Who is looking out for New Mexico ratepayers and for our environmental rights at the PRC? Certainly not our Attorney General, who has shirked his responsibility to protect the people from abuse in the merger case of the largest corporation in our state.
The Capital and Main article published on Saturday, New Mexico Attorney General Faces Fraud, Corruption Allegations Amid Power Company Merger, lays out the conflicts of interest between the AG, Hector Balderas, his law school friend and former law partner, Marcus Rael, and the State Auditor who is supposed to investigate these kinds of abuses, Brian Colon, who also went to school and worked with Balderas and Rael before he was elected. That relationship apparently supersedes his duty to look out for the best interests of New Mexicans. As noted by reporter Cody Nelson:
In late April, Balderas, acting on behalf of the state, came to a stipulation agreement with PNM, Avangrid and several other parties in the merger. The agreement appears to run counter to the testimony of the attorney general’s own expert witnesses, including Hempling, and left consumers with fewer financial benefits than advocates had sought, not to mention the threat of higher rates than before. During the merger proceedings, Avangrid’s parent company, Iberdrola, hired a lawyer to oversee the negotiations. Who was their new counsel? Marcus Rael. It was only after Rael came on board — at $400 an hour — that Balderas approved the merger stipulation.
It was then no surprise when it was reported that Rael's law firm Robles, Rael and Anaya has donated more than $36,000 to Balderas since his first run for public office, more than almost any other entity in the state.
It is not only ratepayers who are being impacted by this corruption. Avangrid and Iberdrola, its parent company, are marketed as renewable energy experts but the truth isn't quite so green. The reporter further notes:
Iberdrola has a history of greenwashing — giving the appearance of being environmentally responsible without being so, according to critics. While Iberdrola has garnered praise for its environmental efforts and has undertaken robust climate action for an energy company of its size, it continues to build new gas-fired power plants, which account for over 15% of its production. Iberdrola has also been accused of myriad abuses in Latin America, including violating Indigenous rights.
Reports of additional ethics violations have begun to surface. On Saturday the SF New Mexican reported that the AG reached a settlement with Vivint Solar Inc for defrauding New Mexico customers, a settlement in which the out of State Pennsylvania attorneys who Hector farmed the case out to received $700,000 and the Attorney Generals’ Office received $1.3M but zero restitution was obtained for thousands of New Mexicans who were harmed. Even though Hector Balderas is supposed to be the defender of the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) and a promoter of open government he allowed a million documents related to the case to be sealed, making it harder for those victims to pursue justice and concealing the case from public scrutiny. Were you wondering if that Pennsylvania firm contributed to Balderas’ campaign? You guessed correctly.
Iberdrola can spend $36 billion on back room deals and slick advertising. If those who are elected to represent the public interest and protect New Mexicans from corporate abuse cannot be trusted to hold them to account, then we the people must speak instead. We must speak up for those who are impacted by rising inequality, rising energy rates, and rising temperatures. We will not be silenced.