The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission appeared reluctant Wednesday to get involved in a study on whether the state should consider adopting publicly owned electric power, weakening investor-owned utilities.

Sixteen legislators have asked the commission to oversee a study of the value of a state-run electric service or various community-owned electric utilities. Farmington is among communities in the state that already handle electric service that way.

The legislators say some other states are studying public power or switching to it; the landscape of electric power has changed to an emphasis on renewable energy; and New Mexico has solar and wind energy that could be exported, bringing revenue to the state rather than investors.

New Mexico receives service from small cooperative utilities and three large investor-owned electric utility companies — Public Service Company of New Mexico, Southwestern Public Service and El Paso Electric.

Commissioners told two representatives of the legislative group they need more information but want to walk lightly in an area some doubt is within their jurisdiction. They also said they don’t have the financial wherewithal to pay for a consulting firm that would conduct such a study.

They delayed for a week or two acting on the legislators’ petition.

“We need the advice of technical experts,” said state Sen. Carrie Hamblen, D-Las Cruces. “You have the technical expertise.”

Hamblen also said the legislators didn’t expect the PRC to take a side on the issue but rather to produce an unbiased report. Hamblen and attorney Mariel Nanasi of New Energy Economy spoke to the commission.

But the commission’s reluctance was clear. “I think the study has merit, and I think it should go forward,” said Chairman Joe Maestas of Santa Fe. “I’m just not sure our agency should play a role in this.”

PRC attorney Russell Fisk told the commissioners their agency couldn’t draft legislation, and he even questioned whether it could play an active role in a study. If the commission were to ask utilities to turn information over for the research, it could lead to a lawsuit, Fisk said.

Hamblen said the commission has the data and the knowledge of the subject. If the commission would merely “house” the study and provide a modicum of expertise, that would be good, she said.

She also said the 16 legislators didn’t expect the commission to pay for a consultant. The legislators will find financial support for the project, she said.

(2) comments

Grace Trujillo

The Public Regulation Commission works for us and we would like this done.

Legislatures should demand that this be done.

Mike Johnson

Again, it is a waste of their time, energies, and efforts to try and "study" something so many left wing political operatives have anointed as "the answer". Just read what some left wing, less than reputable, state legislators wrote yesterday: "Public power ownership holds tremendous potential. And, a publicly owned utility is understood to provide long-term value, with benefits including rate stability, local jobs, policies aligned with community values and significant opportunities for revenue from local energy consumption and energy exports that would otherwise flow to private corporations and shareholders." This PRC will soon be replaced by left wing political stooges who will approve whatever their bought and paid for politicians tell them to do. This PRC is expert, objective, and unbiased, they should steer clear of this kind of political juggernaut and trap. It would only be a waste of their expert capabilities since the "answer" is predetermined.

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