November 28, 2017

Stipulated signatories should be heard on PNM rate case

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. Of the eleven signatories to the Revised Stipulated Agreement, which include the Attorney General and prominent environmental groups, the most notable—in my opinion—is the signature of the PRC’s own Utility Division staff.

Commissioners rely on staff—who are armed with institutional and industry knowledge—to give them accurate and balanced data so they may come to well-informed, responsible conclusions regarding the interests of ratepayers. Staff deserve to have their diligence and hard work recognized by commissioners.

If commissioners ignore the majority of environmental groups who were among the original “interveners” in PNM’s rate case application and instead support the lone environmental detractor—NEE—they risk dissolving any cooperation between PRC staff, environmentalists and utilities in future rate cases.

Staff, WRA, the Sierra Club and CCAE cannot, and should not, be charged with acting irresponsibly when they signed off on the Revised Stipulated Agreement. Nothing about the process was hastily done. Weeks and months of careful data analysis and compromise under the charge of ratepayer benefit were undertaken.

The PRC should resoundingly support this open and collaborative process and protect ratepayers by voting for the Revised Stipulated Agreement.

Arwen West is a ratepayer from Albuquerque.