PNM–An Obscene Example of Corporate Greed Seeks Half Billion More from Rate Payers

This report describes PNM’s efforts to mislead the PRC and once again foist the rate-payer with $445M in costs that could be avoided by closing the plant and dispels an important excuse about boldly developing NM’s renewable portfolio. This information may surprise you. We also report on last night’s City Council vote on Ranked Choice Voting.

Ranked Choice Voting Stalled.  About 60 or more RCV supporters, many from Retake, were on hand wearing flyers showing support for RCV.  But the Council voted not to proceed. I must be honest, the Council seemed inordinately deferential to City and County Clerk concerns about timing, despite a representative of the SOS who provided clear assurances that there was time to proceed. Certainly a Council must be respectful of the views of staff charged with implementing its policies. But both City and County Clerks raised what seemed to most in the crowd as inordinately over stated concerns about the risks of proceeding with RCV. When the City Clerk said she wanted up to a year to educate the community on RCV, I knew we were done. A year! She even suggested doing 1-1 training for absentee voters. Seriously. People would need to understand to put a number 1 by their favorite candidate and a number 2 by their second, etc. We face more confusing issues before we leave the house every morning. But in the end, only the Mayor and Councilors Villarreal and Maestas had enough trust in our collective smarts to trust us with that decision. In fairness, there were legitimate concerns about whether the SOS could certify the system by October, but if that didn’t happen, the Council could have rescinded going forward. No harm done. But it was clear that was not going to occur. In the end Councilor Villarreal agreed to work with the Clerk to ensure that whatever education that was needed could be completed in time for 2020. After hearing tonight’s debate (and it was surreal), I have my doubts two more years is enough time. But frankly this City, State and Nation have far more pressing issues, so we move on. Kudos to Maria Perez of FairVoteNM. She did a tremendous job of organizing support for RCV. I honestly don’t know what could have dissuaded the Council of fears that, to me, seemed close to groundless. Disappointing.

It Is Time to Call PNM On Its Almost Criminal Neglect of Our Interests & To Work with Our Legislators. Read On.

In a nutshell, here is the problem:  
1) PNM continues to dictate the mix of energy that most of NM utilizes not because it is not feasible to transition to cheaper, more sustainable renewables almost immediately, but because their continued reliance on coal and nuclear makes them way more money….money that comes out of our checkbook. In truth, the transition to 80-100% renewables is far more doable than you might have imagined.
2) The State Legislature continues to heed dire warnings from gas and oil lobbyists that if we transition to renewables we will jeopardize the critical 15-25% of our state revenue base generated by the gas & oil industries. This is utterly false as this post will explain.

3)  There is almost no leadership at a state or national level seems to take seriously the absolutely critical need to stop kicking the climate change challenge down the road. We are running out of time.

First the facts, then at the end of this post, information about what you can do.

A Call to Action: Since moving to New Mexico, Roxanne and I have met many tremendous progressive advocates, but when it comes to tenacity, single-mindedness, courage, and just an extraordinary capacity to keep at it no matter how many strings PNM can pull, no one matches Mariel Nanasi. I think what struck me about Mariel is that from day one, I could tell that she would not compromise when it comes to climate justice. Her husband Jeff is the same in the courtroom on many issues. I am now starting to realize how important that is. Those two do not see a forest fire and go looking for a garden hose. And right now our entire world is on fire and I see almost no one in the US in any kind of political power at a state or national level proposing the kind of bold actions that are required.  Retake Our Democracy is going to do a series of posts over the next week or two about our desperate need for leadership at a state and national level. I am starting to get a deep sense of desperation born from the realization that climate change has placed an absolute deadline on our making some very substantial changes, changes that will involve sacrifice. And so, I am going to begin calling out this absence of leadership and ask you to join the chorus.  Let us begin with PNM, the Public Regulation Commission and our state legislature.

Our State Legislature has been far too deferential to the Oil & Gas lobbyists, buying their message that somehow transitioning to 100% renewables would jeopardize critical state gas & oil revenues. As this post will explain, that is simply false. And…
PNM is the perfect example of what is wrong with our country, our economic model and a form of plutocratic democracy that can jail people for protesting, for possession or for shoplifting,
but can only provide insignificant fines and reprimands for leaders of corporations destroying our lives and our planet. 

