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Four Corners Coal - incompatible with life itself

We took a few days off to visit the mountains and the sky after submitting our 100 page Brief in Chief in the Four Corner Abandonment case last Friday. We are fighting for life after all - life under a clear blue sky, life in all its beauty and wonder, life for all creatures great and small. The fight for climate justice requires a perseverance that must come from love, because this fight isn't won in months or days, but in years. In this case it has been seven years since PNM doubled down on coal when it reinvested in the Four Corners Power Plant without considering the economic or environmental costs for New Mexicans, and we have been arguing for its closure ever since.

Our brief argues that:

1. PNM has not met its burden of proof under Section 62-9-5 NMSA 1978 that its abandonment application is a net public benefit, and therefore must fail. Any application that extends the burning of coal cannot meet the "net public benefit" standard.

2. The investments made in the plant have already been found imprudent, and ratepayers must be held harmless for the nearly $300M in undepreciated investments and capital investments that the company has thrown at the plant to keep it operating for all these years.

3. The Commission should require the removal of FCPP from "rate base," disallowing PNM to use FCPP energy to serve our needs. PNM’s testimony acknowledges that FCPP is uneconomic for ratepayers and that we’d save between $30 and $300M if we’d rely on other feasible replacement power. If the Commission agrees, shareholders would be stuck with FCPP and PNM would have to provide us with energy from alternative sources. Shareholders don’t like to lose money and that would truly hasten the closure (not “abandonment”) of the plant. Then starts the fight for renewable energy replacement power!

If PNM had done its due diligence back in 2013 and exited the plant, as it should have, then the plant would likely have closed at that time. It is unconscionable that PNM should be allowed to once again extend the life of the Four Corners plant in pursuit of a buyout to benefit its executives and shareholders when it has become ever more clear that coal fired power is incompatible with life itself.

PNM's underhanded effort to stick ratepayers for its imprudent decisions through the Energy Transition Act, and its cynical ploy to then skirt its obligations to future generations by transferring the plant to NTEC and prolonging the life of the plant through its "abandonment" application, are emblematic of the deeply flawed monopoly utility model that puts profit on a pedestal and that is willing to sacrifice life itself in the name of that profit. We must demand change!


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