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PNM: Case for full requested rate hike has already been made

The state’s largest utility company said Monday it doesn’t want another hearing on its request for a 15.8 percent increase in electricity rates because it’s already established that the hike is justified. Public Service Company of New Mexico said it has provided sufficient evidence to prevail in its case before the five-member state Public Regulation Commission. Intervening parties also said the case should not be reopened, though they disagreed that the company should receive so high a rate increase.

The Public Regulation Commission last week said the rate case could continue through December if PNM agrees to submit more evidence that its repurchase of nuclear power from a generating station in Arizona was cost-effective.

Earlier this month, commission hearing examiner Carolyn Glick said PNM had failed to provide sufficient evidence that its decision-making was in the best interest of customers. Glick recommended a 6 percent rate increase for PNM, or about $41 million annually.

Carlos Padilla, a spokesman for the commission, said reopening the case would give PNM a better shot at obtaining the higher rate increase.

PNM disagreed. “This case already has a protracted history,” the utility stated in its filings.

The company conceded that aspects of the case “generated significant disagreement over the amount PNM should recover” in rate charges. But it also said: “No evidence in the record refutes or contradicts PNM fully recovering its annual costs. …”

It added that extending the hearing would conflict with the company’s plans to seek another rate increase, likely before the end of the year. PNM asked that the commission make its decision no later than Sept. 30.

“While we appreciate the commission’s willingness to address the implications of the hearing examiner’s recommended decision, we cannot agree to further delays in the implementation of new rates,” Pat Vincent-Collawn, PNM Resources’ president, said in a statement.

The utility first proposed a rate increase in 2014 but dropped the request after six months. When the latest rendition of the case began in March, regulators held weeks of hearings and twice reopened the record to obtain additional evidence, extending proceedings into late June.

PNM maintains it should be allowed to redeem the full 15.8 percent increase, or $123.5 million annually, from customers. It said this would compensate for investments in 64.1 megawatts of power repurchased from the Palo Verde Generating Station and for pollution efficiency measures at the San Juan Generating Station in northwestern New Mexico.

The utility said that, without the full rate increase, parent company PNM Resources would take a hit in the stock market and approximately 300 employees would be laid off.

Intervening parties also said case should not be reopened. But they argued that record has established that PNM’s request for a 15.8 percent increase is unjustified.

“To selectively reopen the docket to consider only issues on which PNM could gain would be unbalanced and unfair,” wrote Steven Michel, an attorney for Western Resource Advocates, in a filing Monday.

Mariel Nanasi, director of New Energy Economy, said in a filing Monday that PNM is “crying wolf and exaggerating [the] harm” that would result from Glick’s recommendation.

And Jeffrey Albright, attorney for the city of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, said reopening the rate case would be “futile.”

If the commission does not reopen the case and the commission votes on a rate increase, PNM’s customers would see the change in their bills starting as soon as Oct. 1.

Padilla said the commission will decide Wednesday how Monday’s filings will affect their final ruling in the rate case.

Rebecca Moss The New Mexican



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