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What drives New Energy Economy

August 7, 2017 GMT

In his My View (“Thanks, PNM: Good business is good for state,” July 2), Roy Martinez levels several accusations at New Energy Economy that are misleading and, in some instances, false.

He claims that New Energy Economy “has adopted the for-profit business model for which it so loudly and hypocritically condemns PNM.” Martinez believes that New Energy Economy should praise the Public Service Company of New Mexico for its plans to abandon coal rather than criticizing them. He decries as unfair that PNM has to make factual disclosures of every aspect of its business, and implies that New Energy Economy nefariously hides its “very real private interest of raising money” through non-disclosure of its real purposes. He wonders why New Energy Economy didn’t praise PNM for announcing a plan to close down its coal generating units.

First, to dispose of the obvious: New Energy Economy is a nonprofit organization. New Energy Economy has a ridiculously small staff that works for modest pay. New Energy Economy asks for money to support public outreach campaigns, participation in the ratemaking process, and where necessary, litigation. None of this is cheap, though they keep expenses low through use of volunteers.

By contrast, PNM has virtually bottomless sources of revenue and spends large amounts of money to hire in and out-of-state law firms that we, New Mexicans, ultimately pay for. New Energy Economy doesn’t praise PNM for its coal announcement because it is too little, so late, and was adopted only after tireless efforts by New Energy Economy to show why its reliance on coal is dangerous. Further, it continues to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in both coal plants.

I am delighted to learn that Mr. Martinez appreciates and admires the creative frequency of New Energy Economy’s promotional material. My friends and I agree that it is extremely effective. New Energy Economy does not hire private public relations firms to do advocacy, but we appreciate Martinez’s compliment of its professionalism.

Indeed, it’s hard to praise the “homegrown” entity for applying for a $100 million gas plant and pipeline case which its own data proved customers didn’t need, and only withdrew its case when New Energy Economy filed opposition testimony. (New Energy Economy was the only organization to do so.) It’s also hard to praise PNM when it failed to disclose to the Supreme Court that its own analyses contradicted their assertions to the Court and to the public, that investing in more coal was cost effective for ratepayers.

On the strength of its modeling analyses, PNM had persuaded the Public Regulation Commission to authorize the continued burning of coal at the San Juan Generating Station indefinitely. Public Service Company of New Mexico continued to argue for more coal before the Supreme Court in January of this year, knowing full well that its own internal data showed that the San Juan coal plant should be shut down no later than 2022 because it would save ratepayers money.

Not to mention the $60 million of externalized health care costs per year (asthma, heart and lung disease, etc.) from the San Juan plant. Or the Navajo miners who die an early death from black lung disease. Or the brown haze polluting our skies. Or that PNM sucks the life blood out of our community by having the highest electric rates in the region and exports our money to Wall Street shareholders.

Finally, New Energy Economy has never argued that PNM should not make the profits to which it is entitled under law. But it can’t foist rate increases on the public that aren’t justified and investments that are bad for ratepayers and for the environment.

I know what drives New Energy Economy because I have volunteered for this amazingly scrappy, smart, and dedicated organization — passion for the place they love, and a commitment to social and economic justice. They should be congratulated.

Sue Benedict is a resident of Santa Fe.