State regulators require PNM to refile rate case

The state Public Regulation Commission voted 5-0 on Wednesday to dismiss Public Service Co. of New Mexico’s request for a 12-percent rate increase because the information provided was “incomplete.”

As a result, PNM will have to completely refile its application, something it’s expected to do by Sept. 1. That will set the hearing process back by a number of months, in turn delaying the start date for any rate hike eventually approved by the commission. Under the original application, new rates could have taken effect next January.

PRC hearing examiner Carolyn Glick had recommended the commission dismiss PNM’s request because the utility failed to provide enough information about how it calculated estimated costs that it wants to recover, and because it did not make all documentation accessible electronically. Such online access is critical for PRC staff and intervening parties to fully vet the validity of PNM’s cost estimates, said Judy Amer, attorney with the PRC Office of the General Counsel, which supported the hearing examiner’s recommendation.

“Staff and intervenors need to be able to trace with relative ease the numbers and match them with supporting data,” Amer told commissioners Wednesday.

PNM had asked commissioners to reject the recommendation for refiling and said it should instead be able to submit supplemental testimony and exhibits to correct any deficiencies.

But Amer said filing a completely new application would make it much easier for staff and intervening parties to review and verify data.

“It will only delay things by a few months, depending on the exact date that PNM refiles,” Amer said.

Some case intervenors said the material provided by PNM and the way it was technically presented had created huge problems when sifting through the data.

“Parties in the case had submitted, all together, like 1,000 discovery questions,” said New Energy Economy Executive Director Mariel Nanasi. “It was very hard to understand the data, and we need to be able to comprehensively review PNM’s justifications for a rate increase.”

Steve Michel, chief counsel for Western Resource Advocates, said the way the information was filed impeded the ability to work with  PNM’s spread sheets.

“If you take out a cost as imprudent, for example, you should be able to do that and have it flow through the spread sheets to see how it affects everything,” Michel said. “There are so many pieces in this rate case, and it all has to flow together to properly assess all costs and PNM’s justifications for them.”

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