BOLD LEGAL ACTION
Protecting people against corporate greed and destruction of
the land contamination by holding the utilities accountable.
We work hard in the regulatory arena both at the NM Public Regulation Commission and in the Courts in order to protect the public interest, the environment, and New Mexicans by enforcing regulatory standards and holding our Investor Owned Utilities accountable.
Protecting Our Regulatory Safeguards:
ENERGY TRANSITION ACT CONSTITUTIONAL CHALLENGE
Filed on August 26th the Writ of Mandamus filed by New Energy Economy And Co-Petitioners Food And Water Watch, Physicians For Social Responsibility – NM, Citizens For Fair Rates & The Environment, Rio Arriba Concerned Citizens, Tewa Women United, and Daniel Ernest Tso challenges specific provisions of the Energy Transition Act that violate New Mexico consumers’ constitutional rights to public regulation, due process, separation of powers, prohibition from log-rolling and special legislation, and freedom from interference in pending cases.
The New Mexico Constitution provides that the Commission has a duty to regulate public utilities:
The public regulation commission shall have responsibility for regulating public utilities…N.M. Const. art. XI, § 2 (emphasis added).
According to the New Mexico Supreme Court, Commission oversight is “the cornerstone of New Mexico’s regulatory scheme. In return for monopoly market power in its industry, the utility must submit to Commission regulation.” Pub. Serv. Co. of New Mexico v. New Mexico Pub. Serv. Comm’n, 1991-NMSC-083, ¶28, 112 N.M. 379, 387, 815 P.2d 1169, 1177.
Petitioners bring this action in order to prevent the New Mexico Public Regulatory Commission (NMPRC or PRC) from applying unconstitutional and unlawful provisions of the ETA in PNM’s case 19-00018-UT as well as other pending and future cases.
The Petition limits its challenge to seven specific provisions of the ETA that remove PRC oversight and authority to regulate on behalf of New Mexican ratepayers and the public interest. Some of the specific issues raised in the Petition include:
Review By the Regulatory Authority: Under the ETA the Utilities Set the Rates in Abandonment Cases, The PRC No Longer Has The Authority To Decide: The Petition challenges provisions that allow monopoly utilities like PNM to set the amount they want to recoup for decommissioning for instance, and ratepayers have to pay the PNM-determined amount. Under these provisions the PRC does not have the ability to amend PNM’s requested amount at all for either 100% undepreciated investments or for decommissioning costs up to $375 Million for its coal plants and an unidentified amount, (which could mean whatever the utility asks for), for gas plants and nuclear investments.
Under the ETA there is No Longer A Requirement Or Opportunity for the PRC To Ensure Rates Are Just, Fair, And Reasonable.
Under the ETA there is No Longer A Requirement Or Opportunity for the PRC To Protect Against Wasteful Spending.
Under The ETA there is No Longer A Requirement Or Opportunity for the PRC To Balance the Interests Of Investor Shareholders & Ratepayers: Regulatory law requires a balancing of interests between the shareholders and ratepayers. The ETA eliminates this fundamental statutory duty of the Public Regulation Commission.
Under The ETA The Utility Can Recover Costs Even If The Costs Were Found To Be “Imprudent”: Even if the company’s investments that it is asking to recover have been found to be imprudent (irresponsibly incurred) and even if the costs of cleanup are due to negligence on the part of the company, New Mexican ratepayers have to pay and incur a non-bypassable surcharge added to their bill for twenty-five years.
The Petition asks the Court:
To issue an Immediate Stay of NM PRC Case No. 19-00018-UT to prevent the financing order from issuing by operation of law;
To strike as unconstitutional Section 2H; Section 2S; Section 5; Section 8B; Section 11C; Section 22; Section 31C;
To mandate the PRC to refuse to enforce the unconstitutional provisions, and
To direct the PRC in its application of the ETA, to revert to the exercise of its traditional regulatory review of all of the matters dealing with undepreciated investments, abandonment and decommissioning, and the setting of reasonable rates for ratepayers.
The Petition argues to preserve the Renewable Portfolio Standard that establishes new minimum requirements for the conversion to renewable energy resources by severing Sections 26-35.
The Petition argues in support of the abandonment of SJGS and the concept of securitization as well as the legislature’s authority to adopt this financing tool to facilitate the abandonment of power plants. Replacement power for the San Juan Generating Station (“SJGS”) is not challenged in this Petition and is currently being considered by the PRC in a separate docket, Case No. 19-00195-UT, which should be unaffected by the Petition. Petitioners also support the creation of special funds for workers and economic recovery and development programs, especially for impacted Indigenous communities, Section 16.
