PRC requires forthcoming PNM rate reduction
The Public Regulation Commission yesterday unanimously decided Public Service Company of New Mexico must provide a rate reduction to customers when the San Juan Generating Station goes completely offline at the end of September. According to a news release announcing the decision, commissioners say PNM is unlawfully delaying the issuance of low-cost bonds—allowed under the state’s Energy Transition Act and a prior financing order—to avoid reducing its rates until after the commission rules on a rate case PNM intends to file in December. Yesterday’s decision follows a motion from several advocacy groups earlier this year asking the PRC to enforce the ETA’s finance provisions to avoid having PNM overcharge customers. As a result of the PRC’s decision, PNM will have a 10% rate reduction, resulting in approximately $94 million in customer savings when the San Juan Generating Station closes. The order also requires PNM to report to both customers and the PRC on various financial aspects of the order—including providing the PRC with an explanation regarding “the prudence” of delaying its bond issue beyond the San Juan Generation Station abandonment dates. “The bottom line is that PNM has made an attempt to cheat on its obligations under the ETA,” Commissioner Stephen Fischmann said in a statement. “We won’t tolerate bilking customers out of money illegally.” In a statement following the decision, PNM Chairman and CEO Pat Vincent-Collawn said the company will appeal the decision. “It is disheartening for PNM to be arbitrarily penalized today for opting not to file its planned customer rate increases over the last two years, a change made for the benefit of customers as we navigated the energy transition amid an unforeseeable global pandemic,” Vincent-Collawn said.
Elections chief reports threats
Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver says the FBI has been notified regarding three threats she’s received to her safety in the last two weeks. The threats came via calls to her office and email, the latter of which referenced Toulouse Oliver’s recent campaign to debunk election conspiracies, such as those perpetrated in the movie 2000 Mules. The state’s top elections official previously received threats following the 2020 election. “I went a nice, long period without anything” Toulouse Oliver tells the Associated Press. “My election security officer has referred them over to the FBI. They’re looking into it obviously.” In addition to her work addressing election falsehoods, Toulouse Oliver recently took legal action to compel the Otero County Commission to certify its June 7 primary elections after commissioners cited debunked conspiracy theories regarding the voting machines. One of those commissioners, Cowboys for Trump founder Couy Griffin, is scheduled for a hearing this summer for a lawsuit filed in March seeking to disqualify him from running for public office again following his conviction for trespassing on US Capitol grounds during the Jan. 6 riot. A federal judge earlier this week dismissed Griffin’s responding lawsuit, which attempted to shut down the case. CNN reports legal experts “have closely followed such lawsuits because they are a precursor for the unprecedented candidacy challenges that former President Donald Trump will surely face if he runs in 2024.” New Mexico’s connections to the Jan. 6 riot and subsequent investigation also recently inspired a story from Vice magazine, which attempted to determine at which Santa Fe restaurant Trump-adjacent lawyer John Eastman was eating when the FBI seized his cellphone last week.
New report tracks NM environment, health monitoring
The good news: More than 99% of New Mexicans breathed fresh air last year and more than 89% drank safe drinking water. The less good news: 223 out of the 570 drinking water systems did not meet at least one standard during this period and nearly 12% of the restaurants and food manufacturers had one or more violations. These are just a few of the data points available in the state Environment Department’s recently released third-quarter update of its new performance assessment report. In total, the report evaluates seven public health measures; nine environmental protection measures; 24 compliance measures; four economic investment measures; and three operational measures. Other highlights from the report cited by the department include clean-up of 14 leaking petroleum storage tanks, with a total of 870 remaining leaking petroleum storage tanks in varying stages of remediation. The department also anticipates some of its inspection programs—including air and groundwater programs—are unlikely to meet their FY 22 inspection targets due to being understaffed and/or under-financed. “The Environment Department touches so many aspects of daily life for most New Mexicans, including protecting our food, workplaces, air quality and water safety,” NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney said in a statement. “This report provides a great snapshot on the important work we perform every day across New Mexico.
COVID-19 by the numbers
New cases: 1,129; 562,791 total cases
Deaths: four; Santa Fe County has had 314 total deaths thus far; there have been 7,928 total fatalities statewide. Statewide Hospitalizations: 188. Patients on ventilators: 22. According to the health department’s most recent report on hospitalizations, as of June 27, 155 people had been hospitalized with COVID-19 in the prior seven days—an 84.5% increase from the seven-day total last week.
