The Coal Cycle in Northeast New Mexico
Surface water and groundwater are contaminated during the extraction of coal, its subsequent preparation and the disposal of mine waste, if no mitigating measures are used. In New Mexico many sites have been abandoned without adequate reclamation.
Coal mining and power plants utilize large amounts of water. For example, 260 million gallons of water are used for coal mining in the U.S. every day. In 2006, coal plants discharged 32% of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, about the same as from cars, trucks, buses, trains, planes, and boats combined. Methane is a greenhouse gas 20 times as potent as carbon dioxide. Coal mining accounts for 26% of all energy-related methane emissions in the U.S. each year.
Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of sulfur dioxide pollution (acid rain) and the second largest source of nitrogen oxides (smog).
In 2010, coal-fired power plants emitted 72.3% of the greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the U.S. Burning coal releases fine soot particles, which can trigger heart attacks and strokes, worsen asthma, cause irregular heartbeat, and lead to premature death. Over 90% of the state’s power-related GHG emissions occur at coal-fired power plants.
Because of the intensive gas, oil and coal industries in New Mexico, the per capita GHG emissions are almost twice the U.S. average (42 v. 25).
Raton Power Plant
NMED Air Quality Bureau