AP NEWS

New Mexico Supreme Court grants PNM relief on coal plant closing

March 2, 2019

The state Supreme Court on Friday granted Public Service Company of New Mexico’s request to delay regulatory proceedings on the company’s plan to close the San Juan Generating Station near Farmington.

The state’s largest utility, which for years has said it wants to close the aging, coal-fired power plant by 2022, had asked the court to set aside a Friday deadline to file a plan with the state Public Regulation Commission.

PNM, which is moving to abandon its long dependence on coal for producing electricity, argued that several bills affecting state energy policies are pending before the state Legislature, including Senate Bill 489, known as the Energy Transition Act. A news release from the company this week said the legislation “will have an impact on our state’s energy landscape. Some of these policies will directly impact how the San Juan Generating Station will be abandoned and what the replacement resources must be.”

In a written statement Friday the utility said of the high court’s action: “The stay keeps our legislature, our new governor, and our company on a continued path to carefully and thoughtfully plan for this important transition to a cleaner energy future for the state.

PNM has endorsed SB 489, sponsored by state Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, which would dramatically increase reliance on renewable energy sources and help PNM in shutting down the San Juan facility by allowing the company to sell bonds to pay off debt on the plant.

The city of Farmington, a part owner of the power plant, recently announced it had found an investor, the New York-based Acme Equities, to keep the plant — a major source of jobs in northwestern New Mexico — operating for the foreseeable future.

The state Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee is scheduled to hear SB 489 on Saturday.

In January, the regulatory commission voted unanimously to require PNM to file its plan by March 1.

At that meeting, the commission’s general counsel, Mike Smith, reading from the order that would be approved by the commission, said the body is legally obligated to “apply the existing law, and not shape determinations or impose obligations based on the possibility of speculative legislative changes.”

Commissioner Cynthia Hall said during that discussion that the commission had “very strong evidence that show PNM as long as six months ago took irrevocable steps” to push for abandonment “and then simply didn’t tell us.”