Sierra Club, 350.NM Join PNM to Ask Public Regulation Commission to Approve PNM’s Plan to Buy Nuclear

Continuing civil war among environmental organizations serves none of us. Many of us were confused during debate on the SB 489 and the produced water bill by conflicting messages from divided environmental organizations.And the same divisions have reappeared about PNM’s planned purchase of a share in Palo Verde nuclear plant. Why do we continue to divide and let PNM conquer?

Jemez Mountain Electric Co-op Annual Meeting Mired in Dirty Politics. This is the kind of stuff that makes people sour on politics. The JMEC has long been divided between an incumbent group of commissioners who have resisted efforts at democratizing the JMEC, and the incumbents appear to be willing to stop at nothing to avoid losing their grip on power. In June, Sam Crawford and Bruce Duran won their elections for the JMEC board appearing to create a 5-5 split on the board and setting up a coin toss to identify which coalition could appoint a sixth member to break the tie. But the incumbents wanted none of that and in July voted to remove Bruce Duran, claiming that since he was legally-separated from his wife he could not claim residency despite assertions by Duran’s attorney that Duran still lives in the residence and that as long as the couple remains legally married, the JMEC bylaws means they have shared membership in the Co-Op.

Also in the June Election another member of the reform coalition, Patrick Herrera, a former Española school board member, lost a narrow race to Lucas Cordova, another member of the entrenched regime. But Herrera has joined the Duran legal challenge, claiming that Secretary of State voting records disclose that Cordova clearly does not live in the district from which he was elected. If you are keeping score, the legal proceedings could result in either a 6-4 majority for the regime, if both Duran’s and Herrera’s claims are rejected. On the other hand, if the decision affirms their claims, the reformers could claim a 6-4 majority.

Residency issues aside, there is a long history of claims that the entrenched regime has employed a litany of undemocratic practices, e.g. closed meetings, failure to post fiscal information, and most recently advancing a potential renewable contract calling for 6 cents per kWh of solar electric generation for 25 years, a contract that is difficult to defend in light of the recent bids for 2.5 cents per kWh received by neighboring Kit Carson Electric co-op.

Luiz Torres, Vice Chair of Rio Arriba County Democratic Party has been advocating with the reformists for years and has called for a boycott of the Sunday, July 21 JMEC Annual Meeting, feeling that it is a sham meeting and hoping to send a loud message. In the meantime all eyes are on state District Judge Bryan Biedscheid who will decide the residency matters and determine the composition of the JMEC board. While there are different views as to whether boycotting the meeting or disrupting it makes more sense, after hearing from a number of JMEC members it appears that the best course is to encourage JMEC members to boycott the meeting. Stay tuned. To read this morning’s New Mexican article covering more details of the dispute, click here.

Coalition of Environmental Groups Side with PNM in Palo Verde Nuclear Acquisition Dispute

At left is a photo of how we store nuclear waste. How safe do you feel?  How much do you want to continue to support this industry when cheaper, cleaner renewable energy is possible?  It would seem a simple choice, but…..

Over the past six months, a schism has deepened among New Mexico environmental organizations, organizations that should be allies. From innumerable emails and reader comments to this blog, it is clear that the constituents of these organizations are left confused and unclear on who to believe and what to do. With climate catastrophe at our doors, we can’t afford this diffusion of efforts.

On Wednesday, I sat in the PRC hearing where Western Resources and the Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy sat alongside a bevy of PNM attorneys.  CCAE members include 350.NM, Sierra Club, Environment NM, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Western Environmental Law Center- Across the aisle from New Energy Economy, Retake Our Democracy, Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, Bernalillo County Commission, and Southwest Generation. While only Western Resources directly testified in support of PNM. By virtue of having Chuck Noble, the CCAE leader, the clear impression was given that those organizations supported his testimony.  PNM, Western Resources and the CCAE tried to argue that the PRC should approve PNM’s plan to assign to ratepayers 100% of the cost of purchasing 178 MW (about 10% equity) in the Palo Verde nuclear plant in Arizona. This is a case that has bounced back and forth between the PRC Commission and the Supreme Court for three years.

In 2016, the PRC hearing officer Carolyn Glick and the PRC Commission by a 3-2 vote determined that the nuclear acquisition was imprudent and disallowed PNM from holding ratepayers responsible for any future decommissioning costs but allowed the cost of the lease to be entered into the rates. Frankly, it is hard to understand why a demonstrably imprudent investment should have been entered into the rates in the first place.

Months later the Supreme Court ruled that PNM had indeed been imprudent and had failed to provide any evidence to justify their decision to purchase the lease or compare PNM’s preferred nuclear purchase and lease extension to the investment in any other (renewable) resource. Such a comparison would have been required to demonstrate that the acquisition made fiscal sense. But the Supreme Court returned the case to the PRC, as they determined that PNM had not been afforded an opportunity to defend their decision. Throughout this Wednesday’s hearing, PNM attorneys and the attorney representing the Sierra Club and 350.NMtried to argue that the Supreme Court had rejected the PRC’s decision and its penalty when in fact that is not what was ruled by the Supreme Court. It had merely said that the PRC had to reconsider penalties and afford PNM an opportunity to make a case that their purchase made financial sense. Indeed, the Supreme Court strongly supported the PRC finding, simply saying that the PRC had not provided PNM with due process.

PNM hasn’t produced a financial analysis to demonstrate the fiscal efficacy of purchasing Palo Verde nuclear energy because nuclear energy costs four times what solar, wind, and storage cost. Ratepayers would pay those higher costs, and PNM would profit. Investing in Palo Verde provides zero NM jobs and does absolutely nothing to build a renewable energy infrastructure in NM. It would extend a legacy of involvement with the nuclear industry and further delay PNM joining the 21st century and build a legitimate renewable energy base load.

