In a case of strange political bedfellows, a conservative lawmaker from San Juan County and the leader of a Santa Fe environmental group not known for compromising came together Tuesday to back a bill aimed at easing the economic woes of New Mexico communities hit by the closing of large coal-burning power plants. The House of Representives voted 44-25 to pass Rep. Rod Montoya’s House Bill 325, designed to help a large school district keep most of its tax base if Public Service Company of New Mexico closes the San Juan Generating Station by 2022. To become a reality, the measure would also have to clear the Senate before the Legislature adjourns at noon Thursday. “Are you going to refer to me as an environmentalist activist,” Montoya joked with a reporter Tuesday. Endorsing the bill was Mariel Nanasi, executive director of New Energy Economy, a Santa Fe-based non-profit that has fought many PNM rate increases and other proposals before the state Public Regulation Commission.
After a Senate committee last week poured cold water on a bill allowing Public Service Company of New Mexico to sell bonds to pay for the expenses of shutting down a coal-burning plant in San Juan County, a Farmington legislator has introduced a new bill aimed at easing the impact of the plant’s closure on county residents and government institutions. House Minority Whip Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, told The New Mexican on Thursday that his legislation, House Bill 325, would require the state Public Regulation Commission to consider the economic effects on communities when deciding cases involving the shutdown of large power sources, such as the San Juan Generating Station. The bill also would require a utility to build any replacement power source in the same community as the facility it is planning to close. Many proponents of the original measure tied to PNM, Senate Bill 47, argued during a lengthy hearing Saturday that it would offer aid to residents of San Juan County who heavily rely on jobs at the power plant and a nearby coal mine that supplies it. “The school district in Kirtland, New Mexico, gets about $37 million a year from the power plant,” Montoya said Thursday.
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.
State Sen. Joe Cervantes wants to ensure that electric companies in New Mexico are getting the best prices for their power sources, and he wants the state to use more renewable energy. The Las Cruces Democrat this week introduced a bill that would require publicly owned electric utilities to choose the least-costly alternative when proposing purchases of new energy sources. “This begins with the recognition that the price for renewable energy is falling dramatically,” Cervantes told The New Mexican on Friday. “So the goal behind this legislation would be to try to encourage a competitive market, which is emerging with renewable energy.” Currently, Cervantes said, investor-owned utilities “are relying on their own generation of electricity.”