At yesterday's Public Regulation Commission open meeting the Commissioners made two important decisions. First they voted unanimously to approve our settlement agreement to provide $115 million in rate credit adjustments owed to PNM ratepayers upon the closure of the coal fired San Juan Generating Station (SJGS), which closed in October of 2022. Within 30 days PNM customers will receive an average of $9.28 (11%) credit on their bills as a direct result of the transition from coal to clean, renewable, and significantly cheaper energy.
This is the first time we have reached any agreement with PNM, and represents the power of a united front to protect New Mexicans from utility overreach. New Energy Economy was joined by all intervenors to demand that PNM return the credits owed to customers. It is also a significant win for climate justice - an average $9.28 rate credit on customers bills is likely one of the largest credits ever wrested from a private utility and returned to customers in the United States, and comes as a direct result of the transition to lower cost renewable energy.
PRESS ABOUT THE RATE CREDIT DECISION
IN A 2-1 DECISION, PRC REJECTS PROPOSED SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT IN LNG CASE
On September 1st, 2023 the New Mexico Gas Company (NMGC) and PRC staff attorney’s filed a Stipulated Settlement Agreement regarding NMGC’s proposed Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plant in Case No. 22-00309-UT. The stipulated agreement was opposed by New Energy Economy, Western Resource Advocates, Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy, and the Office of the Attorney General. Yesterday Commissioner Ellison and Commissioner Aguilera voted to reject the settlement outright, opting to proceed with the scheduled public hearing on the merits of the case on December 4, 2023, without consideration of the proposed stipulation. Commissioner McConnell opposed the decision.
The PRC’s Order summarizes our arguments against the LNG facility and the stipulation:
NEE argues that the risks of the LNG Facility outweigh the benefits, the facility is not cost effective for ratepayers, that alternatives were not adequately investigated, that the plant will contribute to carbon emissions, and new fossil fuel investments will slow the adoption of alternative resources. Furthermore, NEE states that the Stipulation fails to address safety or environmental issues necessary to include in any public interest determination. NEE points out that the Commission, in a prior case that NMGC references as the cause for the proposed construction of the LNG Facility, asked NMGC to mitigate extreme price fluctuations, not reliability. NEE states that there is little to no testimony within the Application that specifically addresses insulation the LNG Facility will provide from vicissitudes of market spikes. NEE characterizes the Stipulation as a request that the Commission approve the facility first and worry about costs later. NEE askes that the Commission refuse to entertain the stipulation and instead schedule a hearing on the merits.
The Commissioners noted that a “stipulation will not materially conserve commission, staff, and party resources if it is apparent upon the filing of the stipulation that, on its face, the stipulation cannot ultimately be approved even after hearing --- that it fails the Commission’s standards for the approval of stipulation.” For the Commission to approve a stipulation, the Stipulation must be fair, just, reasonable, and in the public interest. The Commissioners concluded that “[g]iven the nature and the extent of the opposition in this case, it does not appear that this Stipulation achieves the policy purpose for supporting a stipulation.”
This LNG proposal did not result from a comprehensive “evaluation and assessment” of what’s best for ratepayers, which was required by the Commission. It came from the Company’s plan to increase capital spending and its own Return on Equity. (NMGC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Emera; According to Emera’s 2023 second quarter financial reports, Emera is “on track to deploy $2.8 billion in capital in 2023 with $1.4 billion invested in the first half of the year.” ) If approved, the LNG proposal would provide no net public benefit and the financial and environmental risks far outweigh the claimed benefits.