I understand why PNM attorneys would use every piece of legal sophistry to protect their financial interests. They want to make as much profit as possible, public interest be damned. And legal sophistry was on full display Wednesday as PNM and their environmental coalition did their best to cut and paste passages from hearing findings and Supreme Court rulings to make their case. But as I sat listening to this, I couldn’t help but wonder how different the hearing would have unfolded had a solid coalition of environmental groups stood in solidarity opposing PNM’s arguments.

Sierra Club, 350.NM, Western Resources, Environment NM, and other grasstops enviro organizations have very legitimate fears that if Palo Verde nuclear energy were disallowed, PNM would then seek to replace this with (un)natural gas. There is good reason to believe this, as PNM has just submitted four plans to replace the energy lost from closing the San Juan Generating Station and three of the four rely on the use of natural gas, including the one they prefer. So, they’ve preference for gas clear once in relation to San Juan and they would very obviously do it again in relation to Palo Verde. There is more money to be made developing natural gas than renewables. PNM is essentially making a threat: our nuclear way or our natural gas way. The Clean Affordable Energy Coalition, siding with PNM, prefers nuclear to the possibility of gas.  But rather than acquiescing to PNM threats, foisting nuclear energy on PNM ratepayers, and calling that “clean or emission-free” energy, I have another idea.

How about all the NM enviros get around a big table and try to make peace? Most every one of these environmental leaders share the same long-term aspirations. PNM has artfully divided these organizations, leaving their constituents bewildered. It is time to develop a plan for a legitimately 100% renewable energy base in NM that utilizes neither nuclear or gas, but one that relies on wind, solar, and increasingly efficient storage. If some level of existing natural gas must be used for a short time, so be it. But we simply can’t afford to continue this battle among groups who need to be unified and focused on an objective all of us can support: a plan for 100% renewable energy and for building New Mexico’s capacity to generate and distribute wind and solar to other states.

Throughout the 2019 legislative session, I was assured by members of the Clean Affordable Energy Coalition that they were confident that SB 489 protected the public from PNM plans for using gas to replace the abandoned SJGS. Why wouldn’t that same confidence apply in relation to nuclear. I doubt there are many Sierra Club or 350.NM supporters and donors who are thrilled to find their leadership siding with PNM and advocating for nuclear energy at four times the price of renewable energy. We would all be better served if there could be an end to this infighting so we could all work together to advance a plan around which we can all rally: 100% renewable energy on terms and timeframe defined by a unified coalition of environmental organizations. We simply can’t afford to work within the constraints imposed by PNM’s thirst for profit.

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne






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27 replies

  1. What kind of shortsighted thinking allows our supposed enviro allies to accept that nuclear is any better for climate change than petro? It is simply beyond comprehension. I urge all supporters of these organizations to withhold donations and immediately send letters of condemnation to their boards.

    • I think a better strategy might be to convey your desire for the competing groups to meet and get on the same page and work together. The same groups that sat with PNM on this issue have been doing excellent work in so many other areas. We shouldn’t cut of our nose to spite our face

  2. A couple of things. While I respect Rick Lass’s perspective, I don’t agree that natural gas is preferable to nuclear power. Nuclear power results in no greenhouse gas emissions. They do generate nuclear waste. But in our current climate crisis, greenhouse gas emissions are far worse than nuclear wast generation.

    On an issue that has only a minor relationship to the nuclear/natural gas matter, I believe that there is a much larger issue in providing 100% renewable electrical energy generation. Energy storage, especially battery storage, that can cover extended periods of cloud cover and low wind over large areas of the country has not yet been shown to be feasible, as far as I know. Shorter periods can probably be covered, such as night time lack of solar, but not several day periods of cloudiness and low winds over large areas. Those extended periods may be infrequent in New Mexico and the southwest, but they do happen, and such several day weather conditions do happen in other parts of the country and world. I’m hopeful that new inventions and improvement can solve this problem, but hope is not a plan. At a minimum, there should be extensive analyses on potential solutions, such as specific models of electrical grids and standby solar and wind facilities that could move power that is greater than demand in some parts of the country to other parts that are not generating sufficient renewable energy. There are many other possible developments that should be factored into such analyses, such as the various feasible ways of storing energy; e.g. hydrogen, pumped water, new battery technology (BTW, a back of the envelope analysis of the amount of battery storage needed is fairly easy, and shows how impractical it would be with today’s technology).

    I have seen very little being done on this issue. If I’ve missed important work on this, I’d be pleased to be enlightened. I do know that California has frequently to “dump” excessive renewable energy, which is then not available when insufficient renewable energy is being generated. California is big, but still only represents a small segment of the overall situation in the country, if not the world.

    Meanwhile, as much as I dislike nuclear power, it is one technical solution that might help to fill this gap. I hasten to add that I don’t want that to be necessary, but could it be that keeping the nuclear power plants around until new inventions provide solutions to this problem might avoid total disaster?

    • 1. Imagine 250 years in the future. People then will be dealing with our nuclear waste. Will they say that nuclear power generation was a wiser choice than natural gas?
      2. Hydrogen-based systems seem promising for energy storage.

  3. This is difficult territory and I must admit my dismay with the groups siding with PNM on this issue. I have heard that Dr. James Hansen, former lead climate scientist at NASA says nuclear is our only way out of this mess in the short term. I don’t know if his views on this have changed or evolved as alternative energy options improve. Also, was started by Bill McKibben to bring large scale awareness and solutions to our crisis. I have recently contributed to so this is a big disappointment to me. I have also contributed to New Energy Economy and I feel this organization is now at the forefront of this struggle. Go to their website and see who their officers and board are comprised of. We are so fortunate to have this organization.

