PRC Votes 5-0 to Open Hearing on San Juan Closure. Is This the End of the Securitization Bill?

The NM Constitution appears to prohibit the Roundhouse from passing legislation on issues under PRC consideration & the PRC voted 5-0 yesterday to assign the San Juan  closure to hearing officers in preparation for a hearing. Securitization bill sponsor Sen. Jacob Candelaria, told me that the legislature can proceed regardless.  Interesting. Gov Lujan Grisham snubs gas & oil lobbyists.

Roundhouse in Brief.  It is Super Bowl Week for Retake Our Democracy and our MUST PASS bills. We have eight MP bills going to committees or the floor for votes between now and Saturday. Schedule is below, but to be kept more current on these bills and to get action alerts much more quickly than through this blog and also always include contact information for legislators hearing these bills, Click here to Join our Statewide Response Network. Links below will take you to summaries.

Thurs., Jan. 31, 11am – 1 pm, then 4:30pm to ???, House Floor

  • HB 55 Agreement to Elect the President by Popular Vote. It has been difficult to determine the precise time of the full House hearing for this bill. We do know that the House floor will convene at 11 AM today; that U.S. Congressman Ben Ray Lujan is scheduled to address a joint session at 11:30 AM; and that the floor agenda shows HB 55 as the fifth bill to be heard. The key is to be flexible. It’s possible that HB 55 won’t get its turn until legislators return from their afternoon break around 4:30 PM.

But that gives you time to call and email your Representative!

Fri., Feb. 1, 1:30 P.M. – Room 317, House Commerce and Economic Development Committee

Fri., Feb. 1, 1:30 P.M. – Room 309, House Judiciary

Sat., Feb. 2, 1:00 P.M. – Room 315, House Health & Human Services Committee

Climate Change is in the News Big Time In the Legislature and the Public Regulation Commission

Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis and other Midwest and Plains states are experiencing once in a century arctic conditions, with Chicago colder than the arctic. Wind chills have dipped to 50 below. This, at the same time that Australia is experiencing historic heat waves. The need for urgent action could not be more clear. Utility companies like PNM and the gas and oil industry have not received the planets clear message, but apparently Governor Lujan Grisham has gotten the message. After the Governor and others in her cabinet held meetings with gas and oil industry lobbyists on Monday and Tuesday, the door on their final session had barely closed when she signed an Executive Order to join the US Climate Alliance and create a Climate Change Task Force. From the New Mexican:

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed up New Mexico to support the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement on Tuesday. In joining the U.S. Climate Alliance, Lujan Grisham is aligning New Mexico with other states working toward the accord’s goals after President Donald Trump pulled the country out of the international agreement in 2017. Signing an executive order at the state Capitol, Lujan Grisham said New Mexico aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at least 45 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.”

While the Governor claimed that the gas and oil industry was “on board,” the Carlsbad Argus found otherwise, citing a conversation with Clint Cone, operations manager at Sendero Midstream:  “But when he [Cone] heard about the executive order for the first time on his way back home, Cone said he was “shocked” and disappointed.’This is going to affect the producers,’Cone said. ‘I felt encouraged after the first day. I thought they were going to include us in the discussion. They could have told us when we were in the governor’s office. It’s disappointing.’  Cone said the industry and region’s only recourse is to continue to make trips to Santa Fe, in hopes their voices will be heard”.

Needless to say, Retake is encouraged to see that the Governor is listening more attentively to our planet and science than to gas and oil industry lobbyists.

Public Regulation Commission Takes Action on San Juan Generating Station Closure

In other Climate Change news. New Mexico’s Public Regulation Commission Voted 5-0 to put the closure of the San Juan Generating Station on its docket and assigned the closure to hearing officers. In a release from New Energy Economy.

