Linda Lovejoy says she regrets earlier decision

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FARMINGTON — Public Regulation Commissioner Lynda Lovejoy, who represents northwest New Mexico, says she is looking into ways to withdraw her recusal from ruling on the Public Service Company of New Mexico’s integrated resource plan.

The integrated resource plan calls for closing the San Juan Generating Station in 2022 and ending the company's participation in the Four Corners Power Plant in 2031. Those plans would directly impact Lovejoy’s constituents.

Lovejoy filed to recuse herself from hearing the case in August after the environmental group New Energy Economy filed a petition in the state Supreme Court asking for the court to disqualify both Lovejoy and PRC Chairman Sandy Jones from hearing the case.

New Energy Economy argued that there was an appearance of bias because a political action committee related to PNM had paid for mailed advertisements attacking the opponents of Lovejoy and Jones during the primary elections this year. Neither Lovejoy nor Jones won the primary election.

Lovejoy recused herself because of financial concerns regarding legal fees related to fighting the case in front of the New Mexico Supreme Court.

While Lovejoy recused herself, Jones decided to wait for the state Supreme Court’s decision.

That decision came on Monday. The court denied the petition to disqualify Jones from hearing the case.

Lovejoy said she feels disappointed that she recused herself, and she wonders if she rushed into making that decision. She also said she feels that the court decision clears her name after New Energy Economy raised the issue of an appearance of bias.

New Energy Economy executive director Mariel Nanasi said if Lovejoy decided to withdraw her recusal, New Energy Economy would oppose that. Nanasi said she anticipates the commission will make a decision on the integrated resource plan before Lovejoy and Jones complete their terms.

While the proposed move away from coal-fired power plants proposed in the integrated resource plan could have a negative impact on Lovejoy’s constituents, she said the way PNM implements the plan will be influenced by what happens in the state Legislature regardless of whether the PRC approves the plan.

The Legislature likely will consider a bill that would allow PNM to recuperate some of its lost investments into the San Juan Generating Station if it closes in 2022. That bill also likely will include money for San Juan County economic diversification efforts.

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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