    Now as far as NM Sierra Club goes, I can not figure out WTF is going on. In the 2018 Sandoval County Commission election they threw their last minute support to a person who happened to own and operate a pit mine. The candidate sent out a county wide mailing with a big Sierra Club endorsement on it. The candidate who did manage to win by 3% points was a Sierra Club member and had canvassed neighborhood by neighborhood for a year and was running to fight against the current commission makeup against fracking the Rio Grande Albuquerque Basin Aquifer and to fight the expansion of the existing pit mine adjacent to Placitas. It made no sense to throw her under the bus.

    Sometimes the organizations we expect to have the best interests of communities are just wrong, misinformed or plain old compromised. Now in my 60’s, I used to send monthly contributions to Common Cause when I was in my 20’s. They have always been working for responsible government. So imagine my shock when I saw they named Jay Block, Republican Sandoval County Commissioner as a legislator of the year a couple years back. This guy, to me, is the equivalent of the anti-Christ. And yet, they seem to still be working for better government. The bottom line is that well meaning organizations at times get it wrong. Perhaps excusable if simply misinformed. If a pattern repeats itself, Rick Lass is justified in no longer supporting them.

    Paul represents a coalition of folks looking to alter where we are now. From that position, it makes sense to bring the different factions together to see if there is common ground to be had. It also doesn’t hurt to let these entities know that their member support is not guaranteed. PNM has not been a good partner with consumers interests. That much is obvious. The environmental groups enabling them have much to answer for.

    • Very thoughtful response. I had not know about Sierra Club’s endorsement in Sandoval. From your note, the better candidate still won albeit barely. I’d like to know more about this as Retake is trying to figure out what kind of stance to take and these endorsement seems incomprehensibly wrong and worth reporting on. Could write up a paragraph or two on the two candidates and maybe some of the reasons for wanting to change the composition of the Sandoval County County Commission.

      • (Answer to your question about candidates at the end of this reply.)

        Oh Paul. So many reasons to change to composition of the Sandoval County Commission. I didn’t previously pay attention to such governmental bodies until a few years back. Rio Rancho has a extremely uninformed populace. We don’t have a daily paper. Only the Journal. There is a once a week edition of the Rio Rancho Observer. It hasn’t been delivered to my neighborhood for perhaps four years due to budget restraints. Previously, they have pretty much been a mouthpiece for the Tea Party. They almost never endorsed a Democratic candidate. Their current editor is, I believe, a huge improvement for the paper but it is still owned by the Journal and she is constrained. She always prints my letters to the editor, (no more than once a month) and has informed me via email that the reason the opinion is so lopsided to the radical right (my words) is because that’s who submits. So, there’s a lot from Jay Block, chairman David Heil, and the Rio Grande Foundation…etc.

        Now, to the commission. Several years back they tried to allow in city fracking by an Oklahoma drilling entity, I believe it was called Sandridge. The same one linked to all the earthquakes there. There was a small but vociferous outcry that delayed it. In the meanwhile, Sandridge went bankrupt.

        Fast forward, the commission tried to shove through an ordinance to allow drilling with no restrictions or liability for NMOGA affiliated entities. The Stoddard Ordinance. 55,000 parcels of undeveloped westside city mostly owned by AMREP, an criminal enterprises whose previous officers spent jail time and paid fines. A huge battle ensued. Eventually the commission backed off. But all of the commissioners except for the one Democrat (light) was for fracking in city limits in the one and only water source for almost 100,000 people.

        If you want to know more, there was even a comic book published called, “The Fracking of Sandoval County”. What I have not mentioned is that native lands in the county have been fracked for many years with no opposition other than what the scattered populace can muster. No money, no voice. Take a drive north up highway 550 and see what has gone on. It is so wrong.

        Next offense. The former commission, pushed through a “Right to Work Ordinance”. I attended the meeting when it occurred. The majority commission had brought in paid plants to the meeting to promote it. They had on red printed tee shirts and American for Prosperity hats. Chairman David Heil forced everyone in attendance to sit through a lengthy AFP powerpoint presentation about how great a County right to work ordinance would be. They shoved it through. Fortunately Damon Ely passed legislation null and voiding it. Note that name.

        Then came the 2nd Amendment Sanctuary city ordinance. Heavily pushed forward by commissioners Jay Block, chairman David Heil and the puppet David Meeks. It was scary to be there. People walking around with guns, shouting down saner voices. Then the Democratic Sheriff Jesse James Casaus addresses the meeting with NMSA president Tony Mace supporting the declaration. Go to the Brady Campaign to get the details of what went down in New Mexico with this. NRA worked intimately with NMSA and county commissions.

        So…. I had to look things us on my iPad about these candidates for county commission in 2018. The person who jumped in at the last moment and obviously had some resources to pull off a mass mailing was Margaret Cassidy-Baca. The weird thing is that everything I tried to open about her and related to this campaign came up “Coming Soon”. It had all been wiped.

        Their was a link to the Sierra Club endorsed candidate and it too had been wiped. My memory from a couple years ago tells me that she owned several ranches in the state and also the Baca pit mine. Hmmm. She also appears to have been a judge. And back in, I believe, 2003, she sued the Sandoval County Commission over an issue with her pit mine.

        Paul, I think I have previously told you I am a bit of a Luddite. This is the best I can put forward. I thought of forwarding the blog to Katherine Bruch, but thought that inappropriate. You can contact her at if you wish and she may have a different or more diplomatic take on things.

