Questions about the request for proposals process have delayed the allocation of energy transition funds to projects selected by a state agency, Indian Affairs Department Secretary Designee James Mountain said during an Indian Affairs Committee meeting on Tuesday.
Mountain said it is prudent and his responsibility to check and see if the process was done correctly. He said his department has questioned whether the awards followed the state procurement code in terms of the request for proposals process.
Mountain said the procurement process and codes that the Indian Affairs Department must follow are different from the requirements for the other state agencies that are overseeing energy transition funding.
“We’re hoping to get these funds out expeditiously,” he said.
The Energy Transition Act provided the Indian Affairs Department $1.8 million as a result of the closure of the San Juan Generating Station. This money comes from low-interest bonds that the Public Service Company of New Mexico plans to issue to refinance the past investment into the coal-fired power plant. The utility provided the funding in advance of issuing the bonds because the law requires that the money be made available upon the closure of the power plant if the utility is granted permission to issue the low-interest bonds.
The Indian Affairs Department has chosen five projects to receive energy transition funding. These programs include the Shiprock Traditional Farmers’ Cooperative, the Northern NM Indigenous Farmers, Diné Centered Research & Evaluation, Diné Introspective and Native Renewables.
With the exception of Native Renewables, the projects focus on agriculture.
The awards could lead to about 80 jobs being created.
Mountain said that testimony given during an Energy Transition Act Committee meeting in November indicated that a request for proposals had been issued and that process had been followed.
The committee did issue a request for information in 2020 for possible projects that could receive energy transition funding. In November, that committee heard presentations from the various organizations that had submitted information in response to that request for information.
Lawmakers plan to hear another update this fall on those funds and Sen. Benny Shendo, D-Jemez, recommended that they get the big picture of how the transition is occurring by also having the secretaries of the state’s Economic Development Department and Department of Workforce Solutions present to the committee.
The Department of Workforce Solutions has already paid out money to displaced mine and power plant workers through the energy transition funds.