With their proposed merger apparently in jeopardy, Public Service Company of New Mexico and Avangrid want to speak directly to the Public Regulation Commission.

The two electricity companies that hope to merge in New Mexico say they want to give “oral arguments” to the five-member Public Regulation Commission in the near future to make clear the benefits of the merger. Five organizations with interest in the merger joined PNM, Avangrid of Connecticut and Iberdrola of Spain, Avangrid’s parent company, in the request filed Friday.

Pat Vincent-Collawn, PNM Resources president and CEO, said in a written statement proponents want to make it clear why they think the merger is in the public’s best interest.

Vincent-Collawn said if the parties “have an opportunity to answer the commissioners’ questions directly, we will be able to address any remaining issues head on and continue to provide the full transparency that this process requires.”

PNM’s and Avangrid’s request noted the deadline has passed for requesting oral arguments, but the companies said the commission still may allow them if they would assist the PRC in deliberations.

A commissioner said Monday requests for oral arguments are rare but can be made under PRC rules.

“I can remember one or two instances in my five years when we had oral arguments,” Commissioner Cynthia Hall of Albuquerque said. Hall also has experience as a PRC attorney.

Commission Chairman Stephen Fischmann of Las Cruces said this is “not the norm, but it’s certainly within their rights to make this kind of request.”

Fischmann said the commissioners likely will vote at a commission meeting Wednesday on whether to open the case to oral arguments.

Doing so would prolong a decision on the merger plan because they would expect to open oral arguments from other organizations that are both for and against the proposal, Fischmann and Hall said.

The effort at a merger has been going on for a year and has included thousands of pages of testimony and reports and a seven-day public hearing in August.

The companies and groups said in a formal filing with the commission this month key questions must be fully addressed.



“At its core, this case involves the question of whether it is in the public interest” for the merger to take place, the request said. But the issues are complex, as are the regulatory issues, the document added.

“Frankly, we’ve got them all down in writing at this point,” Fischmann said Monday of the issues.

To launch another dive into the details could “create confusion rather than clarity,” he said.

“It’s not the typical procedure,” he said. “Obviously, we’re going to give it consideration.”

Hall said she has read the pleadings in the case and understands them. She also said the commission has other cases to deal with this month and a full schedule as the year ends.

The agenda Wednesday includes what is expected to be a long discussion on PNM’s proposal to leave the Four Corners Power Plant. But Hall said staying on schedule doesn’t weigh more heavily than parties’ right to make their points clear.

PNM’s and Avangrid’s merger request has run into a series of difficulties. One is a hearing examiner’s scalding, 445-page report on the plan and his recommendation that it not be approved. A hearing examiner serves as a quasi-judge in the commission’s deliberations, but the final decision rests with the five-member commission.

Regardless of what the commission decides, the issue can be appealed to the New Mexico Supreme Court.

Another challenge for the merger applicants is the fact that three of the five commissioners said last week they didn’t think they could support the proposal. Among other issues, Avangrid subsidiaries’ service in the Northeast has been criticized. Further, Iberdrola’s chief executive officer is under investigation by Spanish authorities.

A lawsuit filed last week in New York against Avangrid and Iberdrola could add more fuel, though Avangrid has promptly countersued. The initial lawsuit, filed by Pennsylvania cybersecurity company Security Limits Inc. , alleged Avangrid and Iberdrola rigged bids and stole the cybersecurity company’s intellectual property.

In its countersuit, Avangrid contends Security Limits and its owner, Paulo Silva, tried to extort Avangrid by threatening the company with public criticism if Avangrid didn’t give it a new contract. Avangrid also accused the company of defamation in the countersuit, filed Saturday.

PNM, Avangrid and Iberdrola have pledged to give customers $67 million in rate credits and have offered the state economic development contributions. They have also promised to create 150 jobs, forgive some customers’ debts to PNM and made numerous other pledges — helping raise the total, they say, to about $300 million in benefits.

(12) comments

Ernesto Trujillo

PNM's arrogance backfires again. Not sure who the brain trust is advising these two companies, but both legal teams should be fired for the way they've mishandled the case. I hope the Commission has the courage not to be bullied by these corrupt companies - this merger is a bad deal for individual New Mexicans, and our voices are being drowned out by the money grab going on by those entities and executives who stand to benefit the most financially.

Joanie Adams

Totally agree. We are going to be left in the dark--pun intended. The fact that it appears everyone is onboard except the public is a huge red flag. Avangrid wants to control our theromstats with all the typical honeymoon hype until they're firmly entrenched. Adios NM

jarratt applewhite

It's rich that PNM/Avangrid did not request oral arguments at the proper time procedurally. They thought they had it wired. Only when they thought their multimedia snow job and lobbying wasn't working did they make this last ditch effort. It appears we have a Commission that listens to the hearing officer and many elements of the public. The truly woeful part is that this is the one of the last times public will be represented by elected officials. The opportunity for flimflam and corruption will accelerate once members of the Commission are appointed by pols. The Constitutional Amendment hoodwinking bears a strong resemblance to the snow job perpetrated by these entities.

Michael Smith

PNM admits its inability to meet the market demand to expand renewable energy services to its customers but found a prospective partner under criminal investigation whom New Mexicans should trust with their energy needs. Oh, and that firm will be paying off PNM executives in multimillion dollar increments but not at New Mexicans expense.

Does anyone else remember the failed Enron 'crash-and-burn' corporate energy debacle that destroyed the pensions and savings of investors and former employees 20 years ago? This proposed merger has the potential to repeat history right here in New Mexico.

Mike Johnson

Sure, sure, the PNM execs and the bought and paid for politicians want to try and preserve their huge payoffs, at the expense of the NM ratepayers. Money does talk, hopefully the commishes know the truth by now.

Floyd Cable

The Commission members had better wear high-top rubber boots. PNM & Avangrid are going to be shoveling B.S. fast, heavy, and high. As made clear in the assessment report, the deal is not in the best interests of the public. If it is approved, PNM execs will get big payouts, as will select politicians, and Avangrid and its crooked operations will have a very heavy boot on the throats of all rate payers.

Dear Commissioners: protect New Mexicans - say no to this deal!

Richard Reinders

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Mike Johnson

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Philip Taccetta

Mariel Nanasi’s articulate and concise arguments will tear them apart.

Mike Johnson

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Andrew Lucero

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Ernesto Trujillo

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