Connecticut-based Avangrid, which hopes to merge with the Public Service Company of New Mexico, defended itself Tuesday against critics by filing about 2,590 pages with the Public Regulation Commission.
Avangrid provided the reams of documents in response to a commission order that it be forthcoming about problems its subsidiaries have faced in Connecticut, New York and Maine. PNM, New Mexico’s largest utility service, also provided some responses.
The unusual situation unfolded last week when a commission hearing examiner chastised the two utility companies for volunteering little information about Avangrid’s problems. In addition to Ashley Schannauer’s criticisms, other attorneys weighing in on the matter accused Avangrid of trying to bulldoze its way through the merger regulatory process.
Avangrid, which is primarily owned by a Spanish company named Iberdrola, is a heavyweight in renewable energy. Through a merger, PNM would tether itself to a big company and add expertise in wind and solar.
Avangrid filed documents, responses, reports and audits Tuesday evening. The company said it had seen no requirement from the commission that it make revelations about problems.
But the company argued it generally had disclosed the problems through the legal discovery process when questioned early this year by critics in New Mexico.
Further, it said, the matters have been disclosed to the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, a public entity.
The Connecticut firm wrote that transparency “is a cornerstone” of its business. “Avangrid’s policy is to maintain an active and open public dialogue with customers, employees, regulators, investors, key stakeholders, and the communities in which Avangrid operates.”
Schannauer expressed concern last week about audits Avangrid has had to file in Maine and elsewhere. Avangrid said in its material that management “audits are a common tool used by regulators in the Northeast to review utility operations.”
Audits are “neither enforcement actions nor are they remedies for lack of compliance with regulatory obligations,” the company wrote.
PNM, the biggest utility company in the state, said in one part of the massive volume of documents “there was no intent” on its part “to conceal any of the matters.”
The merger proposal, announced late last year, has met some opposition as the companies try to work through the regulatory process in New Mexico.
Critics, officially called “intervenors” in the case, contend the merger fails to meet the vital requirement of serving the public good.
They have said the primary beneficiaries of the merger would be PNM shareholders and executives who would receive big payouts. Pat Vincent-Collawn, PNM’s chief executive officer, would lose her job if the merger took place but would be compensated an estimated $19 million in cash, equity and benefits, according to proposal documents.
The proposal also has won numerous allies, including Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Attorney General Hector Balderas. Organizations that have signed a tentative agreement with PNM and Avangrid include Western Resource Advocates, Diné Citizens Against Ruining our Environment and the San Juan Citizens Alliance.
Organizations that haven’t signed include the city of Albuquerque, Bernalillo County and New Mexico Affordable Reliable Energy Alliance.
The merger applicants have increased the public incentives they are offering. They elevated the general ratepayer benefit to $50 million, up from $24.6 million; job creation to 150 positions, up from 100; and an economic development contribution to the state of $7.5 million, up from $2.5 million.
Avangrid said Tuesday evening that it remained enthusiastic about the situation.
“Nothing that has happened in the last week changes our optimism about the merger,” the company said in a statement. “We have the support of many people and organizations, and look forward to bringing our expertise and resources to New Mexico and to continue receiving community support.”