Applicability of new law remains unclear as PRC debates San Juan Generating Station case

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Parties involved with Public Service Company of New Mexico’s application to abandon — or stop receiving power from — the San Juan Generating Station must file two sets of arguments in the case.

This is because the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission hasn't determined if the Energy Transition Act applies.

One set of arguments must be based on Energy Transition Act requirements, while the other set must be based on laws that were in place in January.

However, the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission has offered PNM a way to prevent filing two sets of arguments.

The San Juan Generating Station is seen, Monday, April 20, 2015, on County Road 6800 in Waterflow.

PNM has until 4 p.m. Aug. 23 to decide if it'll allow regulatory timelines to be placed on hold until a decision is made about the Energy Transition Act. 

More:Critic blasts PNM's plan to replace coal; utility defends proposal

Western Resource Advocates had requested a sped up timeline for a decision regarding the Energy Transition Act. Currently, a decision is not expected until October.

PRC asks PNM to pause clock on regulatory timeline

During the Aug. 21 meeting, the PRC denied that request. The meeting can be viewed online at

Commissioner Stephen Fischmann requested asking PNM to place the regulatory timeline on hold. The PRC is required to make a decision within a certain time frame. That time frame is slightly longer if the Energy Transition Act does not apply.

San Juan Generating Station is pictured on Friday, Dec. 22, 2017 in Waterflow.

If PNM agrees to pause the clock, the PRC would make a decision about applying the Energy Transition Act before continuing. Its decision will likely be appealed.

More:Energy Transition Act may not apply to PNM's plan to close San Juan Generating Station

If the New Mexico Supreme Court takes up the case, the regulatory clock will resume after the court issues a decision.

"We can perform a proceeding where we get a Supreme Court decision first and we can do a logical proceeding based on a ruling that is already in place," Fischmann said. "It takes a little bit more time up front, but it's an investment that I believe will save a ton of time down the road."

PNM has previously said delaying the case could impact funding for communities and workers impacted by closing the San Juan Generating Station. 

Why isn't it clear which law applies?

The confusion about applying the new law comes from a clause in the state constitution. This clause prevents new legislation from impacting existing, ongoing cases.

More:Farmington, Enchant Energy one step closer to keeping San Juan Generating Station open

This statute has highlighted up multiple times this year. It was first mentioned in January, when the PRC opened a docket to hear arguments about closing the San Juan Generating Station.

The San Juan Generating Station is pictured in 2016 in Waterflow.

PRC commissioners also mentioned it in July, when the PRC voted to place PNM’s filing for financing and abandonment in the January docket. The third part of the filing — replacement power — was placed in a July docket.

More:How San Juan Generating Station went from powerhouse to possible closure

During the July 10 meeting, several commissioners said the January docket allows the PRC to hear the case without applying the Energy Transition Act.

But PRC counsel Michael Smith said on Aug. 21 that the PRC has never issued a definitive order on whether the Energy Transition Act applies.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at

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