We examine Chair of the PRC, Steve Fischman’s views on the ETA Amendments, plus info on Sierra Club lobbying training for amendments to the Produced Water Act. Finally video of both of our Conversations with Sen. Wirth & Speaker Egolf.
After a few announcements, video recording of conversations with Senator Wirth and Speaker Egolf, and an excerpt from Heather Cox Richardson, summarizing Biden’s recovery plan, we offer the views of PRC Chair Steven Fischmann on the need for amendments to the Energy Transition Act. Read on. Much good news today!
Join One of Our Senate District Advocacy Teams. We have conducted 15 Constituent-Senator Zoom Conversations led by Retake Senate District Coordinators. The Conversations have been immensely helpful as in almost every Zoom we have identified Senators who need more information on specific bills or are holding misinformation causing them to be equivocal or to oppose a bill we support. With this information, our allies or bills sponsors are able to reach out to the legislator and offer good counsel on the bill and clarify the misunderstanding.
One example arose yesterday in our conversation about the public bank with Speaker Egolf. He indicated he had introduced legislation to create a public bank in his first year as a legislator and that he supported it in principle. But he went on to say that changes were needed because he didn’t want “unintended consequences” from the bill and said that “I don’t think its fair for the state to straight up compete with the community banks.” We challenged that view, but tomorrow we will post a detailed analysis of how the public bank will NOT compete with the community banks but rather will strengthen them considerably. This is an example of why these discussions prior to the session are so important.
Roxanne observed last session that it often appears that legislators have made up their minds by the time they vote on a bill in committee and so we want to help educate them well before the session begins. In virtually every session, the Senator has indicated a desire to meet again during the session. Yesterday, Senator Wirth commented that he had heard from Democrats throughout the caucus that they are finding the Constituent conversations most useful. We are creating a buzz and having an impact and it is ever so easy to participate, as coordinators do all the heavy lifting.. You just show up.
You do not have to be a policy wonk or especially comfortable persuading others, as there will be other constituents in the zoom meeting and Retake provides detailed bill summaries that can get you up to speed if you should want to chime in. Comments and questions in chat are shared with the legislators.
Constituent – Legislator Conversations with Sen. Wirth & Speaker Egolf
These conversations promise to be among the most important advocacy strategies Retake has advanced. From one person who participated in both of the conversations below.
“I attended both Zoom conferences. They were just outstanding! I learned a lot. Thank you for all of the work you did in putting the talks together.”
Conversation with Senator Peter Wirth. This was a tremendous conversation, as the Senator was very candid about his views on a wide array of bills Retake supports and commented on where there may be challenges with passing our Transformational bills We covered virtually all our environmental bills, tax reform, early childhood, public bank, and open carry legislation. Plus the Senator dropped a bombshell that brought delight to Voices for Children’s Bill Jordan: Senate Pro-Tem’s plan to elimination of the Corporations and Transportation Committee, with it being replaced by a committee on taxation. Jordan has long sought this action as he objected to having a legislative committee dedicated to the interests of corporations. After this conversation I am so looking forward to this session and what we can achieve.
Conversation with Speaker Egolf. We began right on time, but our wifi had problems for the first 4-5 minutes creating a bit choppy discussion, although it is eminently listenable. The first question, wasn’t asked until 4 minutes in as the Speaker was called away for a call about security at the Roundhouse. This is a very important conversation, so work through the first few minutes as the connection got better as we went along. In fact, it was perfect after about 7 minutes. First time we’ve had this problem but at 7 minutes, the problems were resolved.
Raise Your Voice, Take Retake’s 2021 Legislative Priorities Survey. We plan to close the survey on Tuesday, when the legislative session begins, so if you haven’t taken the survey, please do so RIGHT NOW, by clicking here. Over 1100 New Mexicans have taken the survey, but the more who do so, the more impactful the results will be, as we will be sharing the results with legislators–BOTH statewide results and results from their constituents. If you have completed the survey, please copy this paragraph and post it on FB and/or send it to a bunch of friends. Right now Abortion Decrim and the Health Security Act are in a virtual tie for the top spot, but funding for early childhood, the Green Amendment and creating a public bank follow closely.
News in Brief from Heather Cox Richardson
HCR does a tremendous job of summarizing Biden’s Covid recovery plan and, as usual, contrasts it with Trump’s failure to lead and then places it historic context. One excerpt:
“The plan calls for $1400 stimulus checks for individuals, expanded unemployment benefits through September, an end to eviction and foreclosure until September 30, $30 billion to help people meet payments for rent or utilities, and a $15 minimum wage. Biden is calling for aid for child care, a $3 billion investment in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and $350 billion for state, local, and tribal governments to support front line workers.”From Letters from an American: “January 14″ Heather Cox Richardson
Retake Conversation with HD 40 Rep. Roger Montoya, on KSFR, 101.1 FM and streaming live from KSFR.org. Saturday, January 16, 8:30-9:00am and posted in our Saturday blog around 9am. We will discuss his background that led him to seek election to the legislature, his legislative priorities, with a detailed discussion of his Rural Opportunities Act legislation. Tune in.
