An Open Letter to Speaker Egolf & Senator Wirth: We have your back, but do you have ours?

Today’s blog is an Open Letter to Speaker Egolf and Senator Wirth. We are looking to you for leadership, not to bend over backwards to see if we can eke out some meager concessions from PNM on SB 47/HB 80.

Dear Honorable Speaker Egolf and Senator Wirth,

I am writing to you to share my concerns that continuing to negotiate with PNM over their SB47/HB80 bailout will somehow result in a last minute PNM proposal slipping through committee and becoming law.

But before I lay out my concerns, I want to acknowledge that in most instances both of you have represented your districts and New Mexico with great dignity and skill. I also want to acknowledge that in most instances, continued negotiations and conversations are what you are supposed to do as leaders. But I have seen too many times PNM present disingenuous proposals replete with misleading or false assertions that are only uncovered through evidentiary discovery. And the Roundhouse process does not include evidentiary discovery. Perhaps at some point soon, leadership will determine that PNM’s dissembling needs to be rejected outright. But I worry that in continuing discussions with PNM, at some point a proposal will be presented that sounds like reasonable concessions and then with very little time for deliberation, PNM will once again pad its profits at the expense of New Mexicans.

Monday, I spent a few hours at the Roundhouse talking with legislators and more often with their aides and secretaries. I could find no one who agreed that PNM’s SB 47 / HB 80 giveaway should be approved. Most of the aides just raised their eyebrows or shook their heads at the proposed corporate give away for PNM. That is because they are largely constituents, like me, who look at things simply. There is right and there is wrong, and these bills are just plain wrong. You don’t allow a large corporation to make irresponsible decisions and ask their customers to pay for those mistakes.

When I met with Sen. Bill Tallman (D) from Bernalillo Monday, he was also incredulous that these bills were even up for debate. He had a copy of a recent Albuquerque Journal Op-Ed from attorney John Boyd on his desk. One quote: “SB 47 allows PNM to sidestep the PRC, where there would be a hearing on San Juan’s valuation and a likely “stranded asset” award of between zero and 50 percent of San Juan’s true book value. Instead, PNM goes to the Legislature to get 100 percent of what it wants.” That was but one of several excellent points made in the op-ed.

PNM is rightfully concerned that it will not get what it wants from the PRC, who had heard just a year ago that more coal is cost effective and that the coal plant would run for many years. That was unbelievable and PNM doesn’t want to go back before the PRC one year later and admit malfeasance, so now they turn to the Roundhouse for redress. And to be clear, instead of seeking 50% compensation for their reckless business decision, they are asking you to shepherd through a bill that would foist 100% of their unsubstantiated losses upon ratepayers, YOUR CONSTITUENTS.  I’d encourage you both to read the Journal piece, so click to find out more about what is wrong with this bill.

But neither of you should need convincing. You have read more than enough to convince you that what is being proposed is offensive to the values of your constituents. You represent likely the most progressive House and Senate districts in New Mexico.You are in leadership positions that would enable you to put an end to the SB 47/ HB 80 debate and make it impossible for PNM’s bailout bill to get though the process in a 30-day session. You KNOW that if you did this, your constituents would have your back; there is no possible political fallout here.

So why do I have to write to you?  I spent hours Monday trying to find someone I needed to convince that SB 47/ HB 80 should be defeated. Yet the only place I found the need to make a case was in Speaker Egolf’s office where I was told: “The Speaker’s staff is working very hard to make this bill work.”

I could give you a litany of reasons to shut off negotiations on these bills and devote your limited time to things that might benefit New Mexicans. Here are just a couple of reasons you should oppose SB47/HB80:

  • SB 47/ HB 80 circumvents the authority of the PRC to regulate PNM and there is a good reason PNM wants to do this. The PRC requires a process that includes actual evidence justifying every claim and where opposing positions can be presented. No such process would occur in the Roundhouse and knowing this, PNM is very likely to offer up disingenuous claims in a future bill amendment. (Do you remember the front page headlines where PNM admitted to over a billion dollars of costs that were “mistakes”?)
  • The bill asks for $350M of entirely unsubstantiated PNM undepreciated assets with 100% of those losses foisted on ratepayers (your constituents)—never mind that the PRC has already told PNM they could recover no more than 50% of those losses and would have to present evidence justifying even that. In presenting their case to the PRC, PNM faces the realistic possibility that 50% is the MAX. I wonder why they thought going to the Roundhouse was a better idea. No evidence needed.
  • This legislation would guarantee higher energy costs for New Mexicans. SB47/HB80 would accomplish an end-run around the statutory and regulatory requirement that power be generated at “least cost” because the bill would impose a requirement that PNM own the power generation facilities – solar, wind, gas – that will replace the coal generation to be closed. Long-term agreements secured through open bidding with third parties would achieve demonstrably lower costs than PNM’s monopoly-owned facilities; PNM customers are already paying from 12-49% higher solar costs than non-PNM-owned solar. PNM’s claim that owning these facilities will allow it to protect jobs and the economy in the Four Corners area is without support, and there is no reason to expect that other solar companies would not create those same jobs, in those same places, and at lower costs to PNM’s customers.

This is a fraction of what is wrong with these bills. But my main point is that when we met a few weeks ago, you both conveyed that by dealing with PNM you were doing due diligence with a responsible entity. There was a tinge to your message that I was representing a ‘fringe’ that is never happy.

But, let’s be clear. Monday I dropped off letters signed by more than 40 environmental, faith, health and social service organizations, all of whom are opposed to these bills AND are opposed to even entertaining the notion of negotiating a bailout bill with PNM. They are not fringe groups; they are your base. And if ANY version of this bill passes, no matter how many bells and whistles PNM adds at the last minute, your constituents will know that you could have prevented the bill’s passage. I and thousands of others are paying attention and we will have your back if you defend our values. But this bill must be defeated.  In negotiating with PNM you are negotiating with a corporation whose charge is to seek profits, even at the expense of New Mexicans’ best interests.  But your charge is to represent us. And it is time for you to do so.

In yesterday’s blog, I asked readers to weigh in: should Democratic leadership continue to work with PNM toward compromise or should it work to kill this bill? The response was unanimous with not a single reader indicating that negotiations should continue. I ask that you listen to your constituents and cease negotiations with PNM.

Paul Gibson, Co-Founder

I ask Retake supporters to let Speaker Egolf and Sen. Wirth hear from you. Forward this email to them at their email addresses, show up on Thursday at Conservation Committee, Room 311 at the Roundhouse at 9am, call them at their offices, share this blog with others and if you happen to be at the Roundhouse in the next few days drop by their office and leave a note or copy this email for them to read. We have given you our votes, now you need to advance our values.

  • Speaker Egolf: Capitol Phone: 986-4782.  Capitol Room: 104.  Office Phone: (505) 986-4782. Email: brian.egolf@nmlegis.gov
  • Senator Wirth: Capitol Phone: 986-4727. Capitol Room: 119. Office Phone: (505) 988-1668.  Email: peter.wirth@nmlegis.gov

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

2 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Speaker Egolf & Senator Wirth: We have your back, but do you have ours?

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