SANTA FE, N.M. – A continuing dispute over rate hikes by Public Service Company of New Mexico is back before the Public Regulation Commission tomorrow. PNM had planned to use a January 1 ratepayer hike to recover hundreds of millions of dollars in upgrades at its Four Corners plant until the PRC backed an environmental group’s claim that its financial analysis and risk assessment were flawed. Mariel Nanasi, executive director of the advocacy group New Energy Economy, successfully argued that spending at the generating station would be “imprudent” and consumers should not have to pay investment costs at the coal-fired plant. “You can’t spend that much money and not do a valid financial analysis because ratepayers must be held harmless for the imprudent decisions of utility management,” she says. PNM is asking the commission to adopt an earlier agreement to increase residential customer rates by nearly nine percent over the next two years.
In 2017 I was proud to co-sponsor and vote to pass legislation to place a strong Independent Ethics Commission on the 2018 ballot. In 2018, we must take another critical step forward for ethics and against corruption and implement a comprehensive anti-sexual harassment policy. Making the Capitol safe for everyone is an issue of basic human dignity and good government accountability. We know there is strong, bi-partisan support for this anti-sexual harassment policy. We also know that getting critical details right is essential for the policy to work.
Despite the outcry from the political left, Chairman Ajit Pai and the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to end Title II regulation of the internet is the right move for individuals of all political stripes looking to create and share content on the internet. Government rules mandating that internet service providers treat all applications the same provided service providers less incentive to experiment with new ideas of how to get consumers the products they want. Thankfully, due in part to Pai’s leadership, this ill-conceived rule has now been overturned after just a few years. Notably, Title II flew in the face of years of bi-partisan agreement that government should maintain a “hands-off” policy towards the internet. In 1996, it was agreed that the internet was an information service and should be classified under the light touch regulation of Title I, not 1934’s Title II, but in 2015, instead of implementing ‘innocuous’ Net Neutrality consumer protections, the Obama FCC forced through a major expansion of regulatory state power by reclassifying the internet under Title II.
Across the country, everyone is talking about sexual harassment. A man tosses and turns as memories of past behavior roil his mind. Women examine their pasts, re-examining advances, furtive comments and wonder if they should have said something. New Mexico is no exception. Take, for example, an opinion piece recently authored by consultant Heather Brewer.
While I shall defer to my esteemed counterparts at the the PRC regarding utility regulation I do represent ratepayers in District 22 and I wanted to take this opportunity to explain what I look for when the legislature is considering issues that affect the taxpayer. If possible, I look for multi-party consensus. While difficult to attain, given separate agendas and viewpoints on behalf of affected parties, it is possible after cooperation and compromise. In this spirit our State Attorney General, PNM, the Sierra Club, the Coalition for Clean and Affordable energy, as well as Western Resources Advocates are all signatories of a Revised Stipulated Agreement designed to “reach a fair, just, and reasonable resolution…consistent with public interest” in PNM’s current rate case before the PRC. In addition to the aforementioned signers the PRC’s own Utility Division Staff has signed on to the the Stipulated Agreement.
Michelle Lujan Grisham is right. So why is everyone so quiet? Since Lujan Grisham first called on state Sen. Majority Whip Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, to step out of the race for lieutenant governor because of his history of creating a “sexually hostile” work environment, there’s been a deafening silence. Yes, we’ve heard from Padilla about consulting with his friends and family; we’ve seen handwringing from legislative leadership about their sexual harassment polices (or lack thereof); and we’ve even had a reporter apologize for not taking the story seriously sooner. But we have not had the chorus of amens and thank-yous that I expected.
The multi-trillion-dollar tax plan proposed by Republican leadership in Congress is a $5 trillion giveaway to the super-wealthy and corporations that will blow a hole in public-school budgets, hinder our ability to provide students with a good education, and put educators’ jobs at risk. By eliminating the state and local tax deduction (SALT), the Senate bill would blow a $370 billion hole in state and local revenue over 10 years and put at risk the jobs of nearly 370,000 educators. A state-by-state breakdown of the impact is available on this table. For New Mexico, the tax-plan could deal a devastating blow to school improvement efforts aimed at improving student success for our students. It means a loss of $650,593 over the next ten years in federal support our own taxpayers will have to make up for to avoid these cuts to our already-underfunded schools.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The New Mexico Department of Health says 47,000 children in the state suffer from asthma, and that’s why a coalition wants funds from the Volkswagen emissions-test settlement spent to transition diesel school buses to electric. A group will rally in Albuquerque Thursday to lobby for the $18 million owed to New Mexico by Volkswagen after the auto company was found cheating on federal emission laws. Liliana Castillo, a spokeswoman for the Conservation Voters New Mexico Education Fund, says the unexpected windfall should be used to phase out dirty diesel school buses for clean, electric buses. “In New Mexico, there are approximately 166,000 kids who ride school buses to over 89 school districts, which serve over 300,000 students, over half of whom are children of color,” she points out. “That explains, that’s part of why there are more than 1 in 11 children in New Mexico who suffer from asthma.”
Rate cases can be contentious, and 100 percent satisfaction is not attainable whether you’re on Capitol Hill, at the Roundhouse or the PRC. But once in awhile, parties from various backgrounds and political viewpoints breach traditional barriers and forge a compromise in the interest of a third party; in this case, ratepayers. PRC Commissioners have a golden opportunity to legitimize compromise, cooperation, and collaboration when they vote on PNM’s rate case. By rejecting the “modified” version and voting for the Revised Stipulated Agreement, commissioners can act in the best interest of PNM’s customers and at the same time encourage traditionally adversarial parties to return to the table in future cases. Outside of the very real benefits to ratepayers, commissioners have a chance (and perhaps a responsibility) to nurture a working environment that incentivizes environmentalists and utilities to continue to collaborate and compromise on behalf of ratepayers.
Last week, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, called the Senate Foreign Relations Committee together to investigate the president’s ability to command the use of nuclear weapons. It is heartening to see leaders on both sides of the aisle recognize the need to reevaluate this dangerous and undemocratic policy. While President Donald Trump may extol the leadership qualities of dictators and despots around the globe, his job is to function within the confines of the democracy we live in, and he must not be given unchecked power to attack any nation with the catastrophically destructive force of nuclear weaponry. For us New Mexicans, the danger of nuclear weapons hits close to home. In 1945, in a desert just a short drive from where I am writing this in Albuquerque, the U.S. government detonated its first atomic bomb.