The Worst of Times (PRC Hearing) the Best of Times (Roundhouse Hearing)

I expect the PRC to make bad decisions (they did, in spades) and the process was an insult to democratic process, I was so demoralized as I trudged from the PRC to the Roundhouse, but one Roundhouse hearing restored my spirits. What a day! Some events of interest, opportunities to get in the game.

Jan 18. 4:30-6:30. Roundhouse Advocacy Team. New Energy Economy Conference Room. 343 E Alameda St, Santa Fe. Come find out how you can get involved this January at the Roundhouse. Be a community activist, raise your voice and be heard. RSVP by writing to me at paul@retakeourdemocracy.org.

Sat. Jan. 20, 8:30-4pm. ABQ Convention Center. Progressive Summit.  If you are progressive and live in NM, this is where you need to be on Jan. 20. An series of inspiring panels and speakers, plus about 1000 other progressives will be there to share their ideas and hopes. Roxanne and I attended last year and were truly inspired. Retake Our Democracy, Indivisible Espańola, and New Mexico Resistance will be presenting a panel discussion at 10am where we will launch our 2018-2019 Roundhouse Advocacy strategy. Not to be missed. For details click here.

Sun. Jan 21, Noon. Woman’s March, Santa Fe.  March from the Roundhouse to the Plaza and hear speakers and music and form community.  Click here for more information and to RSVP.

For more Events & Opportunities, click here.

PRC-Roundhouse: A Study in Contrasts

I began this blog after leaving the PRC hearing for the Roundhouse.  Frankly, the blog was very hard to write. We are living in dark times and I view that one role of Retake Our Democracy is to inspire, to motivate our readers to become engaged, to raise their voices, to have hope. Even in these dark times, I find more than enough points of light that can keep us active and engaged. But yesterday some lights got snuffed at the PRC. It is a dim place. But at the Roundhouse during the hearing and in the halls after the hearing, some very clear opportunities and actions were thrown into bold relief. Let’s start with the positive.

Secretary of State Presents Compelling Argument for a Boost in Funding.  Committee Listens Respectfully And….

As is often the case, the expected 1:30 hearing got off to a slow start. Four other issues needed to be heard before the Secretary of State took center stage. And then as she was about to appear, the committee was called to the floor for a vote. Welcome to the Roundhouse. The rumor was the SOS would have to come back tomorrow morning at 8:30, but we hung in there and about 3:30 we were told that the committee was reconvening. The game was on and so was Maggie Toulouse Oliver. She laid out in painstaking detail the historic underfunding of the SOS office, the need to beef up the SOS operations, especially in an age of external forces trying to hijack elections. I marveled at the crisp presentation. But this wasn’t just about a skillful SOS, it was about a Committee, Democrat and Republican that was listening attentively to testimony before making any decisions. The relevance of this observation will be clear below.

Questions from Republicans reflected deep respect for the office of the SOS and for Toulouse Oliver. The entire proceeding was dignified. But the highlight was when Oliver asked for those in the audience who were supporting her budget increase to please stand. Virtually everyone in the hearing room stood. Oliver commented, somewhat surprised, ‘I didn’t expect this many people.’ And the members of the committee were very clearly impressed. It was a great moment. In the halls afterward, debriefing with Heather Ferguson from Common Cause and with Oliver and her staff, it was clear that all felt that their mission had been accomplished. The committee had been receptive, a process was delineated for a thoughtful process to arrive at a good budget for the SOS. Democracy wins.

Outside in further conversation, I spoke with JD Matthews from the State Central Committee and Sharla Parsons, the Chair of the Democratic Party State Platform and Resolutions Committee (SPARC). She described a highly participatory. statewide process of input  for the platform and a goal of creating a platform that would unify the party solidly behind a clear set of principles and policies. I lost track of all the counties she had visited to obtain input and again, had a profound sense of: This is what democracy is supposed to look like. Last night at the Santa Fe County Democratic Party meeting, their was extraordinary unity in planning for the Convention with a plan unhatched to come to the convention with the intent of endorsing the platform as a county! Think back two years, when the party was horribly divided before, during and after the state convention. Progress.

