Thanks to New Energy Economy’s heroic legal battles and the 2018 election ousting Sandy Jones & Lynda Lovejoy from the PRC, we have a brand new game at the PRC. The very recent Supreme Court decision codifies in law that PNM must demonstrate “prudence” when making decisions. Prudence is not a PNM strength, as the NM Supreme Court determined. Plus Good News 4 Chaco.
First a few requests and announcements, then an action alert for the PRC.
Request 1: Would someone be willing to read the full 448 page Mueller Report and summarize the most compelling excerpts? Click here to get the report and let me know if you are game by writing to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Request 2: Retake is holding its next Community Meeting on W, June 5 from 6:30-8:30pm at 1420 Cerrillos. This will be your opportunity to get involved either as a team member supporting media, outreach, organizing, research or advocacy roles. Plus there are opportunities to lead or co-lead these teams. We’ve had one person step up already to co-lead the marketing and media efforts and I am certain we will have more people step up by next week. If you are interested, please write to me directly and tell me your interest and a bit about your background. We’ve got serious work to do and it can’t be done by 4-5 people, so we invite you into the Retake tent. You’ll meet great friends and you’ll close your eyes at night knowing you are making a difference. Good combo. Write to me if you can attend the meeting and/or if you can see a role you’d like to play, please let me know at email@example.com.
CD-3 US Congressional Race. Roxanne and I attended the Teresa Leger de Fernandez kickoff last night. A packed room greeted her and she did not disappoint. Her warmth, authenticity, and clear set of home-grown progressive values shone through her 15 minute talk. She has roots in both the Hispanic and Indigenous communities and is driven by a deep sense of justice. With seven announced candidates already, I’d encourage you to seek out an opportunity meet Teresa. There will, no doubt, be scores of house parties and panels coming. This is a very important election and to our mind, you would be hard pressed to do better than Teresa. Stay tuned.
Head of Interior Grants One Year Ban on Fracking Around Chaco. I sure didn’t see this coming. With the current President I would have expect drilling under Arlington Cemetery commencing on Memorial Day if there were crude under that hallowed land. And given the disregard for the concerns of indigenous peoples (or anyone brown) from this administration it was with disbelief that it appears that Interior Secretary David Bernhardt seemed almost moved by his visit to Chaco. “I walked away with a greater sense of appreciation of the magnificent site managed by the National Park Service and a better understanding of the tribal leaders’ views of its cultural significance,” Bernhardt said after his visit. In any case, this is tremendous news, gets us 12 months closer to a possible new administration and allows time to continue to build resistence. Good news from this administration….when was the last time we saw any?
Trump Tidbit: Mueller says: “If we had confidence that the President did not commit a crime, we would have said so.” Trump says: ” “The report was clear — there was no collusion, no conspiracy — and the Department of Justice confirmed there was no obstruction. Case closed.” You just can’t make this up. Almost worth watching Fox tonight to hear the spin.
It Is a Brand New Day at the Public Regulation Commission
After four years of work, New Energy Economy achieved a resounding victory at the New Mexico Supreme Court on May 16. The Court delivered an unequivocal and precedent-setting ruling that identified PNM’s investment in Palo Verde nuclear as “imprudent.” The high Court found PNM’s investment of 178 MW of Palo Verde nuclear was imprudent because it was made without (i) any financial analysis and (ii) any comparison to other feasible resource alternatives. This analysis wasn’t included because had it been it would have underscored clearly just how imprudent that investment was.
The bottom line is that the Supreme Court has now ruled that not just for this one proposed action, but for all future energy decisions, utilities will have to provide compelling evidence of the prudence of their decisions when seeking PRC approval. This may seem obvious, but after years of attending PRC hearings and listening to NEE outline with precision why what was being proposed was imprudent and then watching the staff of the PRC largely validate NEE’s position, we got the pleasure of watching Sandy Jones, Lynda Lovejoy, and Patrick Lyons make a mockery of logic and fairness to ignore all evidence and vote to select yet another “imprudent” option presented by PNM or El Paso Electric. It was so predictable. But now, should the PRC ignore evidence, data, research and science, they will know that the Supreme Court has weighed in with a big: Not So Fast. That changes a lot.
