A bevy of organizations filed briefs this week to express their dissatisfaction with the Public Service Company of New Mexico’s plan to exit the Four Corners Power Plant.
Your recent filings with the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission follow a recommendation from a hearing examiner, most of which supported PNM’s plan to abandon the coal-fired power plant in northwest New Mexico.
Nine companies lodged objections, some of which were only partial objections that did not prevent the plant from being closed at the end of 2024. Nonetheless, most expressed criticism of the plan and of the unreserved support of the hearing examiner Anthony Medeiros.
Medeiros, a quasi-judge of the Public Regulation Commission, has only the power to make recommendations; the final decision is expected to be made by the five-person commission next month. Thereafter, the case could be appealed to the New Mexico Supreme Court.
Commission officials argued in one filing: “Instead of allowing this cynical cash robbery, the Commission should simply deny PNM the power to abandon the FCPP [Four Corners Power Plant] at this moment.”
Some critics, including PRC and San Juan County staff, said PNM failed to show how it would replace the energy left behind at Four Corners. A utility’s primary responsibility is to “keep the lights on”, Commission officials said, and PNM “fails this test because it has not identified enough generating resources to replace the facility”.
PNM argues that it has weighed the interests of the public, the environment and the Navajo nation in which the plant is located. Medeiros agreed, saying the plan had “net public benefit”.
Key elements of PNM’s proposal to exit the Four Corners power plant include:
u Withdrawal of partial ownership of the facility at the end of 2024.
u Paying $ 75 million in stockholders’ money to Navajo Transitional Energy Co. to acquire PNM’s 13 percent facility.
u Issuance of about $ 300 million worth of 25-year low-interest bonds through the state’s 2019 Energy Transition Act. The money would help fund investments already made in the plant and small allocations for a workers’ relief fund, financing costs, plant closures, and more cover. The bonds would be paid for by PNM customers.
Some opponents, such as the Sierra Club and New Energy Economy, say the installment payers don’t have to fund the capital investment PNM made a few years ago in a phasing out coal-fired power plant. They call these investments “unwise” or unwise. The plant is slated to close by 2031.
They also claim that PNM’s plan does little for the environment as although the company would leave the facility, the pollution would continue to bubble. Also, handing it over to the Navajo Nation could extend the plant’s activity, they say, because the nation has so many jobs there.
Medeiros’ findings regarding the departure of PNM in Four Corners contrast with those of another PRC auditor in connection with the proposed merger of PNM with Avangrid from Connecticut and Iberdrola from Spain. In the latter case, numerous parties ultimately supported the merger proposal, but hearing examiner Ashley Schannauer criticized that the plan was not in the public interest.
On the Four Corners proposal, Medeiros agreed with PNM, accepting the utility’s claim that the proposal would save customers $ 30 million to $ 300 million compared to the cost of staying at the plant through 2031. The attorney general, who supported the deal early on, expressed contempt for the plan to spend part of the $ 300 million loan on the abandonment of Four Corners.
Approving part of the capital expenditure “risks an obviously unfair outcome that is contrary to the public interest,” wrote the Attorney General.
The plan is for Four Corners to operate seasonally. According to PNM, this would reduce emissions by 20 to 25 percent.
Medeiros said the transfer to NTEC would “strengthen the position of the Navajo Nation in determining the future of a facility which, it should not be forgotten, has operated on its sovereign soil for nearly sixty years.”
PNM claims that a similar deal with another company is unlikely if the commission rejects the giveaway to NTEC and then PNM could get stuck in the polluting facility pending closure.
PNM spokesman Ray Sandoval wrote in an email on Wednesday: “The current proposed plan was a very delicate negotiation that took more than three years to complete. There are no assurances that the one-off opportunity in front of the Commission to perform these services can be changed, expanded or repeated at a future time. “
One element on which Medeiros agreed with opponents is a clause that says that PNM cannot vote to close the plant while it is part owner.
Opponents say it could extend the life of the facility and Medeiros said the clause should be removed.
Therefore, PNM has to start negotiations again with NTEC, which currently holds a 7 percent stake in the plant.
The plant is owned by PNM and NTEC, Arizona Public Service (63 percent), Salt River Project (10 percent) and Tucson Electric Power
A joint report by Bernalillo County and the Albuquerque / Bernalillo County Water Authority said that the approval of the Four Corners Plan by the PRC “would inflict a grave injustice on installment payers who must rely on the Commission to defend their interests with those of PNM “.
“The only transition to carbon-free energy will be on paper from PNM’s generation portfolio with no measurable reductions in carbon dioxide emissions,” the report said.