I am confident that the Party will easily approve the platform when the state Democratic Convention convenes. Another win for democracy and Democrats.

In the Roundhouse the Process Was Respectful, Dignified, Democratic.  In the PRC it Was Embarrassing & Devastating

I sat through two PRC hearings yesterday morning. I was surprised to realize when I arrived that the issue for which I had come would not be heard until after the PRC determined how to respond to yet another PNM scheme. Recall that a bit over two weeks ago, the PRC voted 4-1 to stipulate that PNM had acted “with imprudence,” when it invested in the San Juan Generating Station but still approved a rate increase to cover a good deal of PNM’s investment in the dilapidated facility. Of course, PNM appealed but offered absolutely no evidence as to why its investment should be deemed prudent. Nonetheless, the PRC re-voted and by a 3-2 vote removed the determination of imprudence. It also provided a revised version of how to calculate what PNM could recover from its investment and put into the rates. Not content with this, PNM ‘accepted the PRC determination’ but indicated that mistakes were made in some of the calculations and sought $4.4 million from rate payers. They also included in their agreement a clause that stated that they reserved the right to appeal the entire two-year process and start over, if any of the parties appealed their “acceptance.” The PNM attorney was incredulous that PNM would seek an increase in its rate based upon a mistake they made and that could not be challenged by other parties. But he is was beyond incredulous that they could include a clause asserting the right to appeal elements of the rate case that had been agreed to months and months ago.

In the end, the PRC voted 3-2 to delete PNM’s appeal clause, but award them every dollar they requested. It was a bad decision, another instance of the PRC failing to regulate PNM. But sadly that was the best decision they made today.

We then sat in stunned silence as Chairman Jones explained how the PRC had such a busy agenda they needed to move public comment on the Solar Tariff to after the hearing and after they had voted on the solar tariff. Besides directly undermining the purpose of public comment: for the public to raise its voice on issues of public concern before the issue is decided. But beyond being undemocratic, it was entirely absent of any logic. The PRC was eager to get to a Transportation hearing after the Solar Tariff request was decided. But they placed public comment after the decision on the Solar Tariff but still before the Transportation Hearing. In other words, it saved no time by placing it after their decision. None. It just allowed them to escape the pile of compelling research, data and examples of just how bad the tariff was and the devastating precedent set. In essence by approving a utility’s capacity to levee punitive fees on those with solar, they are undermining the cost-benefit of installing solar and, in effect, undermining net metering itself. Net metering is the process through which those homes and businesses with solar sell back to a utility their excess energy they produce. PNM rate payers with solar receive $.04 per MwH sold back to PNM. PNM then sells it to rate payers for $.13 a MwH, over a 300% profit. But if they now also are allowed to pile tariffs on those with solar, the tariff will zero out the $..04 per MwH received for the solar contributed to the grid. It is an insidious way to undermine the entire solar industry.

Tom’s arguments were of no avail because the PRC Commission didn’t allow public comment and inconvenient truths to impact their decision.  Click here  to read Tom’s argument.

It is becoming clear that the 2018 election is not only an opportunity to elect a Democratic governor and strengthen the House, but it is also an opportunity to reconstitute the PRC. A strong candidate, Stephen Fischmann has declared and is running to oppose Sandy Jones and I am told that a good candidate is emerging to challenge Linda Lovejoy. If either of these commissioners is replaced the balance of PRC would shift to 3-2 with three commissioners who are far more inclined to hold the utility industry accountable.

Quite a day. I am glad that I made time to attend the Roundhouse hearing as it served as a kind of shower to wash aware the grime of having endured the PRC deliberations.

In solidarity,

Paul and Roxanne

4 thoughts on “The Worst of Times (PRC Hearing) the Best of Times (Roundhouse Hearing)

  1. That’s appalling stuff. Hearing public comments AFTER the vote??!! We could give Venezuela a run for their money. Thanks a lot for going to these hearings, Paul.

    Like

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