The evidentiary hearing in front of the Hearing Examinder begins tomorrow. We will be reporting significant developments as the case progresses, starting with the Hearing Examiners important order today that all internal audits of Avangrid/Iberdrola are public information. A win for transparency!
Avangrid/Iberdrola tried once again to hide their misdeeds from public scrutiny, but as a result of legal diligence in bringing this matter to the Commission; the Hearing Examiner ruled that internal reports and various documents are "material and relevant" to their takeover of PNM. For instance, Iberdrola has paid over 1 Million Euros to CENYT, Club Exclusivo de Negocios y Transacciones, S.L. ("CENYT"), "a firm dedicated to the provision of corporate intelligence services." Mr. Villarejo, a former police commissioner, is the director of the company and "is in custody for crimes of racketeering, bribery and money laundering." Mr. Villarejo and CENYT performed numerous "projects" for Iberdrola and paid by Iberdrola. It appears that the corporation has anti-fraud and crime prevention policies in place but that has not stopped the pattern and practice of market manipulation, corruption, fraud, and bribery which Iberdrola has settled in numerous countries and allegations are pending for the same in Maine.
In other significant news the Board of County Commissioners of Santa Fe County submitted comment to the PRC opposing the PNM Avangrid merger settlement saying:
"The Amended Stipulation provides inadequate benefits to the ratepayers of Santa Fe County, and imposes on those rate payers the obligation to make Avangrid whole for the cost of ceasing further ownership and use of the FCPP (Four Corners Coal Plant.)"
The County Commissioners refer to a central issue in the case, a conditioned precedent that requires PNM to abandon (in this case sell, not close!) the Four Corners plant and charge ratepayers for the $300M undepreciated investments made in the plant. The problem is that those investments were imprudent, and therefore ratepayers should be held harmless. This transaction cost of $300M dwarfs the rate credits being offered to ratepayers (now $65M).
Speaking of imprudence, the Arizona Corporation Commission (equivalent to the NMPRC), made the decision last week to disallow $484M to be foisted onto Arizona ratepayers for imprudent investments in the Four Corners Power Plant. We hope our commission will do the same.
PNM did no meaningful financial analysis before it invested nearly a billion dollars in the Four Corners coal plant, which is tantamount to utility management malpractice. Then PNM kept throwing good money after bad. Our New Mexico Supreme Court has ruled that ratepayers are to be held harmless for the decisions of utility management that were made in bad faith. The inclusion of Four Corners in the merger as a precondition - both the attempt to collect 'undepreciated assets' from ratepayers for imprudent investments and the transfer of the plant to facilitate its continued operation - is a central reason for our opposition.
The Governor's press secretary said in an email to the Associated Press yesterday that the Governor supports the merger, but "anything that would harm New Mexicans now or in the future or result in residents being anything less than a first priority would be problematic" (New Mexico Customers Sound Alarm Over Major Utility Merger - US News and World Report).
The argument that we must panic in this climate emergency and accede to the injustices of this corporate power grab in order to achieve our emissions goals is unfounded. We are already exceeding the goals of the Renewable Portfolio Standard because solar, wind and storage are the cheapest forms of energy. Not to mention, Avangrid/Iberdrola is not the champion of renewables that they claim to be. They are currently facing complaints in Maine for obstructing renewable energy deployment. As we transition to clean energy the benefits and profits can remain in the community. The extraction of New Mexico's resources and wealth to feed Wall Street bank accounts should join fossil fuels as a relic of the past.