San Juan County Commission declines further involvement in Public Service Company of New Mexico plan

Dan Schwartz The Daily Times
The Daily Times

AZTEC — San Juan County commissioners declined on Tuesday to become more involved in a plan that could keep the San Juan Generating Station operating.

"We will continue to monitor it," but the greater involvement is not necessary now, County Attorney Doug Echols said in the meeting.

On Thursday, key opponents settled their disagreements with the Public Service Company of New Mexico over the plan, and now officials say the state Public Regulation Commission is more likely to approve the plan.

In a County Commission meeting late last month, Assistant Attorney General Cholla Khoury asked the county to intervene in the plan. That would allow the county to enter evidence into the record when the PRC makes a decision, but to do so, the county would have to send a representative to the state capital.

After Khoury's visit, several local officials seemed agreeable to her idea. County Executive Officer Kim Carpenter said the county likely would intervene, and Four Corners Economic Development CEO Ray Hagerman said, "it's absolutely necessary now" for his agency.

But Hagerman doesn't think intervening in the case is a good idea anymore, and Echols agrees.

"At the time that we were planning on becoming a late intervener, the settlement agreement had not been put to bed," Hagerman said in an interview before the meeting. But now that it has, he doesn't want to "muddy the water," he said, "and I don't know what more we would add to the hearing."

The PNM plan, which is a compromise between various interested parties, would bring the power plant into compliance with federal haze regulations. It would close two coal-burning generating units and replace the lost power with coal, nuclear, natural gas and solar energy.

If the PRC denies the plan, local officials worry that the power plant and the coal mine that supplies it would close. They estimate about 750 people work at the plant and mine, which have a collective payroll of an estimated $88 million. The plant also pays million of dollars in property taxes.

Dan Schwartz covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606 and Follow him @dtdschwartz on Twitter.