yIn VA, the Governor is about to sign off on a utility bailout, double paying for infrastructure improvements that should be paid by shareholders, with legislators saying we can’t the perfect be the enemy of the good and Colorado eXcel is using the label “carbon free” RPS as a mantle for slowing transition to renewables with investment in gas. Does any of this sound familiar?
Before diving into how utilities in Virginia, Colorado and New Mexico are employing many of the same strategies and terminology to foist costs on ratepayers and to redirect the conversation from 100% renewables to 50-100% “carbon free” (coincidence or well thought out strategy?), we provide info on two coming events. Also, as will be our habit going forward, at the bottom of the post is a 14 minute video: 100 Solutions to Reverse Global Warming and while a few of the solutions introduced will not surprise you, several will. A very illuminating video from the Toward Commonwealth in a Dangerous Century. If you still haven’t signed up for the 8 week video series, click here to do so. I keep saying this, but it is entirely flexible and you can pick and choose what you want to watch. The current module focuses on . Stewarding Land and Resources for the Common Good. Click here to join, test the water, you may want to dive in and swim a bit. And a final aside, wasn’t that Ferlenghetti poem mind blowing? If you missed it, check out yesterday’s blog, it will take 30 seconds to read and then an hour to digest how clairvoyant the message.
Speaking of resources for the common good, look for a post tomorrow or Sunday with more on the legislative session and Democratic leadership’s careful protection of the interests of gas and oil. A preview from NM In Depth: “For the last eight years, the oil and gas industry enjoyed a close ally in the governor’s office in former Gov. Susana Martinez. When Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham started talking about regulating methane during her campaign — and certainly when freshman Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque, introduced a bill to put a four-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in the state — spasms of concern rattled the industry.. But Egolf has sought to assure the industry that it has nothing to worry about:
We started off with a lot of rhetoric from the other side that there’s a war on oil and gas, and I said early on that the war on oil and gas is a figment of the imagination of the other party,” Egolf said. “I still believe that to be true.” Ugh. I guess Sen. Sedillo Lopez is now cast as being on the other side.
Retake Our Democracy on KSFR, Saturday, April 6, 8:30am with Tomᾴs Rivera. We will be speaking about the affordable housing crisis in Santa Fe and in more general terms, around the nation. Next week I am hoping to have Duane Chili Yazzi, revered elder and Navajo Nation president. Roxanne and I are traveling to Farmington today for a two day Indivisible retreat and our friend and ally, Mariel Nanasi, arranged for us to have lunch with Chili and his wife Betsey. If there is time, we will record a show. .
New Energy Economy’s Legislative Debrief, Wednesday, April 17, 2019, 5:30PM – 7:00PM, Wednesday, El Museo Cultural, 555 Camino de la Familia, Santa Fe (across the Railroad tracks from Farmers Market. Topics to be discussed include:
- Legislative Session Debrief
- Unveiling our next bold initiative before the PRC to defend consumers, demand corporate accountability, and protect our environment
- Upcoming Supreme Court Case on renewable energy bid-rigging practice by PNM
CLICK to Email your RSVP for April 17th convening and be among the first to hear about initiatives New Energy Economy is bringing forward this Spring and Summer.
Thursday, April 18, 5:30pm-7:15 pm, Center for Progress & Justice, 1420 Cerrillos, Santa Fe. Please note the slight modification in time. We were contacted by the Sunrise Movement in Santa Fe as they were trying to organize a Green New Deal Town Hall with Rep. Deb Haaland and the only day she could make it in the near future was on April 18. So we made some adjustments in the timing will integrate both events, with Retake’s Celebration and Volunteer Appreciation from 5:30-7:15 pm and the Sunrise Movement Town Hall with Rep. Haaland at 7:30.
Please RSVP by writing to Paul at Paul@RetakeOurDemocracy.org. While the event is FREE, an RSVP is required by April. 16. Sooner is better. Much better. We are ordering salad and pizza and need to prepare sufficient tables with table cloths and china (ok, no china), but we do ask that you bring your own implements for eating and drinking and the event is BYOB with wine and beer permitted. Join us!!!
PNM Unearths Another SB 489 Gift, A Plan for Ratepayers to Purchase Its Share in Palo Verde Nuclear Plant & Assume Responsibility for Remediation , Plus Disturbing Similarities in Utility Bailouts AKA Reform in Other States
Since SB 489 passed, PNM stocks have soared, increasing in value by 23%. I guess Wall St. agreed with the legislature and more than a few environmental organizations in thinking SB 489 was a good deal indeed. We are beginning to find out why, as PNM plans are emerging for addressing our new and much vaunted “carbon free” RPS, that provides tremendous benefit to PNM while adding more financial and remediation burden on ratepayers and to boot, may just undermine genuine efforts to address climate disruption. Read on.