I do not want to hear about incremental change, 50% renewables by 2050 and other meaningless and entirely inadequate ‘solutions.’ I want political leaders who say: ‘Ok, this is going to be an incredibly difficult challenge. But our grandchildren and their children are going to be living in a dystopian hell if we don’t figure it out.  NOW.”  

First the Legislature. New Mexico has relied upon oil and gas revenues for decades and according to the NM Legislative Finance Committee gas and oil contribute $2B a year to our general fund, ranging from 15-25% of our entire budget. When I have spoken with our legislators, there has been a reluctance to commit to bold goals for the transition to 100% renewables out of fear that this would jeopardize vital oil and gas revenues. If this were true, it would be a legitimate challenge. But this represents a complete misunderstanding of the relationship between renewables and oil and gas revenues. After speaking with such credible sources as Tom Solomon (350.org), Mariel Nanasi (New Energy Economy), Shane Woolbright (former Administrator for Oklahoma Gas Association), Alan Webber (former candidate for Governor) and others, I have found that there is essentially no relationship between a transition to renewables and gas and oil revenues. The two issues need to be entirely decoupled conceptually.

In short, almost all NM energy is generated by coal, nuclear, natural gas, wind or solar, with natural gas playing a relatively minor role in this mix (13%). If NM ceased purchasing and using ANY gas to serve its energy needs, New Mexico oil and gas producers could continue to sell their products nationally. Indeed today 90% of all natural gas produced in NM is sold outside the state. So, NM could pursue an aggressive transition to renewables, build a stronger sustainable economy with jobs from the development of wind and solar, without jeopardizing gas & oil revenues. Certainly oil and gas can not remain a significant source of state revenue base as the state and nation begin to take climate change more seriously, but jump starting our commitment to renewables would only serve to begin the needed economic transition to a more sustainable economy, not jeopardize current critical state revenues.

Where is just one legislator making this case?  What does it really look like if we abandon purchasing natural gas for our own consumption and sell the natural gas we currently consume to other states? What kinds of additional revenue gains can result from investment heavily in hemp, wind, solar, and other sustainable industries? What else can be developed to prepare for the inevitable day when gas and oil are no longer a viable source of revenue? A future post will explore answers to these questions.

Second PNM. The PRC has continued to rely upon PNM to tell us what is a reasonable approach to transitioning to renewables.  And any PNM promise for the future needs to be put in this context:  When forced to close San Juan and find another source of energy to replace the 10% of PNM’s energy portfolio for which San Juan had been responsible, PNM’s solution is to purchase more nuclear power from Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant in Arizona, creating zero local jobs and further obligating rate payers to the likely huge cost of remediating that plant when it finally closes, some time around when hell freezes over. And what is PNM’s current commitment to the transition to renewables? 2% solar 7% wind, in a state with abundant wind and solar potential.

And what is PNM’s latest stunt?  In asking the PRC to keep the Four Corners Power Plant open, it did not perform any contemporaneous financial analysis to determine if its continued dependence on the Four Corners Coal Power Plant (FCPP) was a cost effective resource and an economic benefit for ratepayers. NONE. But who cares?  NM’s environmental guardians at the PRC did nothing to stop PNM’s entirely disingenuous and greed motivated plan anyway.  Meanwhile, in the last two years alone, they’ve proposed $473.5 million in costs associated with the plant in rate hike requests. In PNM’s current rate case Case No. 16-00276-UT, pending before the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (NMPRC), PNM is asking for reimbursement of more than $150 million from ratepayers for the Four Corners Power Plant.

