Council postpones action on city-owned utility

Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2015 9:00 pm | Updated: 12:05 am, Thu Jan 15, 2015.

The City Council on Wednesday postponed action on a resolution that calls for the city to explore with Santa Fe County the possibility of a jointly owned public electric utility.

The council voted 5-3 to send the resolution back to the city Finance Committee, which next meets Jan. 20, and for the council to reconsider the matter as early as Jan. 28.

Mayor Javier Gonzales and Councilors Patti Bushee, Carmichael Dominguez, Signe Lindell and Ron Trujillo voted in support of the delay. Councilor Joseph Maestas, who sponsored the resolution, and co-sponsors Peter Ives and Chris Rivera, voted in opposition. City Councilor Bill Dimas was absent but has previously stated that the city has more pressing issues than creating its own electric utility.

Dominguez, who chairs the Finance Committee, made the motion to send the resolution back to his committee because it had been amended from an earlier version. Maestas argued that the changes were consistent with what councilors had discussed at the committee level, but Dominguez said the changes were substantial enough that the public should have more notice of what is being proposed.

“If any of the public have been following the bill based on the previous caption, they may not be aware that the caption and the direction has changed,” Dominguez said. “Kicking it back to committee allows us to continue that discussion, maybe add more to it or amend it, and potentially require more stakeholder input.”

The resolution is the latest in a series of attempts to move toward a public power supply that relies less on big coal-fired generating stations.

Meanwhile, Public Service Company of New Mexico is waging a public relations campaign against the push to create a government-owned utility to supply electrical power in Santa Fe.

The campaign includes advertising on The New Mexican’s website that asks readers to register their opinions and join in resisting the push for a public utility. The ads steer viewers to a website that PNM has been operating,powerforprogress.com, where the company has added a new section about the effort to create an electric utility in Santa Fe. PNM calls attempts to buy its local electricity distribution system and create a city-owned utility in Santa Fe “misguided.”

“Help us keep Santa Fe moving forward,” the website states. “Don’t let some Santa Fe officials take us backwards.”

Contact Daniel J. Chacón at 986-3089 or dchacon@sfnewmexican.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danieljchacon.

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