Energy firm owes New Mexico explanation for withholding info

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A U.S. subsidiary of global energy giant Iberdrola has been ordered by an official with the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission to explain why it withheld information in a merger case about penalties stemming from customer service complaints in other states where it operates.

The subsidiary, Avangrid, hopes to merge with Public Service Co. of New Mexico in what would be a multibillion-dollar deal that would give the Connecticut-based company more than a half-million customers and access to an extensive network of transmission lines and other infrastructure.

Critics have said the questions about customer service are relevant because the performance of Avangrid’s utilities elsewhere gives an indication of how Avangrid would perform if the merger with the New Mexico utility is approved.

The Santa Fe-based nonprofit New Energy Economy wants the merger applicants to be held in contempt of the discovery process and to reimburse the organization for the expenses it has incurred trying to get answers, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

New Energy Economy and the Sierra Club also scored an incremental win Monday when commission hearing examiner Ashley Schannauer ruled questions concerning the role of the coal-fired Four Corners Power Plant in the merger proposal are relevant.

Avangrid and PNM had argued that PNM’s abandonment of the Four Corners plant in northwestern New Mexico is a separate matter from the merger proposal.

As for whether Avangrid will face sanctions or penalties for withholding information about its track record in other states, Schannauer is expected to issue a recommendation in August. That will be followed by a decisions from the Public Regulation Commission.