PRC denies rehearing for AV Water Co. fines
Water company lawyer remains hopeful issues can be resolved without appeal reaching state Supreme Court
FARMINGTON — The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission denied motions by the AV Water Co. today for a rehearing and a temporary stay of fines imposed.
More than $2 million in fines were assessed against the company by the commission in light of an ongoing boil-water advisory in the Harvest Gold subdivision east of Bloomfield, which the company services. The boil-water advisory was issued in early June due to high turbidity levels. The fines also have been levied against AV Water's owner, Mark Iuppenlatz, and its associated companies.
When reached by phone today, AV Water attorney Germaine Chappelle said she was not surprised by the PRC's decision. She said the motions were filed as a way to preserve the ability of the company and owner to appeal to the New Mexico Supreme Court. AV Water already has appealed a PRC order from November to the state Supreme Court. The November order assessed $1 million in fines against the company and its owner. Chappelle said AV Water likely will appeal other fines and orders, as well. She said if the PRC and AV Water do not come to an agreement on the fines and orders, the appeals will be consolidated into one case before the New Mexico Supreme Court.
Chappelle said she is hopeful that the case will not have to be heard by the Supreme Court.
"My hope is that we can find a way to resolve this," she said.
In denying the motions, the PRC noted that the motions restated arguments previously made that the commission already has considered. It also cited Iuppenlatz's absence from a hearing in January that the PRC had ordered him to attend. His attorneys told the PRC in January that Iuppenlatz was concerned his testimony could be used against him. The PRC had asked Iuppenlatz to provide financial information during the hearing about the company.
In its motion for a rehearing, AV Water states that the company does not have the money to pay the fines. The most recent fines were issued in mid-February. The PRC issued a $50-a-day fine per meter in Harvest Gold until the boil-water advisory is lifted. The original calculations included 21 inactive meters. Last week, the PRC reduced the fine so that it did not include the inactive meters. That move reduced the daily fine from $7,450 a day to $6,400 a day.
Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.