  4. Paul & Roxanne and Others,

    Here’s a proposal for an all-inclusive, front-loaded process of climate-policy development for NM that starts from a premise similar to Paul and Roxanne’s–get people around a table to share perspectives and hammer out differences–and applies that principle to the creation of a comprehensive, fair, humane, and politically viable climate-action plan for the state scaled to the magnitude of the crisis:

    A Climate Change Policy for NM: Urgent, Comprehensive,
    and Neither ‘Top-Down’ Nor ‘Bottom-Up’ But ‘All-in’

    What’s the hurry?
    The scientific consensus as of late 20181 is that to avoid long-lasting or irreversible impacts to ecosystems and human health and well-being, the increase in global average temperature over preindustrial levels must be limited to 1.5°C (we’re already at about 1°C)—which will require reducing net global human-caused CO2 emissions by about 45% by 2030, and reaching net zero emissions by 2050. The experts are telling us that this enormous shift away from greenhouse-gas-emitting forms of energy is technically feasible, but that it will require rapid and unprecedented changes in the way things are done.

    Why New Mexico?
    Governmental action at the federal level is blocked by the present political configuration at that level. So the responsibility to act has passed for the time being to state and municipal governments and regional associations, many of which have taken or are preparing to take climate action commensurate with the scale of the challenge. New Mexico under the Governorship of Michelle Lujan Grisham and with its current legislative constellation is ideally positioned to do its part. The new administration has opened with a series of climate salvoes clearly signaling the seriousness of its commitment to appropriately urgent and aggressive climate action: establishing a Climate Change Task Force, championing the Energy Transition Act (ETA), declaring New Mexico a member of the United States Climate Alliance.

    What remains to be done?
    The electricity sector—now more or less covered by the ETA (though technical and financing issues remain to be resolved)—is the low-hanging fruit of the transition to carbon neutrality. The much more complex transportation, agriculture, buildings, and industry sectors remain to be addressed. Decarbonizing these remaining sectors—while at the same time ensuring the development of reliable and affordable sources of carbon-free energy, adapting to climate change impacts, growing the economy to compensate for the loss of fossil-fuel-related jobs and tax revenues, assisting frontline communities already or at imminent risk of experiencing impacts as well as those suffering the effects of other forms of environmental degradation, and protecting lower-income and other vulnerable populations from bearing a disproportionate share of the cost and hardship associated with the transition to carbon neutrality—this is a very big order that will require taking into account the particular circumstances of the many disparate but interconnected interest-groups in New Mexico already or likely to be challenged by climate change and/or by steps taken to prevent, reverse, or mitigate it.

    How to proceed?
    How to develop a New Mexico state climate-change policy for the remaining CO2-emitting sectors that meets CO2-emission-reduction guidelines while attending to and addressing rather than disregarding the particular circumstances and vulnerabilities of all affected constituencies and while winning and keeping popular support for aggressive climate action by government? We believe that the process most likely to deliver a comprehensive, maximally effective, fair, and therefore politically viable climate-change policy for New Mexico will be one that begins by trying to understand and address the different perspectives on the problem of climate change to be found among New Mexicans rather than confining itself to the one or two thought to be most essential. Such a process would reflect rather than gloss over the intricacies and fault-lines—the various and sometimes conflicting needs, interests, and opportunities—present in New Mexico’s diverse society and changing economy.

    We’re talking process here, not policy. We’re asking: How do we get to, how do we develop, the optimal policy, the one that when implemented will be maximally effective, fair, and therefore politically viable? Our answer: We get there by ensuring that all the issues that will need to be resolved for there to be an effective, fair, and politically viable solution are built into our understanding of “the problem.” Our understanding of “the problem” has to incorporate (virtually if not literally) everyone’s understanding of the problem. All these to some extent overlapping and to some extent conflicting understandings have to be as far as possible harmonized and integrated—or there will be no effective, fair, and viable solution.

    The inclusive process of policy development we are advocating for follows from a fundamental conviction: that the most promising (though not the simplest) way to try to solve a problem is to get all the people (or if large numbers are involved, reliable and competent representatives of all the different groups of people) who are or will be affected by, or are knowledgeable about, or whose help is needed to solve the problem—which by means of this process is quickly seen to be a whole cluster of related problems—together, repeatedly if necessary, under circumstances that incline them to listen and speak to each other with respect, curiosity, and a desire to work together, and to charge them with the task of finding the best solution—or, more likely, the best mix of solutions—to the whole cluster of identified problems—now understood not as his or hers or theirs or mine or yours but as everybody’s problems.

    More specifically, we are proposing a “bottom-up-meets-top-down”—what we’re calling an “all-in”—process designed to respond in an unprecedented way to the enormous challenge of effecting the needed “rapid and unprecedented changes.” This process would entail convening a conclave—think of it as the “New Mexico Climate-Change Policy Working Group” or some such—composed of representative individuals from all identified stakeholder constituencies, including but not limited to indigenous tribal communities, rural communities, farming and ranching communities, communities of color, environmentalist and environmental justice groups, immigrant communities, small business associations, organized labor, faith communities, industry, government, and the scientific/engineering community. Emphasis would be placed on recruiting individuals from each of these settings knowledgeable about climate change as it is affecting and/or is expected to affect their respective settings who are known within those settings as honest, thoughtful leaders worthy and capable of serving as spokespersons for them. Working Group members would function as de facto experts regarding the constituency or setting each represents. The Working Group as a whole would meet at regular intervals until its work was done.

    The Group would be charged with two tasks:

    (1) cultivating a shared understanding (facilitated by persons skilled in cross-cultural/cross- vernacular communication and reached by way of respectful and attentive listening and earnest, heartfelt speaking) of the particular and various relations to and perspectives on climate change of the many constituencies and settings represented in the group: which is to say, a shared understanding of the actual or anticipated effects of climate disruption on each of the represented interest-groups, and of each interest-group’s specific needs, fears, hopes, ideas, knowledge, perceptions, concerns, and attitudes in regards to climate change and to possible strategies to counter it;

    (2) crafting together, on the basis of this shared understanding and by means of creative, collegial problem-solving and negotiated compromise (and with the help as needed of technical, legal, and policy experts) a model proposal for a comprehensive climate- action policy for the state.

