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Sierra Club, local leaders face off in PRC case

A decision on the Public Service Company of New Mexico's continued operation of the San Juan Generating Station in ...more
A decision on the Public Service Company of New Mexico's continued operation of the San Juan Generating Station in Waterflow is expected later this month.
Daily Times file photo
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Decision expected to be made by middle of December

FARMINGTON — The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission is two weeks away from announcing whether it will accept the Public Service Company of New Mexico’s integrated resource plan, which calls for closing the San Juan Generating Station in 2022.

MORE: How San Juan Generating Station went from powerhouse to possible closure

The PRC likely will either reject or accept the plan during its Dec. 19 meeting in Santa Fe. The meeting starts at 9 a.m. and can be viewed online at nmprc.state.nm.us.

A PRC hearing examiner has recommended that the plan be adopted despite concerns about it economic impact on northwest New Mexico.

Sierra Club, local leaders face off in PRC case

The parties that intervened in the case were given a chance to respond to that recommendation. Leaders from Farmington, San Juan County and the county's legislative delegation have submitted a response highlighting the reasons they believe the PRC should reject the plan. The county, the city of Farmington and the legislative delegation asked the PRC to reject the integrated resource plan for various reasons, including failure to examine the economic impact.

MORE: PRC official recommends acceptance of PNM plan

When the Sierra Club responded to the San Juan County exceptions to the recommended decision, the county entities asked the PRC to reject the Sierra Club’s response because they felt it was improper for the Sierra Club to respond.

The PRC denied that motion, but it granted the county entities’ request to allow them to reply to the environmental organization's response.

The PRC met today in Santa Fe. The meeting can be viewed online at nmprc.state.nm.us.

Commissioner Patrick Lyons said he felt it was not fair to accept the Sierra Club’s response without giving San Juan County representatives the opportunity to reply.

Local entities reply to Sierra Club's arguments

The Sierra Club argues that economic impacts should not be considered during an integrated resource plan case because the purpose of the integrated resource plan is to identify the most cost-effective resource portfolio, and the law does not require consideration of economic impacts.

“While the Sierra Club feels strongly about the importance of working to mitigate any adverse local impacts of coal plant retirements, the proper venues for such efforts in New Mexico are the legislative and executive branches, not the utility commission,” the Sierra Club states in its response to the county entities’ exceptions.

In its reply to the Sierra Club’s response, the county entities acknowledges that economic impact analysis is not mandated by law and may not be appropriate in all integrated resource plan cases.

MORE: San Juan Mine faces multiple challenges in the years to come

“However, under the circumstances where this particular IRP process took on the characteristics of an abandonment proceeding, the commission is required to consider the economic impact of abandonment just as it would in an abandonment proceeding,” the reply states.

Utilities must file to abandon an asset prior to closing it. PNM has indicated plans to file for abandonment next year.

The local entities state in their reply that abandonment “will cause a once-in-a-lifetime economic upheaval” in surrounding communities and accepting the integrated resource plan will render the abandonment proceedings meaningless by setting the course for closing the power plant.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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