RACC Lends Support to Challenge of Energy Transition Act
August 26, 2019
For Immediate Release
Case Filed in New Mexico Supreme Court Challenges Unconstitutional Provisions of the Energy Transition Act
SANTA FE, N.M. — New Energy Economy (NEE), joined by other Co-Petitioners, has filed suit in the New Mexico Supreme Court challenging as unconstitutional sections of the Energy Transition Act (ETA) recently passed by the New Mexico legislature and signed into law by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.
The suit takes aim at the ETA’s efforts to restrict the Public Regulation Commission’s ability to regulate a public utility, and the law’s attempt to establish a mechanism for securitization of utility debt in a way that avoids public oversight. NEE also charges that some sections of the deal struck by legislators in the ETA violate the right to due process guaranteed in the U.S Constitution, as well as a variety of other provisions of the New Mexico Constitution and New Mexico law.
Mariel Nanasi, of New Energy Economy, said the organization had no choice but to file suit on behalf of New Mexico ratepayers.
“New Mexicans have only one shield against monopoly predation,” she said, “and that’s review and regulation by the PRC. That constitutional protection cannot be bargained away by legislators, no matter how noble their overall goals. The ETA exposes ratepayers to hundreds of millions of dollars in costs that would, under its provisions, escape regulatory oversight and be arbitrarily assigned to ratepayers rather than utility stockholders. This would be unconstitutional, costly and unfair.”
Nanasi made clear that she and other petitioners in the case are supportive of the Renewable Energy Standard (RPS) established by the ETA and is hopeful that it will remain in force.
“We deeply admire the governor’s commitment to a clean energy economy, and we appreciate the hard work that legislators and advocates put into the ETA. Our suit seeks to remedy specific constitutional and procedural problems that harm New Mexican ratepayers and jeopardize the regulatory process, while leaving the Renewable Portfolio Standard in place,” explained Nanasi.
“We believe the RPS will remain a significant achievement for the Lujan Grisham administration and the people of our state.
Rio Arriba Concerned Citizens, Bill Clark, President
“Rio Arriba Concerned Citizens believes that due process for PRC oversight is required to assure plant closures and replacement power purchases are prudently planned in the best interests of ratepayers. Utility plans and costs need review and concurrence by the PRC before costs are incurred. Oversight is needed to assure facility closure planning and purchase of other energy sources follows PRC due process. This oversight must include assurance of competitive bidding; review of the utility’s accurate financial analysis and cost estimates; environmental justice and planning; ratepayer and employment impacts; and accurate utility cleanup and liability estimates consistent with timely scheduling,” stated President Bill Clark with Co-Petitioner RACC.
Daniel Tso, Navajo Nation Council Delegate
“Our communities deserve a thorough review of and oversight over all proposals for decommissioning and reclamation, transition funding, and replacement power that PNM is proposing. Our vehicle for that review is the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission. We have gained jobs and economic investment from the presence of San Juan Generating Station in our community but we have also experienced real sacrifices – of our health, of our land, water, air, and alternative economic potential. While many of our community members have benefitted from jobs, many of our community members have also lost loved ones early to cancer, lung disease, asthma, and heart disease. We support the transition to renewable energy. This transition necessitates a thorough assessment of the environmental damage and public health threats left behind by this plant’s abandonment and a thoughtful and fair assignment of responsibility for cleanup. It also necessitates deep investment in transition planning for impacted communities and local workers. We believe all of these things can be accomplished while maintaining our Commission’s authority and the public’s right to due process, said Daniel Tso, Navajo Nation Council delegate.”
Food and Water Watch, Adam Carlesco, Climate & Energy Staff Attorney
“A private for-profit utility company operating in a state-sanctioned regional monopoly must not be allowed to self-regulate in contravention of the New Mexico Constitution. The Public Regulation Commission (PRC) is tasked with regulating industries to ensure fair and reasonable rates, and to assure reasonable and adequate services to the public; yet a portion of the Energy Transition Act (ETA) has removed this constitutional mandate. Although we are supportive of the clean energy transition initiatives in the ETA, we must maintain the power of the PRC to do their job. If these issues are not addressed now, ratepayers will be left to foot the bill to decommission fossil fuel and nuclear facilities, foisting the cost of the state’s energy transition upon the general public instead of the corporations that have profited for decades. The only real way to avoid a perilous future of continued dependence on fossil fuels is to transition immediately to a truly clean, renewable energy economy while ensuring equity for the populace. Food & Water Watch supports this petition as part of an ongoing campaign to transition to the clean energy future necessary to avert the worst effect of climate change,” stated Adam Carlesco, Climate & Energy Staff Attorney at Food & Water Watch.
