Farmington will appeal electric utility decision

Judge's ruling gives Bloomfield the right to acquire infrastructure within its city limits

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
The north side of U.S. Highway 64 in Bloomfield is lined with utility poles and power lines. City officials in Bloomfield are trying to acquire local electrical assets as part of an attempt to start their own electric utility.
  • The case stems from a 1960 court decision known as the Culpepper Decree.
  • A recent decision by a judge favored Bloomfield's interpretation of that 1960 ruling.
  • Farmington has 45 days to submit more documents and arguments supporting its case.


FARMINGTON — The City Council unanimously has approved an appeal of a judge's ruling that the city of Bloomfield has the right to purchase electric utility system infrastructure within its municipal boundaries from the Farmington Electric Utility System.

The City Council met in closed executive session Tuesday evening to discuss the case. 

The case stemmed back to when Farmington acquired the electric utility system serving all of San Juan County in the late 1950s when the city purchased the system from Basin Light & Power Co. The company was essentially set up by the city because the laws at the time did not allow Farmington to own electrical infrastructure more than 5 miles outside its municipal boundaries.  

When the laws changed, Basin dissolved, and Farmington took control of the entire system in 1959. At that time, several Basin board members sued the city to determine what rights Bloomfield and Aztec had to the electric utility infrastructure Farmington received from Basin. The court's 1960 decision, known as the Culpepper Decree, outlined that both Bloomfield and Aztec had the right to acquire the property.

The city of Farmington has argued that the Culpepper Decree only gave Bloomfield the rights to the assets that belonged to Basin Light & Power and that were within Bloomfield's city limits in 1960.

But the judge's decision last month supported Bloomfield's argument that the Culpepper Decree gave it the right to acquire all assets located within its current boundaries needed for an operational electric utility system.

Farmington has 45 days to submit more documents and arguments supporting its case. City Attorney Jennifer Breakell said after that 45 days, the city will file an appeal with the New Mexico Court of Appeals.

"I think they're making a mistake," Bloomfield City Manager Eric Strahl said.

Strahl said the Bloomfield City Council will meet at a later date to decide how the city wants to proceed.

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