New Energy Economy requested that PNM provide evidence that its choice to continue to invest in the plant was fair, reasonable, and just. PNM refused. New Energy Economy was forced to file a Motion to Compel PNM to perform an analysis of the impact to ratepayers if they divest from the plant instead. The PRC ruled in New Energy Economy’s favor. PNM ultimately produced the analysis, which shows that divesting from the Four Corners Power Plant will save ratepayers, $445,682,093. Meaning that their choice to continue to invest in Four Corners is at least a $445 million liability for ratepayers. Not to mention the climate and health impacts of continuing to keep the plant going. And what is truly insidious about PNM’s “deal” with ratepayers is that there is a perverse incentive for PNM to use the dirtiest, most expensive to maintain energy sources because it is able to pad their expenses with an additional 9.5% capital expenditure every time they have to spend $50M to make repairs to their ancient sources of coal and nuclear energy. They profit by operating neglectfully.  Click HERE for the ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL piece on the rate case.  Click HERE for a Factsheet About the Rate Case

WE ARE FIGHTING AGAINST PNM’s GREED WE ARE FIGHTING FOR OUR PLANET – JOIN US!

RAISE YOUR VOICE ON  JULY 31ST OR AUGUST 7TH  RSVP HERE

  • ALBUQUERQUE: Monday, July 31st 2:30-4:30PM and 6:00-7:30PM at the Cherry Hills Library Auditorium
  • SANTA FE: Monday, August 7th at 9AM at the PERA Building

My questions:

  • Will any of our elected officials stand up to PNM and gas and oil lobbyists?
  • Will Sen Worth, Rep Egolf, Mayor Gonzales and others join us in testimony on the 7th in Santa Fe or the 31st in Albuquerque? 

I know a bunch of you will be there, but will our leadership be there, too? Stay tuned, a post coming soon will provide more information on how quickly and easily NM could transition to renewables.

In solidarity

Paul & Roxanne

2 thoughts on “PNM–An Obscene Example of Corporate Greed Seeks Half Billion More from Rate Payers

  1. The majority of the city council does not want to empower the people they were elected to ‘govern’. Nothing new here, show me a politician in America who wants to disempower himself/herself to empower the people they have control over?????

    Nothing is wrong with PNM because they follow the ‘ethical principles’ sponsored by our new religion, the religion of the 20th and 21st centuries. It really does not have an accepted name yet but for now we can name it Neo-Liberal Capitalism. It demands from all of us to the God Money and to follow its dictates which are: 1-Me First; 2-Money/Capital First; 3-Power over others and the planet/resources First. (Observe the vicious circle of precepts for our conduct here.) 4-Lie constantly to keep people from seeing the destructive truth of this religion. eduardo
    By the way, like it or not, WE ALL belong to this religion, in one way or another.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Paul’s post and eduardo’s response solidify what more, but not nearly enough, human citizens are starting to see about the nature of their own existence – the mass of men (and women, and all planetary creatures and the physical elements that support them) lead lives of quiet desperation.

    That scorching iron was thrust into society by Thoreau almost 200 years ago. Without doubt this man was the founder of environmentalism, although most scholars associate him with Transcendentalism.

    Also without doubt is that the human race, hopefully isolated to this lovely and lonely planet, is in dire need of transcendence. If you read Das Kapital (I think that is the book) that Marx penned in the mid 1800s, you will see that he and Thoreau were on the same wavelength. Marx laid out a vision of about 300 years of struggle, including a lot of violence among humans, before some sort of armistice would be achieved. But neither man could have foreseen the very large gorilla in the room, the assassination of the natural world and its physical support system.

    So here we are now, hoping to retake, then remake, the existing paradigm of 8000+ years of demonic tragedy. It cannot, and should not, be attempted. It will fail, like all other remodeling jobs have failed.

    In a very real way, I revere Thoreau, and Marx, as transcendent geniuses. There are now and have been others, just as potent and prescient, but I know, in my gut, that we now must figure out how to transcend this madness so that even a few biological innocents are left to pick up the pieces of our flagrant and unforgivable folly. The wisdom of these men holds the keys, and the way forward is not difficult to see, but the nihilistic forces amassed against the survival of this rare and unique water planet are nearly overwhelming.

    For me, the transcendence lives in Nature, all the evidence, all the instructions, all the mentoring, is there. We have known this for a very long time, but have abandoned it in search of vainglorious self-aggrandizement. The City Council and the notorious PNM are just local examples. All are of one cloth.

    Can we rip the masks from our own faces? Can we take the pain? Do we have the courage?

    Or do we flounder in our madness while beckoning non-existent gods to save us from our sins? We are, indeed, living in a Bleak House.

    Like

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