PNM has a long-term lease for 10% of the energy generated at Palo Verde Nuclear Facility in AZ. But back in the 80s when PNM was negotiating the lease and was near bankruptcy and desperate, in exchange for a favorable lease arrangement, PNM agreed to assume responsibility for 10% of the remediation of the facility when it closes. That looked like a good deal then, it doesn’t look like such a good deal now. But PNM has a plan and an argument.
With SB 489, the state has a “carbon free” RPS that could include nuclear and gas generated power, instead of sustainable renewable energy like wind and solar. We were assured by bill advocates that “the market” would dictate that PNM would have to turn to wind and solar, but even before the PRC had had its authority circumscribed, PNM has been able to sustain its use of coal long after it had become overpriced. With the addition of “carbon free” to our RPS, it provides PNM with a legal argument that it could meet that requirement with the use of nuclear and gas-generated power. I would argue that natural gas is only “carbon free” if you overlook the fracking process that generates the “natural” gas and nuclear may be “carbon free” but its waste lasts centuries and the industry’s only solution thus far has been to foist it on very poor states with vast open space. New Mexico comes to mind, for example. For more on that, see yesterday’s blog..
PNM’s plans are becoming clear: ask rate payers to purchase their share in Palo Verde and build a gas plant in Farmington. A one two punch to the New Mexico solar plexus. PNM is extremely creative in its use of language and legislative leverage to advance their corporate goals, somehow doing so under the banner of being environmental champions, as witnessed in endless ads on television. And so they sold us on “carbon free RPS” and they made sure every legislator parroted, “we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” And these same terms are being bandied about in other states.
In Colorado and Virginia, we found utility companies using similar language and similar strategies to foist fiscal and remediation responsibilities on rate payers and to pave the way for privately owned utilities to continue use of gas and nuclear, while minimizing their commitment to renewables.
Yesterday, Mariel Nanasi, New Energy Economy Executive Director, sent me an article describing how the Virginia legislature is bailing out their private utility operator with billions of dollars in exchanged for needed improvements in their transmission system. Advocates claim that the costs of the bailout are excessive with the utility effectively asking ratepayers to pay twice for the same energy system improvements. Legislative advocates, while acknowledging that the bill is not perfect argue that “the perfect can’t be the enemy of the good,” the precise language used by Sen. Candelaria, Sierra Club, CVNM, and 350NM in describing SB 489 and celebrating our “carbon free” future.
Let’s take a look at that phrase: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” First, there is a tacit assumption that whatever being proposed is, in fact, good. Secondly, there is the also tacit assertion that any criticism of what is being proposed is some kind of purist effort to attain the ideal, instead of simply to make improvements where industry priorities have trumped ratepayers and our environment. This term was used to stifle any and all constructive criticism of SB 489. The same language is being used in Virginia and to the same effect, with their bail out bill now headed to their Democratic Governor who can’t wait to sign it. Click here to read more about the situation in Virginia.
In Colorado, we get a glimpse of how “carbon free” is being used by the Excel Energy and the gas and oil industry. And when doing a google search you will find that many states and Puerto Rico are also employing the term in favor of 100% renewables. Aiming for carbon-free energy is obviously not a bad thing, in and of itself, but the ways in which privately owned utilities can use that terminology to extract huge amounts of money from ratepayers to pay for remediation costs or to invest in unnecessary natural gas plants is something to watch for. From Energy News Network::
Opponents of Xcel Energy’s proposed purchase of a Mankato natural gas plant say the sale would be a bad deal for ratepayers and runs counter to the company’s own pledge of achieving 100 percent carbon-free power by 2050. The utility announced in November that it had agreed to purchase the 760-megawatt Mankato Energy Center from Atlanta-based Southern Company. The Public Utilities Commission still must approve the $650 million sale. In comments to regulators, a wide range of critics contend the utility would be overpaying by around $100 million for a power plant that may not be needed as the company continues to make progress on wind and solar generation. They point out that even Xcel’s filings concede ratepayers will not see a price benefit for more than a decade, and perhaps two decades. Xcel already buys electricity from the plant. In regulatory filings, Xcel said that owning the plant “provides long-term cost benefits for our customers” by mitigating risks associated with two power purchase contracts set to expire in 2026 and 2039.”
Note the last sentence. I am 100% certain we will hear PNM voicing the same need to mitigate risks from its Palo Verde expiring lease. And the risk they will be seeking to avoid is their own contractual agreement to pay 10% of the remediation costs. Note how NM’s SB 489 plan is to also to use gas to meet “carbon free’ RPS standards. Far better to foist those responsibilities on ratepayers. Click here to read more from Energy News Network.
Below you will find a video from the Toward Commonwealth series. It describes an array of strategies that are not being generated by the gas and oil or utility industries. It is a very worthwhile way to bide the time while sipping some java.
Off to Farmington!!!
Paul & Roxanne