Physicians for Social Responsibility, Dr. Robert M. Bernstein, MD, NM Chapter President
“The ETA requires ratepayers to pay for all clean-up costs without any review. This is highly unfair, and an affront to the public interest. Coal ash is the waste that is left after coal is burned. Medical science and the Environmental Protection Agency agree that coal ash is dangerously toxic and poses a threat to human health, causing cancer, heart damage, lung disease, birth defects, and more. Unfortunately, many tons of coal ash have been produced by PNM’s San Juan Generating Station and have been buried without protective liners. Physicians for Social Responsibility, a national organization of 30,000 health care providers, of which I am the NM Chapter President, has long been alarmed at the public health risks of coal ash,” said Dr. Robert M. Bernstein, MD, with Physicians for Social Responsibility- New Mexico.
“For the health of New Mexicans, it is critical that this industrial waste stream of coal ash be investigated to determine the extent of the threat to our health. If coal ash has been leaking and/or leaching, it must be cleaned up to avoid a public health disaster. The clean-up must be monitored to eliminate contamination, and the company must be held responsible for the costs, not ratepayers.” continued Dr. Bernstein.
Tewa Women United, Dr. Corrine Sanchez, Executive Director
“Tewa Women United has joined this Petition in defense of the regulatory and democratic safeguards that allow our families and communities to protect our water, land, and health. While we support the increase in the Renewable Portfolio Standard as well as the investment in the transition needs of impacted communities, we are challenging the aspects of the ETA that strip away the review process for the costs associated with abandoning coal and nuclear facilities, cleanup costs, and more. We must close these plants YES. We must transition immediately to renewables YES. We must support those directly impacted YES. And we must do so in a way that retains our communities’ rights to challenge the proposals of the electric utilities who continue to invest in dangerous and expensive nuclear and gas and who have a vested interest in passing off the costs of cleanup and abandonment to New Mexicans. We must protect meaningful regulation and due process as we work together to transition our state’s electricity sector.”
Citizens for Fair Rates & The Environment, Tom Manning, Lead Advocate
“We embrace legislation that moves us urgently on a path to a renewable energy future. However, we need the law to do so in a manner that maintains the regulatory authority of the PRC, ratepayer protections, and ratepayers’ due process of law. The sections of this law that undermine these protections are unconstitutional and unnecessary. We can achieve the renewable portfolio standard, transition support for impacted communities, and securitization while maintaining consumer protections,” said Tom Manning, lead advocate with Citizens for Fair Rates & the Environment. “PNM has been dragging its feet for years, reinvesting in coal power when other utilities determined that renewables were the prudent path forward; now they want to get rewarded for their malfeasance and claim that others are delaying the needed transition.”
New Energy Economy Executive Director Mariel Nanasi says that the case will not impact any other portions of the Energy Transition Act.
You can read the Santa Fe Reporter article about this challenge here.
Groundbreaking!!! El Rito Campus Solar Array Arrives
After many hurdles, and much patience and persistence by community leaders, and supporters on fire with the idea of joining the clean energy transition and making it work for our local community and college, the dream has finally arrived on the El Rito Campus doorstep.
We should all be proud of this local initiative! Not every community is lucky enough to be in Kit Carson territory. This recent Rio Grande Sun editorial says it all.
Dr. Rick Bailey, Northern New Mexico College’s esteemed president and visionary will join other community leaders in a groundbreaking celebration on Friday, September 13th 10AM at Alumni Hall.
Let’s show up and celebrate!!
HEALTHY SOIL PILOT GRANTS AVAILABLE IN THE RCW
Last legislative session, the Healthy Soils Act was signed into law in New Mexico. RACC lent their support through a formal endorsement from our organization and we are so pleased to see the rollout of programs as a result of this legislation.
The New Mexico Department of Agriculture is launching a Healthy Soil Pilot Program that could benefit farmers and ranchers in the Rio Chama Watershed.
Invited are project proposals based on application of the five soil health principals: keeping the soil covered; minimizing soil disturbance on cropland; maximizing biodiversity; maintaining a living root; and integrating animals into land management.
Interested farmers and ranchers can apply through eligible entities: Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD), New Mexico state University’s Cooperative Extension Service, Indian nations, tribes, and pueblos; and Land Grants and acequias.
The deadline for proposals through these entities is October 3, 2019 at 5PM.
