including carcinogens which damage our water resources, soil, and air. They also pose grave health risks to the population, my family and myself included. These health risks include respiratory problems like lung diseases and asthma, birth defects, nervous system impacts which can and have resulted in seizures, dizziness, headaches, loss of consciousness, and other neurological problems. EPE has previously stated that “It is our core mission to provide reliable service and we must meet that obligation with solutions that are cost-effective, efficient, and safe for all our customers.” However, none of these health risks are safe for the customers of El Paso and the economic burden the plant will place on El Pasoans is not cost-effective.

Furthermore, the cost of such health issues are devastating to working class families–the majority of which make up El Paso. The estimated total cost of the project is $159.3 million (not including additional transmission facility interconnection and upgrade costs) and due to the rejection of the plant by the NMPRC, that cost is now entirely placed on the city of El Paso. El Paso City Council already voted to oppose the proposed plant based on the staggering economic toll it would have on the El Paso community but this has not stopped EPE.

All of this does not even include the current COVID-19 crisis. Those who do not die from the disease are left with horrible lasting impacts on their health which would only be exacerbated by the proposed plant. These consequences far outweigh the supposed benefits that EPE has argued. The “new jobs” that the plant will create amount to .0001% of the population. Yet, the negative health and environmental impacts will affect nearly every person in the area. I implore our city council (including my representative, Peter Svarzbein) to prevent the proposed Newman 6 plant from being built.

Samantha Cooney

Doctoral Candidate |  Graduate Assistant

University of New Mexico  |  Department of Political Science


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