Today the people of New Mexico were protected again by their elected PRC commissioners! Even with COVID-19 numbers surging and unemployment, hunger and homelessness on the rise, the monopoly electric and gas utilities in the state opposed the extension of the shutoff moratorium, arguing that they were concerned about people getting so far behind on their bills, and that it would be hard to collect the "bad debt" later.
In March when the pandemic hit the Public Regulation Commission passed a utility shutoff moratorium to protect consumers. In their order today, the moratorium was extended for the duration of the Governor's Emergency Orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It both prohibits the discontinuation of residential customer utility service and waives late fees on residential accounts.
New Energy Economy, Retake Our Democracy, Earth Care's Santa Fe Mutualistas, YUCCA, OLÉ, Prosperity Works, Working Families Party, New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light and several individuals spoke up yesterday on behalf of the people who are dependent now, more than ever, on stable housing, electricity, heat, water and food to weather this storm. As Castille Aguilar of YUCCA testified so effectively, "all those of us now going to school on-line must rely on electricity for our education". The PRC found this, and other arguments on behalf of those falling farther behind in New Mexico persuasive.
There is NO presumption that a utility is entitled to recover any of these alleged losses in a future rate case. Whether PNM or any of the monopoly private utilities and co-ops are entitled to any cost recovery for this alleged bad debt is a matter of future decision-making when the Commission will apply the law that requires a “fair balance between the interests of investors and ratepayers.” Debt forgiveness is the equitable path to be championed! Read New Energy Economy’s statement here.