On May 27th we filed a Motion to Sanction PNM and Avangrid for their failure to respond to discovery with complete and accurate information, and their unlawful designation of "confidential" on the majority of discovery responses in order to withhold critical information from New Energy Economy, other parties, and the public. On January 11th we asked Avangrid to disclose any violations or fines levied against the company or its subsidiaries. We got back two pages with a short list of minor violations, but when the Hearing Examiner asked for the same information on May 11th, Avangrid submitted nearly 2500 pages in response.
On Monday the Hearing Examiner issued an order agreeing with our assessment, ordering PNM and Avangrid to respond by June 28th and show cause why the PRC should not find that PNM and Avangrid violated discovery rules and rules prohibiting over-designation of confidential materials. The companies must also explain their failure to comply with the Hearing Examiner's own order when they again provided an incomplete list of violations, fines and cost disallowances in May.
The Hearing Examiner reiterated our concern that had Avangrid disclosed the extent of the findings against them in January, not only would we and others have been able to respond in our testimony, but there is a potential that some parties to the stipulated settlement might have had second thoughts, or at least insisted that the Stipulation include stronger protections to ensure service quality. He wrote:
...this is not how discovery is supposed to take place. The Commission’s rules and the December 18 procedural order require complete responses at the time a party provides a discovery response, and incomplete answers are considered failures to respond. The rules also require the timely supplementation of responses. The rules do not require parties conducting discovery to presume that the answers they receive will be incomplete. Incomplete answers are the exception to what the rules anticipate. The rules do not anticipate that a party conducting discovery will also be required to undertake a continuing series of communications to confirm the presumption that the answers are incomplete, and then to file motions to compel complete answers.
The issue of whether to order sanctions and/or administrative penalties and the amount of any penalties shall be litigated at the hearings scheduled to start on August 11.
At those hearings I am sure the Hearing Examiner will also be curious as to why Avangrid has not promptly disclosed the $360,000 penalty FERC just levied against Avangrid for its failure to comply with safety regulations that can ensure stability and prevent outages. This is the second time in two years that Avangrid subsidiary CMP has been cited for a similar problem.