Consumer group wants review of shutdown costs at coal plant
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — An advocacy group for utility customers urged the New Mexico Supreme Court on Friday to allow state utility regulators more time to vet a proposal to close a major coal-fired power plant and divvy up shutdown costs.
The court is under pressure from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and leading state legislators to intervene quickly in utility proceedings and ensure implementation of the so-called Energy Transition Act that puts New Mexico on a mandated path toward zero-carbon electricity by 2045.
The consumer group New Energy Economy pushed back against the governor’s request Friday in court filings.
As part of the 2019 energy transition law, owners of San Juan Generating Station in northwestern New Mexico can recover investments in the coal-fired plant by selling bonds that are later paid off by utility customers.
But the Public Regulation Commission has forged ahead with its own hearings on how to fairly divvy up the roughly $360 million in coal-plant shutdown costs between utility investors and consumers.
Advocates for utility customers say that repayment plan is skewed to the advantage of utility stockholders at Public Service Co. of New Mexico and are urging utility regulators to intervene.
Mariel Nanasi, executive director of New Energy Economy, urged the state Supreme Court to allow a thorough review of the shutdown proposal at the Public Regulation Commission before the court intervenes on broader constitutional issues.
“There is no emergency justifying extraordinary, pre-appeal relief,” she wrote.
Advocates of the Energy Transition Act — including a long list of environmental groups — say owners of the San Juan plant are forgoing future profits in a compromise that reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
Leading Democratic lawmakers have accused the utility commission of overstepping its authority regarding the cost of the shutdown and decommissioning.
The state Supreme Court has twice declined requests that it intervene in a related disagreement over constitutional authority. A third and latest request came in December from state lawmakers and Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, who together accused utility regulators of perpetuating “a regulatory atmosphere of uncertainty and risk.”