PRC plans to ask utilities for written reports regarding the February storm's impacts
AZTEC — As a winter storm battered New Mexico in mid-February, utilities saw an increased demand for electricity and natural gas. At the same time, prices rose on the market to purchase additional power and gas.
That means the utilities may ask to raise rates to cover the cost. The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission discussed this possibility during its meeting on March 3, which was streamed live on YouTube.
Commissioner Theresa Becenti-Aguilar requested that it be placed on the agenda as a discussion item with the possibility of opening a docket or taking other measures. Becenti-Aguilar represents the northwest section of the state, including San Juan County.
Becenti-Aguilar said she would like to ask for written reports from the utility companies. In addition to gathering information about the storm and how it could impact customers, she said written reports will also help future commissioners if a similar storm happens.
The other commissioners supported her proposal to ask for written reports.
"I think it's a good idea," said Commissioner Cynthia Hall, who added she has been reading reports about what utilities did or did not do following a 2011 storm that impacted gas supply.
In addition to asking for information about what happened during the storm and how the utilities prepared, Hall suggested asking the companies what they will do to prepare for future storms.
New Mexico utilities fared better than some in neighboring Texas, where millions were left without power amid rolling blackouts.
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While San Juan County is not served by any of the PRC-regulated electric utilities, many residents receive natural gas from New Mexico Gas Company. This utility is regulated by the PRC and, in a February meeting following the storm, New Mexico Gas Company officials told the commissioners that it saw spiking prices for natural gas that it had to buy from the market. The utility said it went to the market when some of the gas it had stored in a west Texas location was not available during the storm.
Becenti-Aguilar asked her fellow commissioners to send questions and comments to her assistant and said that she will bring something next week to the PRC meeting.
Commission Chairman Stephen Fischmann said he would like to ask the utilities about policy recommendations following the storm.
PRC General Counsel Michael Smith recommended opening a formal docket to look into the winter storm impacts.
Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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