The PRC is back in Charge

The Supreme Court has made it clear: The PRC will decide what happens at the San Juan Station

The New Mexico Supreme Court denied two petitions this week related to the Energy Transition Act and the decommissioning of the San Juan Generating Station, sending both back to the Public Regulation Commission.

On Tuesday, the court denied a petition filed by New Energy Economy and a handful of other groups asking justices to declare aspects of the Energy Transition Act unconstitutional on grounds that the clean energy law adopted earlier this year negatively impacts ratepayers, denies ratepayers rights to due process, and weakens the power of the PRC to regulate the state's public utility, PNM.

The court denied a second joint petition Thursday, this one brought by PNM and Western Resource Advocates, among others, asking the courts to clarify the applicability of the ETA to the closure of the San Juan Generating Station.

The petition was filed in response to a PRC decision to deal with the closure of the station with two separate procedures. Under this decision, the issues of replacement power would be heard under the new rules of the ETA, whereas the issues of financing and securitization of the coal fired power plant would be heard in a docket filed last January before the ETA took effect.

Splitting the case has led some parties to wonder whether the PRC was intentionally undermining the new law.  PNM petitioned the Supreme Court to either direct the PRC to enforce the ETA for all aspects of the generating station closure, or to hold hearing with all involved parties to argue their case before the court.

The Supreme Court did not provide further comments on either petition, sending a clear message: The appropriate place for these issues to get worked out is the elected PRC. With the petitions denied, the PRC will be responsible for deciding how and when the ETA applies.

"NEE will raise our objections to the unconstitutionality and unlawfulness of the ETA in front of PRC," Mariel Nanasi, director of New Energy Economy, writes in a press release. The battle isn't over, in other words, just cut back down to size.

PNM spokesman Raymond Sandoval similarly says the company can only hope that a decision on the applicability of the ETA will be made quickly. Part of what's at stake, he says, is the severance pay for coal miners provided for in the ETA. He says the miners will start getting laid of in July next year, but because they are not direct employees of the utility, "PNM is not in the position to pay for the coal miners without the ETA."

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