PNM responds to criticism with new ad on coal-replacement plan

PNM responds to a recent Sierra Club radio ad with claims that the environmental group isn't "concern with the facts", despite there being 3 alternative plans that are in fact cheaper than PNM's and that the hearing examiner himself deemed PNM's application not in the public interest. Meanwhile, PNM has "brazenly refused" a PRC order to publicly disclose the details of its coal supply agreement with Westmoreland Coal Company.

The public battle over plans for the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station continues as Public Service Company of New Mexico launched a radio ad over the weekend in response to a Sierra Club radio spot that criticized PNM’s proposal for the power plant near Farmington.

PNM’s ad stresses that the company’s plan — under consideration by the state Public Regulation Commission — calls for significantly less use of coal than currently is burned at the plant.

The ad also claims that groups like the Sierra Club “aren’t concerned with facts” or “less coal, affordable bills and cleaner energy.”

“You’re right,” the ad states. “Facts do matter. And when you consider all the facts, PNM’s plan is clearly the right thing to do.”

In an email Monday, a spokesman for the environmental advocacy group responded: “The fact of the matter is that PNM’s plan for the San Juan Generating Station is bad for New Mexico families. Don’t just take my word for it: an independent hearing examiner has arrived at that same conclusion. The [Public Regulation Commission’s] own hearing examiner found that PNM’s proposal to continue burning coal at the San Juan Generating Station ‘is not fair, just and reasonable and in the public interest.’ That’s why cities like Albuquerque and Santa Fe are reading the writing on the wall and opposing PNM’s plan.”

PNM’s plans for San Juan involve closing two of the power plant’s four units and replacing the lost capacity with more coal, natural gas, nuclear power and other sources.

Also on Monday, another environmental group formally asked the Public Regulation Commission to make public redacted parts of PNM’s recently filed contract with a coal supplier.

PNM earlier this month filed a coal supply agreement with Westmoreland Coal Co., as well as a purchase and sale agreement between BHP Billiton and Westmoreland for the San Juan Mine. The utility also filed a request for a “protective order” that would keep secret certain documents filed in the case in order to keep “proprietary information and trade secrets” out of the public eye. Earlier in the year, PNM was able to get the commission to agree to keep some San Juan documents out of the public record.

“PNM brazenly refused to comply with the condition of the PRC’s May 27 order requiring that those filings be part of the public record,” Mariel Nanasi, president and executive director of New Energy Economy, which has intervened in the case, said in an email Monday. “Instead, key portions of the coal supply and stock purchase agreements were redacted, and a motion seeking confidentiality for unspecified and unsubstantiated reasons accompanied the filing.”

Nanasi said the contracts contain details that will have significant effect on the cost of energy. “Without considering those details, it is impossible to assess the true costs of PNM’s replacement power plan — especially since the ultimate risks and costs are borne by the public, not PNM’s shareholders.”

PNM spokeswoman Jodi McGinnis Porter responded with a written statement that said: “The Commission, as well as the parties to the case that have signed the confidentiality agreement have access to all the information, and PNM’s customer rates, whether in a rate case or through the fuel adjustment clause, must be justified in a public process. In numerous industries, business agreements that contain competitive and proprietary information are commonly kept confidential. This is also consistent with how similar information is handled under the current coal agreement.”

Contact Steve Terrell at sterrell@sfnewmexican.com. Read his political blog attinyurl.com/roundhouseroundup.

The complete script of PNM’s ad

Voice 1

I just heard an ad from the Sierra Club, and I’m more confused than ever about PNM’s plan for their San Juan power plant near Farmington.

Voice 2

Some groups like that aren’t concerned with facts. They twist the truth to get people riled up.

Voice 1

So what are the facts?

Voice 2

PNM has to meet federal environmental regulations. Their plan does that by cutting the use of coal by half and replacing the power with more solar, zero-emission nuclear and cleaner-burning natural gas. And even better, it keeps the lights on and it keeps our bills affordable.

Voice 1

I like that! What about alternatives?

Voice 2

No one has come up with a plan that provides the same improvements at a lower cost. I don’t want to pay more, but I want to protect the environment, and PNM’s plan makes the most sense.

Voice 1

So, less coal, affordable bills and cleaner energy? You’re right. … Facts do matter. And when you consider all the facts, PNM’s plan is clearly the right thing to do.

Voice 2

PNM has been New Mexico’s energy expert for almost 100 years, and I trust them to do the right thing for their customers, like us.

Read the article here.

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