On the same day the Public Service Company of New Mexico was announcing its plan to provide emission-free electricity by 2040, a Santa Fe-based clean energy advocacy group filed a petition with state regulators calling for a formal investigation of the utility’s planned purchase of its expiring leases at an Arizona nuclear power plant.

The utility currently has leases on 114 megawatts of energy from two units at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station. The company is proposing to buy those leases, which expire in 2023 and 2024. PNM also owns 288 megawatts from Palo Verde, which went online in the mid-1980s.

The petition, filed on behalf of New Energy Economy and 25 other environmental and civil rights groups, was filed with the state Public Regulation Commission.

“A rigorous PRC investigation will likely demonstrate that PNM’s investment in the purchase of the expiring Palo Verde nuclear leases will cause unjustified rate increases for expensive and risky energy,” said Mariel Nanasi, executive director of New Energy Economy.

Spokesmen for PNM didn’t respond Monday to a request for comment.

Nanasi said if PNM is allowed to purchase the leases, it would cost ratepayers more than $1.1 billion for the electricity alone over the next 22 years. “This does not include future decommissioning costs,” she said.

Nanasi claimed PNM would be able to recoup 100 percent of its capital costs from ratepayers if the purchase is allowed. In addition, she said, the utility would be guaranteed a profit on the investment, which would be passed on to customers.

Ratepayers also would be responsible for decommissioning costs and capital improvement costs, Nanasi said.

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