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Reader View: PRC can help combat climate change

By Taylor Selby | 2 comments

As Justin Gillis wrote on Oct. 22, “2015 likely to be the hottest year,” temperatures are hotter than last year’s record setting-levels, and 2015 has been the hottest year in the historical record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s report recently released.

This undermines any claims that global warming has somehow stopped. Year after year, it is clear that global warming and climate change are happening right here, right now. Presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a town hall meeting that more governmental agencies needed to get on board and “have a national commitment to do something about climate change.” In that speech, Clinton specifically identified the Federal Regulatory Commission as a necessary partner in such a national effort. She said, “It’s not just the EPA that needs to be focused on combating climate change.”

If this is true for the federal government on a national scale, then it is certainly true for us in New Mexico. We need our state agency equivalent to the Federal Regulatory Commission — the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission — to represent our interests and not allow the Public Service Company of New Mexico to acquire and burn more coal.

The PRC is still deciding what to do about PNM’s plan for the San Juan Generating Station. While PNM has been forced by the Environmental Protection Agency to close at least two units of the four-unit station, it has included in its replacement plan the acquisition of an additional 197 megawatts of coal. By its own admission in the hearing, PNM is seeking permission for the additional coal to “continue indefinitely.” While the rest of the country and political leaders on every level are abandoning coal, New Mexico is lagging behind and attempting to ties itself in to long-term commitments to buying and burning coal.

It is well established that burning coal is a leading cause in the United States of air pollutants, contributing to global climate change. In addition to causing climate disruption, coal is no longer necessary or a cost-competitive electricity generating resource. Solar and wind are plentiful in New Mexico, and we have an historic opportunity to usher in a transition to these job-creating industries. In fact, the solar industry now employs more people in New Mexico than PNM.

The price of energy coming from solar and wind is significantly less expensive than coal. Solar and wind have virtually no maintenance cost associated with it, no ash to get rid of, and doesn’t deplete our aquifers.

We need the PRC to regulate PNM on behalf of the public. It is our economy, our environment and our future at stake. Tying us to coal is dangerous and costly. When we have these renewable assets available, it is irresponsible to continue to invest in coal.

When a presidential candidate calls on the national regulatory commission to join the effort to combat climate change, isn’t it time for New Mexico’s PRC to do so as well?

Taylor Selby is vice president at Positive Energy Solar, co-founder of Earth Care and a father of two.


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