    This model policy, co-created by representatives of all identified stakeholder constituencies in the state, would be submitted to (or even developed in conjunction with) the Governor’s Climate Change Task Force as the Working Group’s climate-change policy recommendation.

    The advantages of an inclusive, “all-in” policy-development process are obvious. The resulting policy is almost guaranteed to be “smarter”—more comprehensive and effective at meeting all identified objectives and anticipating potential obstacles—than policies developed by way of the more standard process that relies heavily on academic, government and professional lobbyist expertise, and thus tends to produce policies that pay less attention to the interests and concerns of constituencies considered—often erroneously—“peripheral” to the issue in question. Where an effort is made to take into account the interests and concerns of “peripheral” constituencies in the setting of the more customary policy-development process, these interests and concerns are too often misunderstand and inadequately addressed. On the other hand, where the actually existing plurality of interest-groups and perspectives serves as the basis of a process of collaborative and inclusive policy development—where one or a small number of perspectives and interest-groups doesn’t determine the outcome of the process—a fairer, more nuanced, more comprehensive and realistic policy is likely to emerge. Such a policy is also more likely to receive broad popular support.

    By its very nature as inclusive and collaborative, the policy-development process we are advocating is initially slower, more cumbersome, and probably more expensive than the default option. As everyone knows, the obstacles to such a process—the absence of a common language and conceptual framework shared by all the constituencies, often painfully different histories and experiences of the present, conflicting interests, legacies of distrust—can easily rise to the level of insurmountable. A mountain of mutual incomprehension and distrust needs to be climbed. Which means successful completion of the work would depend heavily on skillful cross-cultural/cross-vernacular facilitation—not easy to bring off—and on deeply rooted buy-in at the aspirational level by the individuals involved. This is a tall order and something of a gamble. The potentially big payoff of a policy that works through rather than around the complex reality it seeks to transform comes attached to a risk of up-front (rather than the more usual downstream) failure.

    The why of it:
    Human-caused global warming is everybody’s problem. But everybody doesn’t stand in the same relation to it. Some groups are affected harder sooner. Some are already reeling from other causes before its impacts hit. Some are more responsible for it than others. (As a general rule the ones least responsible are the soonest and hardest hit.) Some are well- buffered from its impacts for the time being while others are already experiencing the loss of homes, jobs, health, ways of life, and life itself. The public coffers, the livelihood of many, and the fortunes of a few are for the time being tied to producing the fossil fuels that underlie the problem.

    Whether we realize it or not, we’re all in the same boat—that’s now taking on water and threatening to capsize in the rough seas we suddenly find ourselves in. We each have an oar to row with and a bucket to bail with (except those who’ve already fallen or jumped or been thrown out of the boat and are now clinging to the gunwales), but the few of us not paralyzed by fear or despair are bailing ineffectually and rowing in different directions while arguing about which is the right one. The only hope for us is to learn how to bail and row together. For this to happen, we have to stop shouting and start listening to each other’s accounts of where the shoals to be avoided are and where the nearest landfall is likely to be made and how much food and water we have and how much it will take to get there and how long it’s been since the children had anything to eat and how to make a sail out of the assorted scraps of cloth to be found on board, and so on.

    We need to talk and come up with a plan based on what together we all know, a plan each of us can agree to because each of us helped make it.

    We believe that an inclusive, collaborative, “all-in” policy-development process is the best way to come up with such a plan for New Mexico.
    1 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Press Release dated 8 October 2018, available at:

    • Well done Gregg…. I wonder though….are you talking about sitting down with PNM, NMOGA, El Paso Electric? I could see the value of this if I believed for a second that their priority would be to protect their profit, not the planet. Please comment.

  5. A choice of the least worse. A few years ago, I would have been a lot less concerned about nuclear, but no more. It is really clear to me that applying the current unregulated anti science, business model to nuclear, will lead to disaster. Natural Gas is not an option either, too much Carbon. Perhaps a moratorium on energy exports to offset the increased carbon emissions.

    I used to know rational competent people who worked on the WIPP project, but now they have been replaced by penny pinching bean counters. They tried to increase profits, and caused a few nuclear accidents. The Kitty Litter incident clinched it for me, and the appointment or Rick Perry to the DOE. We no longer have adults in charge of any of it. Any link in this chain can end in a major environmental disaster.

    We don’t need to make this decision right away, why can’t we wait until adults are in charge, or until the nuclear industry cleans up it’s act. The same with the gas industry, these industries have undermined our democracy, bribed our politicians and taken full advantage of the criminal regime running the country. These industries need stronger regulations, and their ability to advertise, propagandize, and undermine academia need to be identified, and called out.

    We are seeing how these industries undermined our EPA, our Laws, and bought off our politicians, so why are we considering any of this. Both of these industries are heavily subsidized, pay little or no taxes and have undermined our nations ability to even clean up after their mess. We have no idea what they are going to do next, with our criminal regime in power.

  6. Hi Paul and Roxanne. My dad said many times, in answer to my incessant queries about why humans perpetually argued with each other to the point of death, that it usually depended on whose ox was being gored. This was not a simplistic reply, but one heavily weighted in context. All of this amazing dialogue above swims in rich contextual waters. And, like the seas, oceans, rivers, lakes, streams and groundwaters of our planet, all these waters are polluted and toxic.

