Tribal leaders, U.S. lawmakers discuss energy development, drawing protest

Tribal officials told a congressional panel meeting in Santa Fe on Tuesday that they want more autonomy from the federal government and that their communities are unjustly burdened by red tape that prevents energy development on Native lands. Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources, chaired by Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, joined by Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., and a panel of expert witnesses, said the policies of the Obama administration and Interior Department are stalling energy development for tribes. They said the administration has failed to understand the needs of tribal communities on the ground and is helping to perpetuate poverty as a result.

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PNM: Electric bills to rise about 7 percent

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PRC approves electric rate hike; bills could go up 9 percent

Home electric bills would rise by as much as 9 percent under a state Public Regulation Commission decision Wednesday on Public Service Company of New Mexico’s latest rate request. But the chief operating officer of PNM, which wanted a 15.8 percent increase, said she expects the state’s largest utility will appeal the decision. And New Energy Economy, a renewable-energy advocacy group that intervened in the case, also announced plans to appeal the decision, but for different reasons.

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NM high court accepts climate change brief in San Juan case

The New Mexico Supreme Court has accepted a brief on climate change filed by 38 organizations, the latest pivot in the labyrinthine San Juan Generating Station case that has been ongoing for three years. The friend-of-the-court brief was filed in support of New Energy Economy. The group is challenging a December 2015 decision by state regulators to allow Public Service Company of New Mexico to purchase 197 megawatts of coal-powered electricity to replace lost power from two shuttered units at the coal-powered San Juan station. PNM agreed to close the units as part of a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency aimed at reducing air pollution in the Four Corners area.
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Reader View: Don’t bail out PNM’s reckless acts

In 2013, the Public Service Company of New Mexico purchased 64.1 megawatts of nuclear generation facilities (Unit 2) at the nearly 30-year-old Palo Verde nuclear power plant in Arizona, executed a 15-year coal supply agreement for the nearly 50-year-old Four Corners Power Plant on a “take or pay” basis (requires coal purchases whether power plant operates or not), and purchased unnecessary “balanced draft” environmental controls for the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station, all without any prior review or approval from the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission. Now, three years later, PNM is seeking PRC approval to bail out PNM for these purchases and increase customer rates to pay for them. If the PRC approves, PNM will transfer all costs and risks associated with these purchases to us, its customers. In requesting this approval, PNM has provided no showing of need for additional “base load” (24-seven) electricity and no showing of benefit to ratepayers, as required by New Mexico law and regulations.

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When everyone has a conflict, what to do?

Late last year the state of New Mexico edged up to what might have turned into a constitutional crisis. And last week a committee of state legislators began discussing possible solutions to avoid such a crisis in the future. The situation in question was the Supreme Court’s hearing last November of a petition filed by New Energy Economy asking the court to remove four of the Public Regulation Commission’s five commissioners in the controversial case concerning the San Juan Generating Station for alleged conflicts of interest, bias and improper interactions with Public Service Company of New Mexico. The court, following oral arguments, rejected the petitions, and the four commissioners — Pat Lyons, R-Cuervo, Karen Montoya, D-Albuquerque, Lynda Lovejoy, D-Crownpoint, and Sandy Jones, D-Williamsburg — were allowed to stay on the case. As expected, they voted the next month to approve PNM’s San Juan plan to close two of the four coal-burning units.

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PRC to issue decision on PNM rate increase by end of September

The state Public Regulation Commission said Wednesday it will issue within 30 days a decision on a request by the state’s largest electric utility to raise consumers’ rates this fall, after nearly all parties in the case objected to reopening hearings. The Public Service Company of New Mexico proposed a 15.8 percent rate hike earlier this year to cover its investments in nuclear power and energy-efficiency measures. In early August, Carolyn Glick, a hearing examiner for the commission, recommended instead a 6 percent increase, saying PNM hadn’t justified the higher rate. Commissioners offered to reopen the case so that PNM could present more evidence on why it needed the bigger increase, but the utility and other groups involved in the case objected to dragging it out further.

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PNM refuses new hearing in rate case

Public Service Company of New Mexico on Monday refused an offer by state regulators to reopen hearings in a controversial rate case on the grounds that it has already submitted sufficient information to regulators and that extending the case further would harm the company financially. “Because PNM has not had an increase in its rates since July 2011, it is important to mitigate its revenue deficiency as soon as possible through a final resolution of all of the rate issues pending before the Commission,” PNM’s regulatory filing reads. Last week, the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission unanimously approved an order to reopen hearings if PNM agreed to certain conditions, giving the utility the chance to provide cost-benefit analysis a hearing examiner said was lacking from its rate request.

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PNM: Case for full requested rate hike has already been made

The state’s largest utility company said Monday it doesn’t want another hearing on its request for a 15.8 percent increase in electricity rates because it’s already established that the hike is justified. Public Service Company of New Mexico said it has provided sufficient evidence to prevail in its case before the five-member state Public Regulation Commission. Intervening parties also said the case should not be reopened, though they disagreed that the company should receive so high a rate increase.

 
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Criticism mounts after PRC decides to reopen PNM rate case

The state Public Regulation Commission is facing criticism over its decision this week to reopen hearings for an electric rate increase proposed by the Public Service Company of New Mexico after a hearing officer in the case recommended a drastically reduced rate hike.
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