Legislators say utility regulators undermine law

Nov 7, 2019

Credit Four Corners Power Plant. Photo courtesy of EcoFlight and San Juan Citizens Alliance

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Legislators are mounting a vigorous defense of their authority to determine financial arrangement to close a major coal-fired power plant in northwestern New Mexico and to guide new energy investments toward cleaner alternatives.

Democratic Sen. Joseph Cervantes of Las Cruces on Thursday suggested the Legislature revisit this year's landmark energy law to ensure it takes precedent over decisions by elected utility regulators.

Utility regulators at the state's Public Regulation Commission are weighing whether the law trumps the agency's own ongoing evaluation about shutting down the San Juan Generating Station. Advocates for utility customers say utility shareholders should bear more shutdown costs that the Legislature overstepped its constitutional authority.

At a legislative hearing, Democratic House speaker Brian Egolf said the Public Regulation Commission has overstepped its authority by not implementing the Energy Transition Act and is delaying financial aid to communities that will be affected by the plant closure.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed landmark legislation in March that sets ambitious new renewable energy goals.

The law also is supposed to ease the economic pains of closing the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station near Farmington. But advocates for utility customers say it provides an unjust financial windfall to the Public Service Co. of New Mexico.