    Nowhere do I see any attempt by anyone to get out of their own way. We see all these ‘problems’ as a massive inconvenience, if not a threat, to our pursuits, our values, our possessions, our ideologies, our legacies. All those things are what define us, and are needed, and necessary, virtually sacrosanct. My dad would have to change his phrase to include all oxen, with each member of the herd the exclusive property of some contestant in the game of one-upsmanship.

    The conflicts outlined in most every reply are the problem. I can visualize all the interested parties coming together in some confab, with the goal of ‘all in,’ and then the trucks pull up with all the baggage that will need to be included. The trucks will run down all the wildlife, pollute the air, generate so much heat all the water evaporates and eliminate all the remaining open space.

    We insist on saving the Earth for us, that is our motivation. Our paradigm is cast in palladium, too hot to handle. That is why we call these times the Anthropocene. The Earth is not the problem, we are. We want to change the outcomes of our behaviors, not our paradigm.

    That is why everyone in some clan is at odds with each other and/or another clan. Look at how the slow moving coupe is jockeying for position in the dismantling of the nation, factions grouping and re-grouping, allegiances bought, sold and traded like penny stocks, or carbon offsets. Unlike Nazis and Fascists with big armies, there is no unifying enemy here. All of us, our addictions and our exceptionalisms, are all correct. We are the definers and owners of existence.

    We must stop being human, and become truly terrified by the insignificance of our individualism, our supremacy. Then maybe we can accomplish something.

    Mick Nickel

  7. I agree with both Rick Lass and Paul Gibson. We must hold these organizations accountable. But we must also come together with a plan. It is the only way we can win against corporate power and greed.

  8. To clarify, I do not support natural gas over nuclear. It is not an either/or for me, it is a neither/nor. While nuclear may not produce significant carbon pollution, it is a nightmare from uranium mining through enrichment to disposal.

    I believe we can now move to 100% renewables- no nukes or carbon in our electric grid.

    One way to get there is to abandon the idea that we need huge centralized generators and thousands of miles of distribution systems. PNM etc don’t want to go there because there is little profit in it, and that is one of the main ways the Energy Transition Act failed everyday New Mexicans. PNM etc should not be making these decisions, because their number one mission is to make a profit.

    As for getting everyone around a table to hash this out- that happened during the legislative session to no avail. I’m not one to give up after one attempt, but let’s just say my hopes are not high that it would be productive. I know Sierra Club etc have done some amazing work in the past, but on this issue they are clearly wrong. Current and potential members should send them strong statements opposing their position.

    • Rick Lass’s idea of de-centralized power generation is very interesting. I think such a non-system would create a strong economic foundation – not the type of economy that aims at bizarre wealth, but one that supports moderate well-being for everyone.

  9. There are already frameworks that should be guiding folks’ positions on these issues. This week, 30 years after being called out in an Open Letter by environmental justice leaders —

    Many of the big green groups (Sierra Club and NRDC among them) signed on to a coalition platform that was negotiated over many years through what I understand to be an arduous yet important process at the national level to come to some agreements. New Mexico’s Richard Moore was a leader in the process.

    Check out the Equitable and Just Climate Platform:

    In terms of this particular case and people’s positions on nuclear — Sierra Club wrote us and was upset that we had mentioned them in relation to CCAE’s pro-nuclear position. They say that CCAE doesn’t represent them at the PRC. I wrote the eblast and so am technically the one responsible if that was misinformation.

    We looked back at the original case and it’s true that Sierra Club did not participate independently. We offered to include an apology in our next email to clarify. And yet, in reflecting I’m a little confused about how to clarify because according to CCAE’s website, the “Coalition” represents: 350.NM, Sierra Club, Environment NM, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Western Environmental Law Center.

    If CCAE doesn’t represent the members of this Coalition — who do they represent? Is Chuck Noble just representing his own positions? It’d be helpful to know what this “Coalition”‘s process is for deciding their positions at the PRC and how they expect others to understand when they represent member organizations and when they don’t . How would it be discerned which positions represent which member orgs? If Coalition members disagree with positions being taken – is there a way they indicate their dissent? If they don’t feel represented by the positions being taken and don’t want to be associated with them and held responsible, why do they remain member organizations?

    • You’ve got nothing to apologize for. As you note, Sierra Club is a member and Noble clearly stated that he was testifying on behalf of CCAE. As you also noted, the purpose of an alliance is to advocate on behalf of its members. I am quite sure that PRC commissioners know the CCAE membership and likely the list of members appears in whatever written testimony Noble included. Even if that is not the case, indicating you represent an alliance of environmental organizations conveys the impression that a group of environmental organizations side with PNM and makes New Energy Economy like the lone ranger, undermining its credibility. Good for you, Bianca, for offering to apologize. I’d say it is Sierra Club that owes you and New Energy Economy an apology and that they should submit in writing to the PRC that Noble did not represent the views of the Sierra Club. I wonder how many other members of the CCAE were even aware of this testimony.

  10. I would recommend the series Chernobyl to everyone who has access to HBO. The series drives home the point of the danger of nuclear energy, which is ever present. We may be lulled by its convenience and benefits for decades, but there may come one day that would wipe off all the benefits. The series (which is based on accounts of survivors and the hard facts) is also a reminder that those in power are commonly removed from the dire consequences of catastrophes and that when it comes to the outcomes, people are never allowed to know all the truth.

    I have been a relentless supporter of multiple environmental organizations for a long time, but lately I am finding myself disappointed with their stances. Their stances appear to be middle ground, and we are not on middle ground anymore. Lately, I have found myself more and more supporting idealistic positions and I find that in retrospect, I am fine with it. We have been told so much and so often that we need to be realistic and need to compromise, but it seems that in the end the only ones to compromise are the regular people – we compromise on the quality of the water we drink, the air we breathe, the temperatures we withstand every summer. I am really curious what would happen if all environmental organizations stopped compromising and adhered to the idealism of the like of New Energy Economy.

