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Petition opposing LNG plant delivered - The company publicly states that price stability and reliability are its motivating factors, but the true motivation was revealed in discovery

Today New Mexico residents and New Mexico Gas Company customers braved the cold to deliver a petition at the New Mexico Gas Company headquarters calling on the company to withdraw its application for a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity from the Public Regulation Commission for construction of a Liquefied Natural Gas plant near the Double Eagle Airport, as well as numerous neighborhoods, schools and a national monument. A procedural hearing with the Public Regulation Commission Hearing Examiner is scheduled to begin next week on Monday, January 8th. Residents and customers oppose the proposed plant because:

  • NMGC's LNG facility is not cost effective. The $180M or more that could be charged to ratepayers to build the plant dwarfs the projected $44M that could be saved in a hypothetical storm. The company publicly states that price stability and reliability are its motivating factors, but the true motivation for construction of the plant, as revealed in discovery in the case, is the addition of hundreds of millions of dollars to the company’s rate base, which will allow NMGC’s Canadian parent company, Emera, to collect a guaranteed Return on Equity of 9.375% (NMGC has a currently pending ratecase which seeks to increase its ROE to 10.5%) in profit from every New Mexico customer for Wall St. shareholder dividends.

  • NMGC's claimed operational benefits don't outweigh the significant risks. Physical danger from the ignition of leaking gas forming a low-lying cloud that can drift, sometimes for miles, until it hits an ignition source — even simple static electricity — igniting an inferno.

  • Impacts from boil-off gas and other necessary intermittent venting could increase cumulative emissions and further exacerbate existing air quality issues in Rio Rancho and Albuquerque, leading to adverse health effects such as coughing, breathing difficulty, chest pain, and throat irritation, among more severe consequences.

  • The proposed facility could decrease property values of nearby communities and will create just 8 to 10 permanent jobs.

  • New fossil fuel investments will slow the adoption of alternatives and ultimately turn into stranded assets. Now is not the time to build new fossil fuel infrastructure that makes decarbonization more difficult!

The proposed plant is opposed by a wide coalition of Bernalillo County residents and organizations concerned about impacts on public health, safety and property. The petition was delivered by Eleanor Bravo, a Rio Rancho resident. Elizabeth Haley, president of the West Side Coalition of Neighborhood Associations (WSCONA), which represents 26 neighborhood and homeowners’ associations in Bernalillo County located west of the Rio Grande River and passed its own resolution opposing the construction of the plant called on the company to “The proposed plant's site is adjacent to the Rio Grande Rift Valley volcano (the Northernmost Volcano is 1.78 miles from the site). Due to the basalt layers and known seismic activity, our area has building restrictions. It has yet to be clarified if the proposed facilities' structural specifications or cost estimates included these considerations. We, residential property owners and neighborhood associations, question if the Gas Company site selection focused on price and ease of acquisition.“

The proposed plant is also opposed by NM legislators from the area, including NM Senator Harold Pope and Rep. Joy Garratt, who authored a letter opposing the plant signed by 11 other New Mexico legislators from districts that could be adversely impacted, and by the Bernalillo County Commission, which passed a resolution on October 24th to ask the PRC to reject the proposed plant. At the rally Augustine Montoya delivered a statement from Bernalillo County Commissioner Eric Olivas “Over time here, and around the world, demand for natural gas is going to drop precipitously, and the climate impacts of continuing to burn fossil fuels are unacceptable for my generation and future generations. This is a problem that no one has taken seriously for decades…we can’t continue to ignore it… we cannot put our head in the sand and continue to burn and build fossil fuels. We see the future. There’s no reason to straddle our ratepayers and our taxpayers here in Bernalillo County with an asset that will be useless in several years.”

Zephyr Jaramillo spoke on behalf of NMGC ratepayers and Youth United for Climate Crisis Action (YUCCA), highlighting that  “Not only does the spending of $180 million on an unnecessary plant place an unnecessary burden on ratepayers by increasing the cost by $3 a month for the next 30 years, the truth is that investing in fossil fuel infrastructure at this time is totally irresponsible. Climate action demands no further investment in new fossil fuel projects. If this proposal moves forward it is very likely that ratepayers will be paying for an abandoned plant down the road. Most of our community can’t afford any utility bill increases because we’re already struggling to pay our current bills, and it would be a travesty to have us paying for stranded assets in the future.”

NMGC documents NEE received during litigation reveal that NMGC wants to build this LNG facility to meet internal financial metrics - to expand capital expenditures in order to increase rate base - which increases earnings and results in dividends for shareholders. That is THE reason for the LNG facility, not “reliability” needs or price spike mitigation, as the company erroneously claims in testimony.


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