The 5-0 decision by the NMPRC was a correct legal decision and was in the public interest. As the PRC found, based on evidence presented by PNM, it has already made the decision to abandon its interest in the San Juan coal plant to serve the electric needs of PNM customers post 2022. The PRC is Constitutionally and statutorily bound to exercise its duty to regulate monopoly electric utilities. Their authority couldn’t be more clear and concise.The PRC has the responsibility to be a prime mover and today exercised that authority by assigning the case to a Hearing Examiner to vet the many issues surrounding abandonment: financial costs, clean up (plant decommissioning and mine reclamation) and replacement power. The PRC Order specifically allows parties to commence examination on all these related coal abandonment issues understanding that thorough scrutiny is vital to the most important energy decision in New Mexico’s recent history.”

In its filing with the PRC, New Energy Economy cited the NM State Constitution and rulings from the Supreme Court related to this issue. Quoting the NM Constitution: Article XI, Section 2 of the New Mexico Constitution,  entitled “Responsibilities of Public Regulation Commission,” provides:

The public regulation commission shall have responsibility for regulating public utilities, including electric, natural gas and water companies;  transportation companies, including common and contract carriers;  transmission and pipeline companies, including telephone, telegraph and information transmission companies;  and other public service companies in such manner as the legislature shall provide. The public regulation commission shall have responsibility for regulating insurance companies and others engaged in risk assumption as provided by law until July 1, 2013. (As added November 5, 1996; as amended November 6, 2012.)

New Energy Economy went on to assert:  “The Constitutional mandate could not be more clear: it is the Public Regulation Commission’s duty to regulate electric utilities. Mountain States Tel. & Tel. Co. v. New Mexico State Corp. Commission, 90 N.M. 325, 563 P.2d 588, 593 (1977) (The words “shall … be charged with the duty” indicate that the provision is mandatory rather than discretionary.)  The legislature is obligated to set up the ground rules for that regulation, and it has done so by enacting the Public Utilities Act.  When reviewing the duties of the Commission, the New Mexico Supreme Court found that this duty was not only “clear,” but “all-inclusive,” stating:

It is difficult to conceive of a more clear and all-inclusive grant of power to a governmental agency. The Commission has a duty to be a prime mover in the procedure to see that the public interest is protected by establishing reasonable rates and that the utility is fairly treated so as to avoid confiscation of its property. Considering this broad mandate it could hardly be envisioned that the Commissioners would sit as spectators, like Roman Emperors in the coliseum, and simply exhibit a “thumbs-up or thumbs-down” judgment after the dust of battle settles in the arena.”

I am not a constitutional lawyer, indeed my only legal experience has been watching Perry Mason, so I can’t weigh in on issues of complex legal standing. Sen. Candelaria told me that he was not concerned about Constitutional issues blocking introduction of a Securitization bill and I am sure he has consulted with attorneys in forming that view. But it does seem that battle lines have been drawn and the 5-0 PRC vote seems unequivocal. I imagine this will wind up court and likely the Supreme Court.  Stay tuned. In fact, if you want to hear more about this issue and about SB 374 featured in yesterday’s blog, Mariel Nanasi, Executive Director for New Energy Economy will be my guest on Retake Our Democracy’s 30-minute weekly radio show KSFR 101.1 FM airing this Saturday at 8:30am. So you really can “tune in.”

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

Categories: Climate Change, Agriculture, Land Use & Wildlife, Election, Political Reform & National Politics

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2 replies

  1. Those oil and gas lobbyists have already had their say in the matter. They obstructed meaningful regulation for decades. They undermined our democracy, by buying off some legislators, dominating media platforms, and inserting their propaganda in meaningful dialogue. They created the denial and apathy that led to the failure to react to climate change, and global warming. They are still interfering with local media, and misleading people on the importance of action. They ran a well funded campaign to create doubt, and Gas Light the public.

    Our forests are dying, the aceqias are empty and people are living in fear of the next devastating fire, and still the denial continues. One of the most obvious signs of climate change, the different species taking over the grasslands in New Mexico, has been ignored, by design. The change in the last 20 years is profound, the forests, reserviors, and the rangeland.


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