City Council Questions Mayor’s PNM Partnership: Call the Mayor to Stop This Now

Thanks to well-informed community input, the Public Works Committee developed grave reservations with the PNM plan and clearly would like the Mayor to pull the resolution from this Wednesday’s agenda. Let’s make sure he does. Community input is working. Details on a very interesting meeting.

This is how democracy could work. An idea that sounds good on the surface, is derailed because an informed community raises its voice and points to alternative paths to a better future. And our elected officials listen. While the crowd of PNM opponents was not huge, the 10-12 folks who testified each neatly presented solid reasons why this PNM partnership proposal should not proceed. And the City Council Public Works Committee was paying close attention.

 

First, local attorney Bruce Frone  testified that PNM’s proposal was simply not legal, would not be approved by the PRC, and could never offer a special deal to Santa Fe as it would violate its legal obligation to provide the same rate to all rate payers in the same rate classification. Frone was followed by representatives from the Sustainability Commission who advocated for more of an open, competitive procurement process that sought a partnership that contributed more to the local economy. Then two local solar providers described how they would be able to provide the same work proposed by PNM only using local residents and making a much more profound impact on the local economy. An employee of Positive Solar described how she had worked to become a solar installer and that she and others like her would benefit from investment in locally generated power. Craig O’Hare then spoke of the benefits of employing a competitive RFP process and described some of the financial nuances that could make the process even more beneficial to the City.

I then spoke and described how over a four year period I had tracked very closely every PNM filing with the PRC and how in each instance, their presentation of the ‘facts’ was entirely disingenuous and riddled with false claims. I then noted that this is a point in time when not only can we pivot to renewables, but we can also pivot to a locally generated renewable effort with local partners we can trust and that would stimulate our economy instead of fueling PNM profits. Finally, I pointed out that while PNM has a legally binding obligation to do everything it can to enhance profit for shareholders and that that profit ALWAYS comes at the expense of rate payers, the City has the exact reverse obligation: to protect and serve the interests of those rate payers. We do not share the same values or priorities and we should do all we can to achieve energy independence. Bianca Sopoci-Belknap closed by reflecting back on all the testimony and pointing to how the big prize, and something for which we should advocate at the Roundhouse, is community conrtol of our energy future through initiatives like Solar Gardens and Community Choice Aggregation. Click here for a summary of how this remarkable process can work. It is definitely the wave of the future and if employed statewide would free us from the shackles of PNM’s profit-driven, planet-wasting approach to energy generation.

Bianca then pointed out that the reason we do not have Community Choice is because of persistent lobbying efforts on the part of PNM and in this context, she questioned why the City would want to partner in its solarization project with the foremost opponent of solar and wind generation?

Never Lie: That cuts out PNM.

What I didn’t say and wish I had was that PNM is asking the City to form a long-term relationship focused on solarizing city facilities. The phrase ‘long-term relationship’ also applies in our personal world. Would you enter a long-term relationship with someone who has a long history of lying, cheating and dissembling? Would you enter a relationship with someone who for years had opposed vigorously values that are central to you?  While we all know folks who have done this, how many of them are happy about the result?  Why would the City enter into this kind of long-term relationship without at least exploring its other options?

What was really interesting last night was the degree to which the Mayor, City staff, and the Council had accepted the PNM proposal on face value and was ready to proceed. The proposal had sailed through two committees and before New Energy Economy and Retake raised our voices, there didn’t appear to be a good deal of concern. Councilor Ives noted, “When we got this proposal from PNM, my reaction was: finally, PNM gets it.”  He said it with a kind of smile that connoted that he realized he had likely been hoodwinked. Several Councilors thanked the community, indicating that their input had significantly impacted their thinking. It was a good evening for participatory democracy.

Committee members quickly absorbed our testimony and while each expressed it differently, it was clear they were not ready to proceed with the resolution in its current form and two of the five members (Villarreal and Rivera) wondered if the resolution could be salvaged even with a slew of amendments. At one point it seemed that Maestas, Villarreal and Rivera were going to carry the day and the resolution would be sent back to the drawing board. But then Chairperson Ives pointed out that since this was introduced by the Mayor, only the Mayor can withdraw the resolution. It is scheduled to come to a vote on Wednesday. All the Councilors wondered if, given a huge agenda on Wednesday, if a resolution slapped together with amendments should even be considered and it appeared that there would be back-channel communication with the Mayor to encourage him to withdraw the measure.

And this is where you come in again. Pressure from Retake supporters has obviously been having an impact. RCV is advancing under pressure from the community; the disclosure law that was close to being revised to placate the libertarian Rio Grande Foundation is now going to be defended; last night five City Council members who had voted to advance the PNM partnership resolution at an earlier hearing had now all shifted significantly. Now we need to reach out to the Mayor. The speaking points are easy:

  • The PNM Proposal is illegal and would never be approved by the PRC;
  • Even if it could be approved, PNM can’t deliver on the promised rates unless it is provided the same rate to all jurisdictions in our rate classification;
  • The entire process is rushed and fails to consider other local options–a competitive bidding process should absolutely be part of any resolution to solarize city facilities.

Please write AND call the Mayor today and encourage him to withdraw the PNM resolution and to work with local partners like PNM, Earth Care, Positive Solar, and Retake to form a locally generated solarization initiative. 

MAYOR JAVIER GONZALES (505) 955-6590, jmgonzales@santafenm.gov

 

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

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