But something else has changed at the PRC and that is that all three of those Commissioners who would routinely vote with the utilities and against rate payers and impacted communities, all three are gone from the Commission and the new commission seems poised to do its job more responsibly. They have already voted 5-0 to reject PNM’s plan for ratepayers to pay the freight for the transmission lines that will service the new Facebook operation. In making their decision, they adhered to PRC regulations insisting that if ratepayers do not directly benefit they should not bear the costs. In reviewing the facts as presented by PNM, the PRC unanimously said: ‘No, this cost is on shareholders or Facebook as it does not benefit the ratepayers and dems da rules.’ Of course, PNM has reacted predictably indicating that it had not presented a very good case and is seeking a do over. But the message is clear: present clear, cogent, data-driven reasons for your proposals or go home empty handed.
Now we have our first opportunity to weigh in with the PRC where our opinions may actually matter. Remember that Supreme Court hearing and PNM’s plan to purchase $1 billion worth of nuclear energy from the Palo Verde plant in AZ? Well, the Supreme Court ordered that the PRC rehear the case and you can bet that PNM will throw all their lawyers and the folks they pay to conjure up spin and try their best to persuade the PRC that this is a good idea. I almost feel sorry for them, as it is such a bad idea, an idea so very out of step with the economics of the time and the status of climate change in our state, nation and world.
Let’s play PNM attorney. Here is their case:
The out-of-state nuclear energy we want to purchase, or rather that we are asking rate payers to purchase for us, actually will cost about four times as much as the in-state solar and wind that the pinko, lefties prefer. So naïve, PNM can’t make nearly as much money producing solar and wind. Why else do you think we’d have just 1% solar in our system? Coal, gas and nuclear are far more profitable. Then there are the significant risks of radioactive accidents that unless you approve this deal, PNM would be responsible for. The great thing about what we are proposing is that by purchasing 10% equity in Palo Verde, the ratepayers relieve PNM of liability for addressing any leaks or other disasters. Another great thing about what we are proposing is that when we finally finish with Palo Verde, there will be something like $1 billion in decommissioning costs. Could be a whole lot more, we’re not actually sure how expensive this will be as if we really explored that we’d have to report it to our shareholders and that would not go well. But if you approve this plan, the ratepayers will be responsible for decommissioning as well. That will make our shareholders really happy because about 40 years ago, we made a terrible business decision in leasing 10% of Palo Verde and agreeing to pay 10% of the decommissioning costs as part of the deal. So there you have it Commissioners, we’re asking you to make ratepayers pay for our bad business decision because otherwise, we’d have to. I rest my case.”
ACTION ALERT. I’m sure the PNM attorneys will put their case a bit more artfully than this, but that really is the substance of what they are proposing. For the past ten days, New Energy Economy mounted an email campaign at the PRC to let them know how NEE supporters feel about this decision. The PRC was buried in email, so much so, it broke their email server. They called NEE begging and the last thing NEE wants to be is a nuisance. But they also want to make it abundantly clear that the PNM shell game is over. And so in one, quick click you can add your name to a petition asking the PRC to say no to PNM. Click here to get to the petition. When you land on this page, you’ll need to scroll to the bottom to provide a comment and to sign.
After years of attending PRC hearings knowing that there was zero chance of seeing a just decision, it is such a relief to have a PRC that actually weighs the evidence and rules on the basis of that evidence. That is why I am so perplexed by the criticism weighed against the new PRC from the Governor and many grasstop enviro organizations. What gives? For years, we’ve had a PRC that was a shill for the utility and gas and oil industries and now we have one that is sticking up for rate payers and the planet, listening and weighing staff research, and basing decisions on the actual regulations. And the reward is very unsubtle challenges to the PRC effectiveness and a November ballot initiative to create a constitutional amendment allowing the Governor to appoint PRC members and limiting the number to three. The current Governor has done a good job in most of her appointments to date, but in energy her appointment of a former Marathon oil exec to head up the Oil Conservation Division was not one of them. And then there is the awful thought of this amendment being in place during a GOP Martinez-like administration. What kind of appointees would emerge then? We will report more on this in future posts.
For now. Please click the link above and sign the petition. It will take two minutes and send a very powerful message.
Paul & Roxanne