Learn more about the NM Healthy Soils Program here.
For information, please call NMDA at 575-646-2642.
EPA Methane Rule Rollback
According to the New York Times, “The E.P.A’s proposed rule aims to eliminate federal requirements that oil and gas companies install technology to detect and fix methane leaks from wells, pipelines and storage facilities. It would also reopen the question of whether the E.P.A had the legal authority to regulate methane as a pollutant.”
Some major energy companies have spoken out against this rule change and oppose the administration’s initiatives to dismantle environmental rules related to climate change.
This rollback is important to New Mexicans, and ultimately our own watershed, because we are all affected by these high-powered emissions, whether through the health issues we face now or global climate change down the road as a result of this C02 pollution.
Here are some local reactions to this proposed rule change:
Don Schreiber, Owner, Devil’s Spring Ranch
“Regulation drives innovation, just as we saw here on our ranch when the original EPA rules went into place. Industry invented and adapted, cutting the leaking and venting methane emissions that we have to live with by as much as 40% in our area.
“Wheeler is eliminating common-sense regulations that industry has already accepted. His actions directly hurt my family, friends and neighbors, and they will drive a greedy oil and gas industry back into their dangerous methane pollution practices.”
Bill Midcap, Senior Policy Advisor, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union
Santa Fe, NM / Denver, CO
“Farmers and ranchers in Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico cannot continue to operate under additional stress caused by climate change. Today’s proposal to let oil and gas companies to vent and leak thousands of tons of methane into our atmosphere is not only careless but dangerous to our livelihoods. Methane is one of the biggest drivers of climate change today. EPA ought to be following the lead of states like Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico that are strengthening standards, not running in the opposite direction. Between this administration’s tariff wars and climate change I fear for agriculture’s future.”
Gwen Lachelt, Executive Director, Western Leaders Network
“EPA’s proposed elimination of standards to reduce oil and gas methane pollution contradicts the mounting scientific evidence that underscores the critical need for such standards. The proposed rollback also comes as more and more oil and gas companies are stepping up and acknowledging the necessity of regulations to reduce methane pollution. Instead of protecting our public health, our environment and taxpayer resources, the Trump administration is choosing to allow more pollution in our airshed and more wasted revenue — at the expense of our communities. Thankfully, states such as Colorado and New Mexico are stepping up to cut methane waste and pollution.”
Carol Davis, Coordinator, Dine’ C.A.R.E.
“Today’s EPA roll back on methane emissions will be especially devastating for Native Americans residing in San Juan County, Utah where more than half the Native population lives within a mile of an oil and gas facility. Unfettered emissions standards will only increase the already high rates of adverse health impacts suffered by Native Americans in sacrifice zones. We will continue to advocate for strong federal protections to ensure our communities are environmentally safe and may sustain future generations.”
Sister Joan Brown, Executive Director, New Mexico Interfaith Power & Light
“All faith traditions share a sacred calling to care for the earth and to care for those who are most vulnerable in our communities. People of faith worked hard to get methane pollution rules that would care for the health of our communities, care for our children, care for our sacred common home and care for our brothers and sisters around the world facing ever more life-threatening results of climate change. We in New Mexico are incredibly disappointed at the lack of ethical and moral leadership as the rules are dismantled. While this has adverse implications for our communities and children, we will continue to work for our Common Home; it is a moral responsibility.”
Oriana Sandoval, CEO, Center for Civic Policy
“The Trump Administration just proposed a dangerous move to keep the world’s top polluters from federal oversight by removing commonsense methane rules from the books that address the growing problem of energy waste and climate pollution.
“Currently, New Mexico’s oil and gas industry releases 1 million metric tons of methane waste each year –the equivalent pollution of 22 coal-fired power plants or 28 million cars – and depriving the state of more than $40 million in royalty and tax revenue that could fund public education. The problem is only likely to get worse as drilling continues to expand in the Permian Basin.
“Yet, New Mexico is stepping up and proposing to move forward with national leading rules that will ensure a fair return to taxpayers and our schools and create jobs. There’s no time to waste. We must keep strong federal methane standards in place that protect our land, air, water, communities and future generations.”
Sug McNall, affected resident in Four Corners
“The oil and gas industry in New Mexico is drilling and producing wells a few hundred feet from our homes and schools. We are being gassed with methane emissions 24/7. Our health and safety depends on mitigation of methane emissions now. Our home in the City Limits of Aztec, NM is surrounded by 25 gas wells within a mile radius.”