SIERRA CLUB LOBBY TRAINING -Noon Friday, January 15. “Protect Our Water” bill – Protecting Public Health, the Environment and Fresh Water from Oil and Gas Waste Liquids “Produced Water”
Produced water related amendments to the Produced Water Act, Oil and Gas Act, and Water Quality Act to protect fresh water and the public from toxic waste. “Produced Water” is the oil and gas industry’s name for their toxic wastewater. The oil and gas industry consumes MILLIONS of gallons of New Mexico’s precious fresh water every year. During and after the fracking process, millions of gallons of so-called “Produced Water” is generated by the industry.
Currently, this toxic waste is poisoning our land, water, and air with little regulation or oversight. Negligent spills occur daily. Thousands of massive ponds and corroded steel tanks store the highly toxic waste. Corrosion, human error, overflow, and equipment failure are the most common reasons for spills.
Changes in the law are necessary to ensure the safe handling and disposal of this toxic wastewater and to protect the public and preserve scarce fresh water:
The amendments in the bill will: 1) prohibit fresh water use in fracking and 2) protect public health, the environment, and fresh water from oil and gas pollution.
- Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez
- Rev. Dave Rogers, Citizens Caring for the Future, Carlsbad Resident
- Dale Doremus, Sierra Club – Rio Grande Chapter Water Chair
- Norm Gaume, Water advocate and former ISC Director
Commentary: PRC chair says it’s time to protect utility ratepayers
Today, we share the published views of PRC Chair, Steven Fischmann, on the need for amendments to the Energy Transition Act. I am sure our readers are confused by the competing claims among the environmental advocacy community and among our legislators. Next week, we will be taking the different positions of the Sierra Club and New Energy Economy side by side, with Camilla Feibelman and Mariel Nanasi providing word count-limited responses to specific Retake questions. We hope that this can help our readers better understand the proposed amendments to the ETA.
But for today, we hear from Commission Chair, Steven Fischmann.
Good news. New Mexico’s new Energy Transition Act and Renewable Energy Act are working.
PRC regulators, previously skeptical of renewable energy, have done a terrific job of applying the new laws to accelerate renewable energy adoption, avoid building increasingly outmoded fossil fuel power plants, and maximize investment in communities where jobs will be lost in the transition away from coal.
The foundation is being laid for cleaner air, more plentiful water, and lower-cost electricity.
Unfortunately, ratepayers may not realize their fair share of the cost savings. Parts of the recently adopted laws could shift financial burdens that traditionally belong to utility companies to utility customers. That’s a big deal in New Mexico where electric bills can suck up ten percent of a low-income household’s earnings. Fortunately, these problems can be addressed with a couple of straightforward legislative tweaks.
Fix one is the elimination of an Energy Transition Act provision that locks in how much consumers must pay for the early closure of fossil fuel plants replaced by renewable energy. The new law requires ratepayers to cover the full book value of early closing facilities. While this may appear fair on the surface, utilities have historically engaged in a variety of strategies to inflate the book value of their power plants forcing ratepayers to pick up the tab.
In the past, the PRC has denied utilities hundreds of millions in compensation when it discovers these “imprudent investments.” This has protected consumers from unfair rates. The new law gives utilities carte blanche to charge ratepayers potentially inflated fossil fuel plant values no matter how imprudent the investments may have been. Removal of the mandated compensation provision for early plant closure will restore the PRC’s ability to protect ratepayers from utility mismanagement.
Fix two is the elimination of a newly adopted provision of the Efficient Use of Energy Act that prohibits the PRC from adjusting a power company’s targeted earnings when it adopts a pricing mechanism called “decoupling.” Decoupling helps a utility lock in a fixed profit no matter how much or how little power it sells. Customer bills are automatically adjusted upwards if sales volume is less than anticipated, and downwards if sales volume exceeds expectations. In either case, utility profits remain roughly the same, hence they are “decoupled” from the volume of sales. Utilities avoid the risk of fluctuating demand, while consumers take on the risk of shifting billing rates.
Financial markets reward high-risk investments with high returns and low-risk investments with lower returns. The PRC currently awards large New Mexico electric utilities projected returns of about 9.4% based on uncertain annual earnings. The risk-free annual return on a 30 year Treasury bill is currently 1.7%. Is it fair for ratepayers to continue supporting a 9.4% return when utility earnings are largely guaranteed under decoupling? No. The public will be far better served if the PRC regains the ability to modify rates of return when a utility adopts decoupling.
New Mexico’s forward-looking electric utility laws protect the environment and the state’s economic future. With small adjustments, we can do a better job of protecting ratepayers as well. That’s why the PRC’s five sitting commissioners unanimously support these two changes to our statutes.
Call on your legislators to restore the PRC’s ability to determine fair ratepayer charges for early plant closures and to set appropriate profit targets for utilities that adopt decoupling.
Steve Fischmann is the Chair of the Public Regulation Commission and a former New Mexico state senator.
In solidarity and hope,
Paul & Roxanne
Categories: Local-State Government & Legislation