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Youth Diné Voices Beautifully Carry Demands for Coal Plant Clean Up Before PRC

THANK YOU everyone for your support yesterday! The Public Regulation Commission (PRC) room was packed with people who provided public comment to mark the beginning of two weeks of hearings for the San Juan Generating Station (SJGS) Abandonment Case. Throughout these hearings, information will be presented on whether the Energy Transition Act (ETA) applies, which includes a 100% cost recovery bailout for Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) through securitization, as well as a wholly inadequate decommissioning plan. 

We were so impressed by the degree to which you all are following the complex issues of the case and by the compelling arguments that were made to protect ratepayers, demand corporate accountability for poor business decisions and risky investments, and demand justice for the long-term residents of the area whose health, traditional lifeways, and environment have suffered.

The highlight of yesterday was the testimony of the fifteen Diné community members who came to Santa Fe with our HIA team to tell the Commission and the Hearing Examiners how the plant’s presence in their homeland and in their backyards has negatively impacted their lives, the land, the air, the vegetation, the water, and their health, for generations.  Everyone spoke from the heart and brought a new dimension to the conversation that has been dominated by cost-sharing arrangements between rate payers and PNM for the abandoned assets of the coal plant. 

The youth filled the halls with their nascent voices demanding the right to have their drinking and ceremonial waters protected from contamination from the site. Older generations grieved the loss of medicinal herbs, healthy soil and air that they had known earlier in their lives before the plant’s presence. An elder who was a retired registered nurse (and Vietnam vet) who saw the plant come online when he was 11 years old, recounted the increase in health complications and diseases in patients as pollution from the plant accumulated over the 45+ years of its operation. He shared his sadness that he and his family can no longer fish in the waters downstream from the plant.

The testimony from directly impacted community members was very moving. There were tears of pain, frustration and longing for a just world. PNM has been polluting the air, water and land in the San Juan Basin since 1973 and there were multiple generations of affected community members present to demand corporate accountability and comprehensive remediation efforts, which, under the ETA, the PRC would not be able to enforce. In 2017 alone the SJGS produced over 1 million tons of coal ash, comprised of heavy metals and carcinogens like mercury radium, lead and arsenic which can cause heart damage, lung disease, kidney disease and birth defects, amongst other ailments. 

The preliminary results from our Just Transition team’s Health Impact Assessment (HIA) were also shared, which show a clear call for more corporate accountability and serious concerns over health impacts from communities within the 100-mile radius of the plant. Speakers demanded that the Commission make a formal request to New Mexico Environmental Department (NMED) and New Mexico Energy Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD) for a comprehensive impact study. Grassroots community members did more research on a shoestring budget than a billion dollar company or the state has done in the last 50 years. This is completely unacceptable!

An enormous THANK YOU to all of those who came out, especially those who traveled far and who live in the most affected communities. It is essential that PNM and its regulators hear from community members who have been impacted by PNM’s greedy, polluting and deceptive behavior. We also honor the work of the Commissioners to protect the public interest and to provide members of the public the opportunity to have their voices heard. 

Today begins the evidentiary hearings for this case - we’ve started with our cross examination of PNM’s witnesses and we will provide you with updates throughout the two week hearing.

Thank you again for all of your support that comes in so many forms! We are in the thick of it now, and truly we are stronger together to take on this monopoly utility behemoth and demand justice.


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