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Groups ask PRC to dismiss Four Corners Power Plant ownership transfer

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
Workers are seen guiding vehicles on the power plants main road, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015, during a tour of the Four Corners Power Plant in Fruitland.

AZTEC — Two environmental and consumer advocacy groups say Public Service Company of New Mexico’s application to transfer its share of ownership in the Four Corners Power Plant to Navajo Transitional Energy Company does not comply with the Energy Transition Act.

New Energy Economy and Citizens for Fair Rates and the Environment have asked the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission to dismiss Public Service Company of New Mexico’s application to transfer its share of ownership in the Four Corners Power Plant to Navajo Transitional Energy Company.  

Previous:PNM files application to transfer 13% ownership in Four Corners Power Plant to NTEC

The Four Corners Power Plant is pictured in October 2015.

The application also includes a request for securitization, which allows PNM to refinance past investments into the power plant using low-interest bonds. Part of the securitization bonds would also go to help with economic development, assisting workers who will be displaced when the power plant closes in 2031 and assisting Navajo Nation.

NEE and CFRE say the transfer of ownership to another company violates the Energy Transition Act stipulation that ownership shall not be reassigned to comply with the renewable portfolio standards. Additionally, they state that PNM has failed to show that the transfer would create a net public benefit.

The majority owner and operator of the Four Corners Power Plant is Arizona Public Service Company, however PNM owns 13% share and hopes to transfer that to NTEC. This would allow PNM to be coal-free after 2024.

Four Corners Power Plant is pictured on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018 in Waterflow

The coal-fired power plant is currently scheduled to close in 2031 when its coal purchase agreement expires.

“If PNM had done the right thing, gotten out of coal because it was and is an environmental and financial disaster there would be nothing to be arguing about,” said Mariel Nanasi, executive director of New Energy Economy in a press release. “The audacity of the for-profit company to pay another entity to buy their toxic coal assets to keep the plant operating and then turn around and ask us to pay for their bad business decisions for $300 million! And the cherry on top is that PNM will not be closing coal as the ETA’s greatest selling point: the transition from climate-altering coal to renewables – NO, PNM is not actually abandoning coal, as in closing it, PNM is selling its coal to burn and burning New Mexicans in the process.”

The ash disposal pond is seen from above, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015, during a tour of the Four Corners Power Plant in Fruitland.

New Energy Economy previously opposed securitization as part of PNM’s filing to end its operation of the San Juan Generating Station in 2022. The group has argued that securitization allows PNM to refinance past investments that were made imprudently and then pass those expenses on to the ratepayers through a non-bypassable charge on bills.

An email statement from PNM spokesperson Raymond Sandoval said the groups’ claims are “clearly a continued misguided attempt to disrupt the great work the ETA has had and will continue to have to move New Mexico forward.”

The Four Corners Power Plant is pictured, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017 in Waterflow.

PNM states that its application to abandon, or transfer, its 13% ownership share in the Four Corners Power Plant to NTEC and refinance past investments through securitization is “directly in alignment with the ETA provisions and is anticipated to save PNM customers between $30-$300 million dollars, while providing for transition of the local communities and reducing PNM carbon footprint earlier than anticipated.”

While it may not lead to a global reduction in emissions, PNM states that the transfer will reduce its share of the emissions.

“The ETA is clearly working and this is the next step in showing New Mexico as a leader in sustainable energy,” the email stated. “PNM is proud to be part of this critical transition.”  

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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