Nine nominees have been sent to the Gov, four of them very good candidates, but there are very bad choices on the list as well. Our ability to manage, control or regulate the Investor-Owned Utility (IOU) monopolies we now have in NM or the one lurking to exploit us (Avangrid) is up to our Governor. All this uncertainty makes Local Choice Energy that much more important. Join us tomorrow night to find out why? Read on to find out what is at stake.
The rules for who can be selected were designed to prevent a Governor from appointing only commissioners from his/her party, so only one Dem, one DTS and one GOP can be picked. Hence the only GOP nominee, Brian Moore, is guaranteed a seat. The Gov can also only pick one commissioner from any given county and with 7 nominees from Bernalillo County that is a problem as there are two good candidates from BernCo (and two bad). Below is our summary of the remaining nominees followed by our ideal slate and our fears. Either way, the unfolding of this process makes it clear that if you want to escape the greedy clutches of the investor-owned utilities (IOUs), Local Choice Energy is the best way to secure energy democracy and local autonomy. Read on.
|Gabriel Aguilera||DEM||Raised in Southern NM, now in DC, so need to determine NM county||FERC-16 years||Aguilar has 16 years experience as a FERC regulator. Little has represented pueblos on water and energy issues. Only one dem can be picked.|
|James Ellison||DTS||bernco||Sandia 10 years & 8 years with utility compmany, AES||NO, dts, with Glick or O’Donnell better|
|Brian Moore||GOP||CURRY||Only relevant experience is serving on the state Renewable Energy Transition Authority||No choice – must be one of the picks as he is the only GOP, also from out of SFC, BernCo. So no geog. conflict.|
|Carolyn Glick||DTS||Santa fe||16 years PRC hearing examiner||By far, most qualified. The DTS pick.|
|Joseph Little||DEM||Bernco||ATTY All Pueblo Council||Involved in litigation to secure/protect indigenous energy rights. Only one dem can be picked. See Aguilar.|
|Patrick O’Connell||DEM||BERNCO||PNM 12 YEARS||NO|
|Arthur O’Donnell||DTS||Bernco||Solar expert with tons of renewable exp.||DTS, Glick is more qualified, but decent second choice.|
|Amy Stein||DEM||Florida||Teaches energy law||NO. OUT OF STATE|
|Cholla Khoury||DEM||BERNCO||AG atty||NO, DEM AND BERNCO, so competing with 2 great candidates, Glick & Little. PLUS BIASED, FAVORS AVANGRID MERGER|
The PRC Possibilities
Throughout the nominating committee deliberations, the members referenced the importance of selecting commissioners who can “hit the ground running” as there will be important decisions to be made in 2023. Indeed, to underscore this, just yesterday PNM filed a request to the PRC for a $344M rate hike, with hearings beginning before the new Commission in 2023. And we know Avangrid will return to try again, with their lipstick-on-a-pig routine. So, the composition of the Commission is critical. If we were making the selections, they would be:
Carolyn Glick – For 16 years a solid PRC Hearing Examiner, Glick would be our first pick because if you are truly interested in hitting the ground running, you can’t do better than to select someone who has been deeply in the PRC trenches for almost 20 years.
The second and third best candidates are both from BernCo, so only one could be picked. I slightly favor Joseph Little, as the only indigenous candidate available, but Arthur O’Donnell would also be a solid pick.
The third candidate I’d want to learn more about is Gabriel Aguilar. NM-born and raised, he has spent 16 years as a regulator at the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC).
If the Governor were truly trying to create the most independent, capable. and professional PRC, at least 2 and perhaps three of the above would be selected. But there are some very bad options:
Chola Khoury was the chief attorney from the AG’s office supporting Avangrid. She is steeped in the Hector Balderas – Marcus Rael cabal of NM attorneys who have been involved in all kinds of “pay to play” schemes in the AG office. Not a good option at all.
Patrick O’Connell served for 12 years as a PNM Exec in charge of natural gas, so it would be worrisome having him vote on proposals related to gas-fueled hydrogen development.
