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How the PRC can Hold PNM Accountable to Protect Our Health and Climate in their Coal Plant Replacement Power Plan

By July 1, 2019April 29th, 2022Climate & Energy

The Energy Transition Act (ETA) set a nation-leading carbon-free energy standard and put New Mexico on a path to directly address the climate crisis. The bill also establishes a pathway for an energy transition in the Four Corners area by providing relief to workers in San Juan County affected by the closure of coal plants.

As part of the clean energy transition, New Mexico’s largest energy provider, Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM), will soon file their plans for new power sources to replace the forthcoming coal plant closures in northwest New Mexico. Conservation Voters New Mexico (CVNM) is committed to holding PNM accountable and ensuring that the Public Regulation Commission (PRC) is paying close attention to critical components of PNM’s replacement power proposals. Additionally, we are connecting everyday New Mexicans with information and analysis to make sure you know the facts so that you are ready to participate in the implementation of this landmark bill.

In order to build resilient communities and protect our air, land and water, CVNM has developed the following baseline standards that we expect PNM to meet in their filings for replacement power scenarios under the Energy Transition Act: 

No new gas

The natural gas extraction process continues to be under regulated. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), like benzene and methylene chloride, are leaked, vented and flared during the process, and have been linked to asthma and other respiratory issues. In addition, New Mexico wastes more methane during the  extraction process than any other state. We understand the need for gas use during peak energy demand due to the limitations of our current energy grid, but new gas infrastructure and development will not serve New Mexico’s carbon-free goals, protect public health nor address the climate crisis. Building new gas infrastructure would mean that PNM would have to build, payoff and retire a new gas plant by 2040, in order to satisfy their commitment under  the ETA. PNM’s replacement plans should not force ratepayers to pay for PNM’s continued investment in a polluting and volatile resource.

Additionally, utility rates vary as a result of changes in the price of natural gas. Since natural gas is a global commodity, its price fluctuates aggressively, and so rates also fluctuate to the detriment of ratepayers. Replacement power should stabilize rates and local economies.

We understand that an additional goal of building a natural gas plant in the San Juan area is to return tax-base investments to the area as the coal plant closes. We recognize that the families in San Juan County have worked to provide our energy for decades, and we have no intention of leaving them behind in the transition to a clean energy economy. However, the ETA established other options for diversification of the San Juan County economy and workforce, and we encourage the PRC to fully vet  longer-term clean energy investments, before committing to additional gas investments. 

Impact assessments for social, health and environmental impacts of all replacement power proposals

The PRC must ensure that any of PNM’s proposals include accurate, robust and thorough impact assessments that quantify the real costs to community health and habitat quality for all replacement power scenarios. Fossil fuels and polluting industries have long been propped up as the most affordable options for energy production. That’s because, historically, proposals for fossil fuels and natural gas have severely underrepresented the social, health and environmental costs of running oil and gas plants – if they are considered at all. The PRC should not allow utility companies to continue to burden the rest of society with the negative impacts and the costs of dirty energy while utilities privatize the profits.

CVNM is committed to ensuring that the Energy Transition Act is implemented in a just and equitable manner, every step of the way. As we review the PNM filings for replacement power in San Juan County, we will need your help to combat false narratives and push PNM to continue negotiating in good faith. We know that clean energy is getting more affordable with each passing day, and we look forward to reviewing filings that set our state on track to a clean energy future.