NM’s PRC to decide $150 million coal plant reimbursement

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.

NM regulators take up ambitious clean-energy standard

SANTA FE, N.M. – People who want New Mexico to have its own clean-energy standard are making their case today to the state’s Public Regulation Commission. Supporters say it would help the state determine its role in addressing climate change. The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office and consumer advocates have petitioned the commission to consider the standard in order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants in the state by 4 percent a year through 2040. While the Trump administration continues to talk about bringing back coal, said Shannon Hughes, an attorney with the group Climate Guardians, New Mexico is going in the opposite direction. “The reality is that American utilities and consumers are moving on from this dirty, expensive fuel,” she said.

EPA head tells states they don’t have to follow Clean Power Plan

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt wasted no time carrying out President Donald Trump’s executive order to administratively review and revoke the Clean Power Plan. On Thursday, Pruitt told state officials, including those in New Mexico, they have “no obligation” to comply with the rule. Related story: Orders from Trump, Zinke reverse nation’s climate and energy policy

In his letter to state officials, Pruitt wrote that the “days of coercive federalism are over.”

That plan would have required states to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed its implementation pending the outcome of a lawsuit against the EPA by utilities, the coal industry and 24 states. New Mexico, through Attorney General Hector Balderas, was one of 25 states, cities and counties to file a motion to intervene in support of keeping the plan.

Industry comes out in force, committee kills energy surtax for early childhood ed funding

On Tuesday a bill to fund early childhood education programs with two new taxes on energy and electricity producers failed to make it out of committee. During the Senate Conservation Committee meeting, Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, sought support for a bill that would create an early childhood education fund paid for by a one-hundredth percent oil and gas energy surtax and a one cent per kilowatt hour tax on electricity produced in New Mexico. The two revenue sources would generate more than $320 million annually, according to the fiscal impact report for Senate Bill 288. Once the meeting was opened for public comments, not one audience member spoke in support of the bill. But more than a dozen lobbyists and representatives of the oil and gas industry and utilities like PNM, El Paso Electric, Xcel Energy and Tri-State Generation and Transmission opposed it.

Bill would ask utilities to choose least costly energy alternative

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.”

Facebook announces data center coming to New Mexico

New Mexico received a much-needed jolt of good news in an otherwise bleak economic situation when Facebook announced Wednesday they would build a data center in Los Lunas. The news, announced by Facebook and Gov. Susana Martinez, received praise from just about every politician in New Mexico. In the announcement, Martinez said she met with Facebook executives in August of last year. “When we first sat down with Facebook executives 13 months ago, we weren’t even on their radar. But we made a strong case and laid out how competitive we have become,” Martinez said in a statement.