    For now, I am stopping my contribution to Environment NM and switching it to NÉE (which I already support). On a very deep level, I am highly discouraged to find out about every time when the “environmental coalition” sits next to PNM in opposition to NÉE.

  11. #pauseonfracking thanks to Paul and Roxanne Gibson and Retake Democracy for the reporting on what is going with the Sierra Club, 350NM, and CVA that is disengenious to all the citizen’s groups working on environmental issues in NM. What are these power plays about? Greenwashing everything from Methane, coal, nuclear power. for a crumb from the table towards renewables. Renewables at all costs while selling out to PNM is stupid and undermines democracy, equity and justice. Cancel your memberships now!

  12. Hi Everyone
    I’d like to make just a few quick points cuz I have so much work to do:

    1. PNM did NO financial analysis before it spent hundreds of millions purchase nuclear
    2. PNM did NO comparison between its preferred nuclear purchase and any other resource
    3. PNM’s own Board minutes memorializing the decision stated that PNM invested in the nuclear to “increase rate base” (increase our rates) “allowing shareholders to earn a return on the assets” (profit for their shareholders).
    4. We won in front of the Hearing Examiner and partially before the old Commission
    5. PNM argued to the Supreme Court that THE remedy (punishment) that the old Commission gave to PNM for its imprudence was done without an “opportunity to be heard to present a claim or defense” And sent the case back to PRC. The Supremes annulled PRC’s old Order (meaning like the first Commission order never happened) and set the case back to PRC for “further proceedings”. The NM Supreme Court also found: “that it was not inappropriate for the Commission to address whether PNM had demonstrated Palo Verde to be cost-effective. … The goal of the consideration of alternatives is, of course, to reasonably protect ratepayers from wasteful expenditure. The failure to reasonably consider alternatives was a fundamental flaw in PNM’s decision-making process.”“[R]atepayers are not to be charged for negligent, wasteful or improvident expenditures, or for the cost of management decisions which are not made in good faith.”
    6. On Wednesday PNM, WRA and CCAE argued no actual need to revisit the remedy! No need to hold ratepayers harmless. After I argued opposing PNM’s investment in nuclear PNM had rebuttal. One of the first words out of Rick Alvidrez’s (PNM Attorney) mouth was “I think that CCAE and WRA summed it up very well in terms of what the scope of this Commission’s authority is on remand. We are here on a very very narrow issue. We are not here to determine if its wise for a utility to have nuclear in its resource portfolio; we’re not here to relitigate developments that have occurred since the 2015 rate case…. we’re not going to look at what PNM did in [the past].”

    time stamp: 2:49pm

    Does WRA and CCAE provide cover for PNM?

    CCAE argued: “I don’t think there is any evidence in this case that there’s a cheaper alternative [than nuclear]; I guess you could look at it.” (time stamp: 2:38:50 pm CCAE is 100% incorrect – that’s why we won the imprudent finding! PNM provided NO evidence that it considered alternatives to its preferred nuclear resources. New Energy Economy provided plenty of evidence that there were less costly and less risky alternatives.

    7.Lastly, we MUST hold PNM accountable. If PNM did not follow the law and was imprudent then ratepayers should be held harmless for the imprudent actions of utility management! If we don’t hold PNM responsible for their malfeasance they will continue to abuse us – as they have. NEE doesn’t want nuclear or gas! We have a white paper on how we get to 100% renewables by 2035 (go to our website). PNM cries wolf (and CCAE joins in their echo) that they just can’t get to 100% without nuclear.

    Do you remember when PNM said in December 2015 we can’t close down San Juan – coal is cost effective “indefinitely.” Well one year and four months later PNM said San Juan is no longer cost effective for ratepayers.

    Do you remember when PNM said in the 2019 legislature we are “out of our comfort zone” with renewables and then as soon as they got their bailout: “we will hit 100% five years earlier than the ETA requires.”

    It is our job to hold PNM accountable. It is their job to follow the law. When they don’t enviro groups shouldn’t give them a pass or a bailout. This encourages PNM’s deliberate wrongdoing at the expense of ratepayers and the environment. Last Saturday I looked at a pond of 94 million gallons of radioactive waste that was still present harming the lives of Indigenous people. On Friday I went on a fracking tour that got me sick – warning signs that read: “cancer causing Benzene.” All next to where people live! One rancher told me that O&G is “raping” the Earth and we have nothing left.

    Lets fight against these crimes: all of them – nuclear and gas and unfettered greed. We have decentralized cheaper alternatives today. Lets support community solar and local choice energy!

    Thank you everyone for your kind words. NEE (and the people) have been undermined by those enviro groups. Some of those people have gone to our funders in common and told them not to fund us because of our stances. We will not be muzzled – we will stand up for the Earth and against racism.

  13. We can think of two approaches to renewable energy. One is a distributed generation approach; the other is a centralized or utility-scale approach. For example, the distributed approach would rely on rooftop solar; the utility-scale approach would rely upon large solar arrays plus power lines to deliver the electricity to the the consumers.

    The lesson of California is that New Mexico cannot afford the proliferation of power lines. The Camp Fire in California — sparked by a high voltage power line — destroyed the 29,000 person town of Paradise, killed 85 persons, and did $18.5 billion in damages — the world’s most costly catastrophe of 2018. It would have been enough to bankrupt the largest utility in the U.S., except that it was already bankrupt by the fires of 2017.

    New Mexico’s own 2011 Las Conchas fire was started by a limb falling on a power line. It destroyed 150,000 acres. At the time it was the largest fire in New Mexico history. For a period, both Las Alamos and the National Lab were evacuated. If the fire has swept through there, the monetary loss would have been far greater than that attributed to the Camp Fire. As it is, 45% of the watershed of Santa Clara Pueblo was burned. Since then the Pueblo has had to cope with increased flooding.