The purpose of the Petition is to preserve the regulatory authority and safeguards codified in New Mexico’s Constitution in order to defend the people of New Mexico, the public interest, due process, and the environment.
Stopping Further Investment in Coal
In operation since 1973, SJGS consumes millions of tons in coal a year, and produced 1.7 million tons of coal ash in 2017 alone. Each year the plant discharges into the air approximately 100 million pounds of sulfur dioxide, 100 million pounds of nitrogen oxides (NOx), and 6 million pounds of soot, as well toxic mercury. San Juan Generating Station consumes 9.3 Billion gallons of water a year.
The Single Greatest Driver of Global Warming
Coal-fired power plants are the biggest contributors to toxic air and water pollution, and the largest source of greenhouse gases in the United States. Coal ash, the waste from the burning of coal for electricity, contains a long list of toxic chemicals, including mercury, arsenic, lead, radium, chromium, cadmium, other carcinogens, and several metals that can impair children’s developing brains, and multiple chemicals that are toxic to life.
We’ve pushed forward on the path to end coal in critical ways. After 8 years of fighting PNM’s ongoing investment in the coal fired San Juan Generating Station, our legal and grassroots organizing work has played a huge part in a major victory – on March 16, 2017, PNM announced that it will close the entire San Juan Coal plant by 2022.
This decision comes in the context of years of pressure from our growing grassroots movement as well as a series of targeted legal interventions we’ve waged before the NM PRC Commission since 2012.
We have challenged PNM’s further billion dollar investment and recommitment in its share of the Four Corners Power Plant and are blazing the trail for a new standard of accountability at the PRC. New Energy Economy has established ourselves as the only interveners willing to dig-in to provide rigorous analysis and push for discovery to challenge PNM and other utility proposals to extend the life of climate and life harming coal plants.
For a livable future, our Legal Strategy outflanks what is politically acceptable, and fights for crucial system change, now!
Stopping Further Investment in Radioactive Nuclear
Palo Verde Nuclear Generating station creates ZERO New Mexico Jobs and is the most expensive and water-intensive form of energy on the market, (768 Gallons per MWh at Palo Verde).
PVGS creates radioactive waste with no permanent storage solution and enormous health & environmental risk. Nuclear energy has a track record of environmental-racism and ecological and health devastation in NM & worldwide.
Challenging New Mexico utilitIES' long history of imprudent investment and dealings in expensive and dangerous nuclear energy.
500 miles Southwest of Albuquerque, the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station is our nation's largest nuclear generating facility. Palo Verde, considered one of our nation's safest nuclear facilities, has a history of major safety violations, consumes more water than any other form of energy (treated sewage water that must be piped into the plant from surrounding communities), and produces radioactive waste in the form of spent fuel rods that remain deadly to life for tens of thousands of years. The world has no answer for how to store this waste, and U.S. nuclear facilities produces thousands of tons of the waste every year.
Besides the incalculable costs and ever present threat to the environment, Palo Verde energy is also the most expensive form of electricity sold to New Mexico households, and if PNM gets their way, ratepayers will continue to receive energy from Palo Verde for another 25 years at a cost of $1.3 billion dollars. This costs does not including decommissioning costs - the billion dollar price-tag that experts say it will cost to finally close down the plant in 2045.
We're working to get New Mexico out of the nuclear energy business sooner. Here's how:
100% Renewables Replacement Power
Our Path TO a 100% Renewable just transition by 2035
New Mexicans face a choice: Should we accept a status quo defined by stagnant wages, high unemployment, and rising pollution? Or should we opt to invest in innovation, competitiveness, sustainability, and self-reliance?
Ask New Mexicans, and the answer will be nearly unanimous: People want a high-employment, high-innovation clean energy economy.
Our state has demonstrated capacity to serve as a global leader in the transition to renewable energy. With world-leading sun and wind resources, a hardworking people, and the technical capacity, New Mexico is poised for an extraordinary accomplishment: To become the first state to achieve a 100% renewable electricity sector.
Our work lays out a specific and achievable path for a 100% renewable just transition. Through Competitive Procurement legislation and PRC rule making, we work to create a fair market for renewables and allow Independent Power Producers (IPP) to compete fairly against the monopoly utilities to provide our electricity. Nationwide, IPPs deliver electricity at a 27% lower cost than regulated utilities.
Through numerous cases before the PRC and in the Courts, we work to bring PNM and El Paso Electric's practice of bid rigging to an end. For decades the big utilities have put their thumb on the scale and used every opportunity to guarantee ownership of power resources, driving prices up for New Mexico ratepayers.