December 6, 2021

PNM and Avangrid request oral arguments in PRC merger case

Public Service Company of New Mexico and Avangrid have asked the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission to hear oral arguments prior to making a decision on the merger application.

PNM and Avangrid joined a group of intervenors in making this request. The request states that oral arguments would allow critical issues and questions to be addressed and further explained.

The PRC hearing examiner has recommended that commissioners reject the merger, stating that the potential harms outweigh the benefits. Last week, three commissioners indicated that they plan to vote against the merger. 

The PRC is scheduled to discuss the request for oral arguments during its meeting at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, which will be livestreamed on YouTube.

The groups requesting the oral arguments include the Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy, Western Resource Advocates, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 611, M-S-R Public Power Agency and Los Alamos County.

“What’s at stake is more than $300 million in benefits we are bringing to New Mexico and a company that is committed to moving New Mexico into a fully renewable energy economy. We look forward to presenting this opportunity to the Commissioners in compliance with legal and regulatory statutes in the state,” said Robert Kump, Avangrid’s deputy CEO, in a statement.

Avangrid’s practices in New England states, where it owns utilities, are one of the driving factors in the recommendation that the merger be denied. This includes poor customer service, increased rates and more than $60 million in fines issued by state regulators. Avangrid has also lobbied in Maine to phase out net metering for customers who have rooftop solar.

Related: PRC commissioners have concerns over Avangrid/PNM merger, as companies defend

Other factors being considered by the PRC include a criminal investigation into executives of Avangrid’s parent company Iberdrola in Spain and the potential that PNM could use the procurement process to favor Avangrid resources, leading to higher rates for customers. In addition to owning utilities, Avangrid has one arm that develops renewable energy including wind farms in eastern New Mexico. 

According to the request for oral arguments, New Energy Economy, a consumer advocacy group that opposes the merger, objects to the request and claims it is not in compliance with PRC rules. However, if the request is granted, New Energy Economy has also asked for the opportunity to make oral arguments.

Avangrid filed a defamation lawsuit against Paulo Silva and his company Security Limits, Inc. Silva has been a vocal opponent of the merger and provided public comment last week during the PRC meeting. Avangrid contracted with Security Limits for cybersecurity services.

Silva told the PRC that his company has filed a lawsuit in the federal district court in Manhattan alleging that Avangrid engaged in racketeering and stole Silva’s intellectual property. He also alleged that Avangrid’s customers in New York faced higher rates because Avangrid favored certain bidders.

Avangrid claims Silva is trying to extort the company using New Mexico’s regulatory process.