The head of the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce contended Monday a consistent, predictable regulatory atmosphere is vital to state growth.

Rob Black, president and CEO of the chamber, made the observation in relation to a plan by Facebook to expand its data storage plant in Los Lunas. That proposal largely won passage from the Public Regulation Commission this summer. But a related proposal for energy storage on the Facebook campus met resistance from the commission and denial in its final order.

Black said in this era of greater reliance on sun and wind energy, storage of energy is vital for times when there is no sun or wind.

“I think the state needs to lean heavily into more storage,” he said. “So I would hope that the PRC begins to understand that we have to look very seriously at storage.”

It’s not clear where the Facebook expansion plan stands now. In an email Monday, Facebook wrote: “We are working with PNM [Public Service Company of New Mexico] and the developer to determine the feasibility of complying with the final order.”

A PNM spokesman wrote in an email the company is “working on options to preserve this significant economic development opportunity for New Mexico.”

The PNM-Facebook proposal said the project initially required only 50 megawatts of storage, and it wasn’t clear to the commission why 100 megawatts were being requested. Commissioners expressed concern other customers would face unnecessary costs from the additional storage, a contention PNM denied.

In a pointed final order this summer, the commission said PNM’s application for 100 megawatts of energy storage in the Facebook plan “is so confusing that the commission … cannot understand what the proposed Addendum provides and how it ensures fair, just and reasonable rates” for all customers. “If the Commission does not understand the Addendum, it cannot approve it.”

Commission Chairman Stephen Fischmann of Las Cruces said during a meeting this summer that the proposal “felt to me like it was an intentional effort to mislead.”

Black, who worked as an executive with Pacific Gas and Electric a few years ago, said the chamber of commerce isn’t working on the Facebook expansion. But generally, he said, New Mexico’s economy requires the state to invest heavily and quickly in elements that enable the transition to renewable energy.

“It’s the right thing for us to do,” he said. If regulations slow or block the process, he added, that is a disincentive for other companies considering New Mexico.

“We need to grow our economy and diversify our economy, and that requires predictability,” he said. The state has a more stable environment for renewable energy than many places, he said, and that is an advantage New Mexico should maximize.

Wayne Propst, who was appointed chief of staff of the Public Regulation Commission in the spring, wrote in an email: “I would argue that the public good and economic growth aren’t mutually exclusive if done thoughtfully.”

The commission will undergo an overhaul in 2023. A proposal to convert the commission from five elected members to an appointed three-person board was approved by voters.

Black said it was his understanding the commission is understaffed.

“They need more resources, they need more expertise,” he said.

Propst agreed his agency doesn’t have “sufficient budget to fill the positions we have and also that it is difficult to pay competitive wages to recruit and retain particularly hard to fill positions such as engineers, economists, etc.”

He said 22 full-time-equivalent positions out of 119 authorized positions are vacant to stay within the commission’s allocated budget.

He said he hopes to work with the Legislature and executive branch “to address the agency’s budget issues” to help the current commission complete its work and make sure the new commission gets off to a good start.

(11) comments

Bruce Taylor

I so fundamentally and profoundly disagree with most of the sentiment (and much ignorance) expressed in the comments. The commission -- if lacking the staff resources to do so -- ought to be capable of contracting out the necessary due diligence on such a proposal. Nothing about what I understood it to say in its original form was confusing, inconsistent with hyperscale cloud data center development best practices. Setting aside the value of the services provided by Facebook in specific and social media in general, Facebook has been responsible for some of the greatest, most fowrward-thinking data center design/engineering/development in the World. Joined only be a small number of other developers. Best-of-breed technologists and engineers. Bar none. This state needs to turn its dry-land ship away from fossil fuels as fast as it possibly can, and to develop and support the energy transformation to renewables at great speed. PNM/Avangrid/Iberdola will be key to that at the scale and velocity required. We may wish and dream (and I do) for decentralized renewable power, but it cannot possibly happen in the time remaining to the Planet to do it. Now it has to be done at industrial power-grid scale, both if are to meet climate change mitigation and abatement and resilience goals. And if we intend to have an economy not anchored in its own obsolescence. Grid-scale energy storage is required for that. This state and its PRC needs to get in touch with what renewable energy will require for the future. And look at the enormous economic benefit Facebook is bringing to the state for partnering with PNM on this development. The most idiot of claims above was from the gentleman who said the many data centers are over-provisioned leading to significant excess power capacity and requirements. There was a time when that may have been true, but it has not been so for over a decade. Data centers and their power/cooling technology requirements have been a primary part of my field since 2005, and corporate IT since the 1980s. NM's PRC needs to get its head out the, errr, sand? And this Governor needs to take an active interest in this. Facebook will go where it's wanted. The cloud processing and storage it does here can be done elsewhere (and, of course, is, with 18 hyperscale cloud data centers in 17 regions globally. And both more and expansions are also occurring globally.