Case rates: According to the state health department’s most recent report on geographical trends, for the seven-day period of June 20-26, Sierra County had the highest daily case rate per 100,000 population: 82.5, followed by Los Alamos County at 77.3 and San Juan County at 65.2; Santa Fe County’s case rate was 57.8, considered “red” or high in that report.
Resources: Vaccine registration; Booster registration Free at-home rapid antigen tests; Self-report a positive COVID-19 test result to the health department; COVID-19 treatment info: oral treatments Paxlovid (age 12+) and Molnupiravir (age 18+); and monoclonal antibody treatments. Toolkit for immunocompromised individuals. People seeking treatment who do not have a medical provider can call NMDOH’s COVID-19 hotline at 1-855-600-3453. Vaccines for children: Parents of children ages 6 months to 5 years can now schedule appointments for vaccinations at VaccineNM.org.
You can read all of SFR’s COVID-19 coverage here.
How does a state with more than 17,000 years of history grapple with historic preservation? That’s the opening question in “The Story of Structures,” the latest episode of the state Department of Cultural Affairs Encounter Culture podcast. Host Charlotte Jusinski, editor of El Palacio magazine, talks with State Historic Preservation Officer Jeff Pappas about how his office both preserves the past and prepares to tell New Mexico’s dynamic textured history in the future.
Hot and bothered in NM
British comedian Dom Joly included New Mexico on his US conspiracy road trip and wrote about his jaunt here for Great British Life. No, Joly didn’t come to see Otero County up close and personal. His conspiracy stop was more old school: He went to Roswell, where he was ultimately unimpressed, describing the town as “hot as hell and pretty tacky.” He visited the International UFO Museum and Research Center, which he found “fun” but said it “ran out of ideas pretty quickly and resorted to a display of some of the most appalling alien-inspired art I’ve ever seen.” Joly also didn’t fancy staying in one of Roswell’s motels, so instead crowdsourced an Airbnb approximately 15 miles outside of town in the form of “an old Sixties-era missile silo that once housed an intercontinental ballistic missile sporting a four-megaton warhead.” The digs, Joly writes, “sounded right up my street.” Indeed, Joly seemed impressed—judging by the profanity he utters while receiving his tour—with his accommodations. They included, by the way, a beer-stocked fridge, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and a vast selection of books on America’s nuclear history. “The pièce de résistance, however, was the silo itself,” Joly writes. His host takes him through two thick blast doors, “and suddenly I was standing underneath the hinged doors, peering down about 200 feet into the abandoned silo. Bats flew around above us.” His host leaves him for the night in his “Cold War Desert tomb.” Travel in America, Joly concludes “never fails to disappoint.”
One giant leap for Santa Fe
Santa Fe frequently appears on top 10 lists for its natural beauty, world-class arts scene and vibrant restaurants. And, as of today, it can also boast it has a public restroom downtown for the 2.5 million visitors the city says come here each year. At 1 pm today, Mayor Alan Webber, city councilors, members of the legislative delegation and other officials will attend a ribbon cutting for a new public restroom and information booth (the booth provides information about Santa Fe, not about the restroom) at 100 Water Street. “A public restroom may not seem like a big deal, until you need one,” Webber said in an irrefutable statement. “We have long needed a clean, safe and convenient public restroom near the Plaza, and as of today, we have a great one.” The City Council first set out to build a restroom in 2016 via a resolution; groundbreaking took place a year ago. The state invested $500,000 in the project, with the city contributing the remaining $1.1 million for the design and construction budget. TOURISM Santa Fe Executive Director Randy Randall noted in a statement that tourism officials are “so excited to finally have a positive response to the most asked question in our Visitor Centers and around the historic district: ‘Where are the restrooms?’” According to a news release, the bathroom conforms to Santa Fe Historic District guidelines and includes 10 stalls in both the men’s and women’s bathrooms and a family restroom. It will be open from 10 am to 6 pm daily, with hours extended to 9 pm in July and August.
Temps in Santa Fe could reach a high of 88 degrees today, according to the National Weather Service, which forecasts sunny skies and a northeast wind 5 to 15 mph becoming west in the afternoon. Tonight, isolated showers and thunderstorms may return before 9 pm with a 20% chance for precipitation.
Thanks for reading! Without going into specifics, The Word hopes these experiments showing people tend to become friends with people who smell like them turn out to be wrong.