    I won’t provide the details — Paul has done that — but the legislature in the last session adopted the utility-scale approach and rejected the distributed approach. It was not a compromise. It was a total victory for PNM and its allies — which unhappily included the Democratic party and several organization we might have expected better of.

    Right now, everything seems green, the vegetation is flourishing. But drought will return and the vegetation will become tinder. Five utilities in three western or south western states have acknowledged the fire dangers posed by power lines and are taking steps to lessen the danger. We in New Mexico rush ahead to build more lines and there is no discussion of fire danger. We are not California — the world’s fifth largest economy. We cannot afford the fire next time.

    • This is but another reason why distributed energy makes the most sense. But I need to learn more about how places like Taos, up in the woods, get their power…. I know that KC Co-Op distributes it to their membership, but KC doesn’t have a vast solar array that is used as the baseload for the community. They buy it. So doesn’t that power arrive to KC via the kinds of power lines that you are describing, Devin? Its funny how you think you understand something and then you realize you don’t. Can you clarify this, Devin?.

  14. Paul,

    I don’t know very much about Taos. Unlike JEMEC, Kit Carson (KC) bought out of its contract with Tri-State in 2017. That contract had limited KC to 5% renewable which means KC has only had two years to develop local solar arrays and storage. I doubt that they have any signicant wind-generated electricity, so I’d guess they are still heavity dependent upon at least one transmission line from the Four Corners area. That does not mean that Taos will necessarily have a power line caused mega-fire (at least 100,000 acres burnt). For any one specific area, a power line caused mega-fire is a low probability, high consequence event. (At least so far.)

    (At one time, a high voltage transmission line, a merchant line, was planned to carry electricity from a wind farm in eastern New Mesico, passing near Taos, and continuing on to the Four Corners. That line, if it is still planned, would increase the risk of fire, but otherwise do nothing for the member/owners of KC. In that respect it is similar to the proposed Verde Line running from Old Buckman Road in Santa Fe up to Hernandez in Rio Arriba County. There are additional merchant lines planned for the purpose of sending wind electricity from eastern New Mexico to Arizona and California. These lines will increase the risk of fire while doing nothing to meet the renewable energy needs of New Mexico. Given their preference for federal, pueblo, or state lands, these lines will provide little in the way of taxes to the counties once construction is over. Jobs are also minmal. Maintenance of the 33 mile Verde line would require less than one full-time person.)

    I doubt that KC has done much with rooftop solar as my understanding is that rooftop solar is heavily dependent upon state incentives on top of the federal tax incentive. California with strong state incentives has a lot of roof top solar. New Mexico has no incentives as far as I know and very little rooftop solar. It appears that our Democrats are willing to pass a tax incentive for rooftop solar only as long we have a Republican governor to veto it.

    It is difficult for me to understand the commitment of our Democrats to utility-scale renewables. They may not be as progressive as we would like to think.

    — Devin

  15. Retake has gotten too sensational and divisive. Do you really believe that nuclear waste is stored in dented yellow barrels precariously stacked against a concrete wall? We need to work together to combat climate change.

    • The vast majority of commenters disagree with you….but actually I may not. The photo can be changed easily enough, but you mention being too divisive in a post where I am calling on folks to come together and collaborate rather than fight amongst themselves. That is particularly stressed in today’s post. I’d be interested if you found the tone today more in line with your thinking. Thanks for the input. We value it always.

  16. The New Systems organization suggests the only way to get renewable energy in place, and at rates that serve business and residents of our state is to propose a complete buy-out of PNM. This is what is happening in Colorado. In 2012 the Boulder County power utility run by XCell was closed as a corporate run power plant and converted to a publicly county owned utility. In 2017, a state referendum passed by 67% a directive to Colorado government to convert to renewable energy by the year 2022. This effort is on track.
    We can do this here in New Mexico. And it will be good for jobs and to attract businesses.

    At the same time, we can place a hard moratorium on all horizontal drilling and produced water to required large deposits from drilling companies to ensure there are sufficient funds for site clean up. Currently the majority of fracking companies are entirely debt based with no assets other than equipment. This means when the economy collapses (soon, per experts) there will be no funds to clean up or cap off wells, no means of collecting fees from these resource extraction companies (largely from Texas, Oklahoma, and other out of state companies) to pay private property owners, or tribes who are negatively impacted. Lets urge our Land Commission to place “security deposits on all of the current drillers, and for all future drilling. Also, each of these companies should have to provide a plan as to where the water from drilling will come from, and actively certify quarterly that this is true. In N.M. we value water more than oil and gas.

    • Thank you for this. Can you provide a link to the New Systems organization and the article describing what happened in Colorado. Or is it Next Systems (an organization I am very familiar with). Thanks so much. I am very interested in following up on this.

    • Urandamartin, brilliant! I had forgotten about Boulder County making this transition. What counties in New Mexico have a power utility not part of PNM? Or does it matter? Could a single county buy out their stake in generation from PNM?

      Boulder is an affluent county with a prestigious university. Also the home of the Naropa Institute and New Belgium Brewery. It’s not a typical city or county. What county or population center in this state could move this forward? Santa Fe? Las Cruces?

      Also, I hadn’t been aware of how aggressively and brazenly Colorado has been fracked. Rigs popping up right next to neighborhoods with trophy houses. The industry overplayed its hand and people fought back.

      The 4 year moratorium on fracking legislation in the last legislature was not allowed the light of day. And now produced water is seen as fine and dandy by some environmental groups and DINOS. “Security Deposits”. Brilliant!

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