Lupe Molina

Good. Let it be done elsewhere then. Facebook is an immoral company that undermined our democracy and makes a profit off the social anguish of kids.

Mike Johnson

Well said Lupe, and remember Facebook, along with Twitter, are the primary vehicles for spreading hatred, division, and polarization in our country. They are the definition of pornography, no redeeming social value.

Robert Fields

Your reading comprehension could use a bit of a tuneup, Bruce. I did not say Facebook was overprovisioning. I was only saying they have options to make it possible to operate with fewer employees should they choose. Geeze, dude. Did I hit a nerve?

Facebook has innovated in data center design. So what? How does that change the fact that Facebook is a parasitic company who offers up detailed user information on a platter to anyone willing to pay. They have performed psychological experiments on their users. It’s also a breeding ground for disinformation. Their own internal documentation acknowledges they lower self esteem and are detrimental to peoples’ well-being. If there was ever an evil corporation, Facebook is it.

Value of Facebook to social media? What value is that? The results of their pump/probe experiments on their users? Users are the product. Any value comes in better profiles of users to sell to advertisers and others looking to prey on those users. Cambridge Analytica, anyone?

Sorry it offends you that some of us don’t use or care for Facebook. All anyone needs to know about Facebook is Zuckerberg’s response when asked about people giving him their personal information. It can’t be posted here but he said they trust him and then called them a very derogatory profane word as he made fun of users or trusting him. That’s the Facebook CEO there thinking his users (not his customers) are really, really, really unintelligent for trusting him with their personal information.

If Facebook goes where they are wanted, hopefully enough here don’t want them here.

Lupe Molina

I think we should be flexible to incentivize business in state...for anyone but Facebook. Read the recent Washington Post stories about how the company knows it's making teenagers depressed and suicidal and does nothing about it. The company is pure evil and I'd gladly pay higher taxes to evict them and look for other corporate tenants.

Robert Fields

Facebook —> [thumbdown]

Mike Johnson

[thumbup] I agree, this is just more corporate welfare being proposed. The NM rate payers will end up footing the bills for Facebook's lavish green lifestyle, and that is wrong considering how many places in NM could use funding.

Richard Reinders

Not sure what the question is, is Facebook asking consumers through PNM to pay corporate welfare to one of the richest companies in the world by building them a platform they can grow on with addition backup storage? Have Facebook done the research to understand we have brown out and black outs in our future with Avangrid?

Robert Fields

Why yes they are here seeking corporate welfare. Seems to be the way of big corporations these days - get all sorts of tax breaks, donated land, and taxpayer-funded infrastructure if they deign to bring a few “jobs” to some region. Some benefit, though. It’s those who swing the deals to make it happen, but everyone else just gets a bill.

Something about a big data center - it doesn’t take that many local people to run. You need staff to maintain equipment but all the real management can be done remotely. Some data center designs overprovision at the start and then let equipment just die in place. Even less local staff needed then.

Facebook provides nothing of value to New Mexico and instead is going to add significant load and drain on power and water resources to keep the center running. Besides, per recently revealed internal documents, even Facebook understands that Facebook and their other divisions do more harm than good to those who use the platforms. All anyone needs to do is look at all the vaccine misinformation spread on the platform - Facebook is literally killing people.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-pacific-heart/201801/is-facebook-destroying-society-and-your-mental-health

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/09/14/facebook-documents-show-how-toxic-instagram-is-for-teens-wsj.html

Mike Johnson

[thumbup][thumbup] Well said!

rodney carswell

[thumbup]

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