Yesterday we filed our Brief in Chief, a summation of our arguments against the PNM Avangrid merger based on the testimony and evidence presented during the evidentiary hearing. If you have been following our emails, you know that we stood in opposition to the merger while one by one nearly all the intervenors, including our Attorney General, the public's official advocate, signed on to a stipulated settlement that contains no more than crumbs from the PNM/Avangrid/Iberdrola feast that will be allowed to drop to the floor for ratepayers and the public. As detailed in our brief, even those crumbs are mostly unenforceable, and therefore meaningless.
The Stipulation raises the most fundamental question that hangs over a proceeding such as this:
How can the “public interest” required in the Section 62-6-13 standard be satisfied if immediately after the merger is approved PNM/Avangrid is free to file a rate increase for hundreds of millions of dollars? How can the public interest be satisfied if the settlement allows Avangrid to collect $300 million plus interest, amortized over 25 years in securitized financing for the imprudence-riddled Four Corners Power Plant and its “abandonment,” which will guarantee that coal will still burn? It can’t. That’s why failure to adhere to these Commission legal standards is not a mere exercise but will have far-reaching economic consequences and must be remedied.
Those consequences reach far beyond the economic. Electricity is a fundamental and essential necessity of modern life. Reliability, equitable access and sustainability are not mere buzzwords, but matters of life and death for all New Mexicans.
A recent ProPublica/NPR investigation of the impact and cause of utility failures in New Orleans after Hurricane Ida illustrates how a utility's failure to invest in a resilient, sustainable grid led to death, life threatening medical emergencies for those reliant on medical devices, and significant cost for those forced to leave their homes when the stifling heat threatened their children and loved ones.
New Orleans residents stranded without power after Hurricane Ida.
Unsurprisingly Avangrid/Iberdrola has been accused of exactly this - shortchanging investments in grid reliability and distribution infrastructure in favor of padding investor profits in both Maine and New York.
With climate change looming, increasing the odds of both heat waves and deep freezes here in New Mexico, the values, policies and accountability of our utility company will have real world consequences for all of us. This is not an academic exercise.