James Ellison certainly has the knowledge base for the job, as a scientist from Sandia, but with 8 years working for a global utility corporation, those industry ties are worrisome. Besides he is a DTS, appointing him would mean the best qualified candidate, Cynthia Glick, would not be able to be selected. So from our perspective, an easy choice.
Amy Stein may be a great Florida professor, but as a Dem she’d have to take the seat of either Little or Aguilar.
When the selections are made, if Glick, O’Donnell or Aguilera are not appointed, it is clear the Governor was not looking to ensure a professional jump start to deliberations.
To be honest, I was conflicted about the value of offering input to the Governor, feeling she likely has or will make up her own mind and will not be easily dissuaded from appointing industry-aligned Commissioners. But offering your views is an easy lift and if she hears enough from us and others like us, she may feel the fallout from picking 3 brazenly industry friendly commissioners may not be worth it. So give it a shot. Tell her what you think.
If you choose to send input to the Governor, here is the link. Once you land on this page, just scroll down a wee bit and you will see the form used to contact the Governor.
Tips for contacting the Governor.
- Use a respectful, polite tone. This is not the place or time to come out with guns blazing.
- Identify right off the bat what the contact is about, i.e. “I am writing to offer input into the PRC Commissioner appointments you will be making soon.” Or something like that.
- If you have followed PRC hearings reference that briefly.
- Indicate that you feel that at least one or two selections should have direct experience with utility regulation, as this is important if the PRC is to quickly begin addressing pressing matters.
- Note how important it will be that anyone selected have lived in NM for 5 or more years — local knowledge and appreciation of our land and culture should matter.
- Don’t mention you are from Retake, just a concerned constituent.
- Don’t devote much time to it, but if you are concerned about the PNM- Avangrid merger, mention briefly why, and how one reason you are supporting A, B, or C candidates is that you feel they would conduct a fair hearing on this. But it might be wiser to skip reference to Avangrid or PNM directly or you could be relegated to being “one of them.”
- Focus on who you support and why and go lightly, if at all, in criticizing other options.
- Be brief but outline why you support one or more of the nominees.
- If a candidate you support is from your county, mention how you’d be proud/happy/pleased to have him/her representing you.
Local Choice Energy: Inoculating NM Against the IOUs & a Bad PRC
If the PRC nominations are strongly industry/utility-friendly as we expect/dread, then Local Choice Energy’s (LCE) importance is magnified many times over. If the IOUs are offered a free ride to develop their preferred energy (gas & oil) and continue their abuse of rat payers, then we will all be most relieved that LCE is available as an energy option for municipalities, tribes, and pueblos.
This initiative will encounter resistance from utilities and unions with workers in the extractive industries, so we will need a whole bunch of you not just to support LCE, but to become passionate about it, write letters to the editor, and beseech your legislators to pass it in 2023. But to do any of that you must first become inspired and educated. Join our Zoom Thursday evening and you will do both.
Local Choice Energy Zoominar, Dec. 7 from 6-7:30
Learn about the concept of public power and the exciting possibilities that result when a state passes Local Choice Energy legislation: freedom from bad decisions from your IOU, lower local electricity rates, greater reliability, swifter transition to 100% renewables, and increased local revenues and jobs. Local Choice Energy has been tested in dozens of communities across the nation. Learn from a panel of state and national experts, including:
- Senator Carrie Hamblen, who is sponsoring the legislation and, as the CEO/President of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce, she has a long established commitment to green energy and will be a strong advocate in the legislature and her community.
- Local Energy Aggregation Network Executive Director Alison Elliott, who will share with us how Local Choice Energy has been successfully implemented in over a dozen other states.
- Local Clean Energy Alliance Energy Democracy Organizer Jessica Guadalupe Tovar, who will build on Alison’s comments and detail the organizational hurdles to successful adoption and implementation of Local Choice Energy. She also has direct experience implementing a Local Choice model, East Bay Community Energy, a public energy services provider agency that is now providing electricity for over 1.5 million people in Alameda County
- Public Power New Mexico Campaign Director Alysha Shaw, who will outline what Public Power NM is and how we are advancing legislation to create Local Choice Energy.
Click to register here. You must register to attend.
In solidarity & hope,
Paul & Roxanne