This appeared as a guest column in the Albuquerque Journal | By Nate Duckett / Mayor, City of Farmington, and Kim Carpenter / County Executive Officer, San Juan County, Saturday, October 6th, 2018
We are responding to PNM executive Ron Darnell’s “for the children”-themed op-ed (Sept. 14 Journal). We believe PNM is using this angle to misguide the public on a number of issues surrounding its decision to close the San Juan Generating Station 30 years early.
As fathers and community leaders we care deeply for our youth and are gravely concerned about the impact PNM’s closure of the San Juan Generating Station will have on the well-being, education and future opportunities of our state’s children. Our state already struggles with one of the highest rates of childhood poverty in the country. We take it personally that PNM is willing to so cavalierly turn a blind eye to the real impact its plans will have on our children.
PNM has already publicly stated its plan to close the San Juan Generating Station will increase electric rates. Skyrocketing electric rates in California have already been created by actions like those proposed by PNM. Increased electric rates disproportionately impact those on fixed or low incomes.
PNM’s plans, as advanced by Darnell, will cost all of us, especially our children, in the state of New Mexico plenty in the form of fewer jobs, higher electric rates, reduced tax revenues for schools and diminished ability of parents to support their families. Furthermore, this closure will no doubt lead to further migration of our working class to states that have more robust job opportunities and diversified economies.
PNM has admitted publicly there will be statewide and regional impacts caused by its decision to close the San Juan Generating Station. PNM has also admitted in a proceeding before the Public Regulation Commission that delaying the closure will decrease costs to customers and mitigate impacts. If PNM cares so much about our state’s children, please ask yourself why it isn’t interested in working to create a more workable and prudent transition plan that mitigates these impacts?
In 2015, PNM initiated its plan to close two units of the San Juan Generating Station. PNM asserted that in order to keep the remaining two units open decades longer, extremely expensive pollution control equipment was needed. In reliance on PNM’s stated commitment to continue operations, over $37 million in bonds benefitting schools in our area were issued.
In 2017, after installing this equipment and using assumptions that have been aggressively challenged and largely discredited, the company stated its intention to close the remaining two units of San Juan Generating Station.
Why the sudden change in strategy by PNM? We believe this decision is profit-driven:
• Even though PNM has volunteered to close the plant prematurely, it wants customers to pay PNM shareholders for shutting down a completely viable resource.
• PNM also wants customers to pay for brand-new replacement generation resources, which guarantees dramatic increased profit to PNM and its shareholders.
• PNM wants the state Legislature to expand the amount of renewable energy it uses to 50 percent. This creates a legislative mandate to overbuild resources, which further increases profit to PNM and its shareholders at the expense of ratepayers.
PNM is advocating that the California approach be adopted by New Mexico public officials. Under California’s approach, electric rates have skyrocketed and utility profits have soared. If New Mexico goes along with PNM’s plan, rates in New Mexico will also skyrocket.
Higher electric bills hurt poor families the most. However, higher electric rates do support increased executive bonuses and dividends to mostly wealthy, out-of-state shareholders.
Does New Mexico really want to go along with PNM’s plan to increase electric rates? We need economic growth and to diversify our economy.
With PNM’s plan, higher electric rates will give businesses fleeing California’s disastrous business climate another reason to keep driving straight through New Mexico on Interstate 40 to Texas. Meanwhile, huge numbers of New Mexicans will be forced to pay unnecessarily higher electric bills, impacting government, business, families and yes, our children.