The public battle over plans for the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station continues as Public Service Company of New Mexico launched a radio ad over the weekend in response to a Sierra Club radio spot that criticized PNM’s proposal for the power plant near Farmington.

PNM’s ad stresses that the company’s plan — under consideration by the state Public Regulation Commission — calls for significantly less use of coal than currently is burned at the plant.

The ad also claims that groups like the Sierra Club “aren’t concerned with facts” or “less coal, affordable bills and cleaner energy.”

“You’re right,” the ad states. “Facts do matter. And when you consider all the facts, PNM’s plan is clearly the right thing to do.”

In an email Monday, a spokesman for the environmental advocacy group responded: “The fact of the matter is that PNM’s plan for the San Juan Generating Station is bad for New Mexico families. Don’t just take my word for it: an independent hearing examiner has arrived at that same conclusion. The [Public Regulation Commission’s] own hearing examiner found that PNM’s proposal to continue burning coal at the San Juan Generating Station ‘is not fair, just and reasonable and in the public interest.’ That’s why cities like Albuquerque and Santa Fe are reading the writing on the wall and opposing PNM’s plan.”

PNM’s plans for San Juan involve closing two of the power plant’s four units and replacing the lost capacity with more coal, natural gas, nuclear power and other sources.

Also on Monday, another environmental group formally asked the Public Regulation Commission to make public redacted parts of PNM’s recently filed contract with a coal supplier.

PNM earlier this month filed a coal supply agreement with Westmoreland Coal Co., as well as a purchase and sale agreement between BHP Billiton and Westmoreland for the San Juan Mine. The utility also filed a request for a “protective order” that would keep secret certain documents filed in the case in order to keep “proprietary information and trade secrets” out of the public eye. Earlier in the year, PNM was able to get the commission to agree to keep some San Juan documents out of the public record.

“PNM brazenly refused to comply with the condition of the PRC’s May 27 order requiring that those filings be part of the public record,” Mariel Nanasi, president and executive director of New Energy Economy, which has intervened in the case, said in an email Monday. “Instead, key portions of the coal supply and stock purchase agreements were redacted, and a motion seeking confidentiality for unspecified and unsubstantiated reasons accompanied the filing.”

Nanasi said the contracts contain details that will have significant effect on the cost of energy. “Without considering those details, it is impossible to assess the true costs of PNM’s replacement power plan — especially since the ultimate risks and costs are borne by the public, not PNM’s shareholders.”

PNM spokeswoman Jodi McGinnis Porter responded with a written statement that said: “The Commission, as well as the parties to the case that have signed the confidentiality agreement have access to all the information, and PNM’s customer rates, whether in a rate case or through the fuel adjustment clause, must be justified in a public process. In numerous industries, business agreements that contain competitive and proprietary information are commonly kept confidential. This is also consistent with how similar information is handled under the current coal agreement.”

Contact Steve Terrell at sterrell@sfnewmexican.com. Read his political blog at tinyurl.com/roundhouseroundup.

(9) comments

Philip Taccetta

Henry Griswold. I wish that you would at least educate yourself a little prior to posting nonsensical comments here. Myself and many of my friends and neighbors have been off grid for close to 40 years. Myself, 34 years. Do you really expect me to take you seriously? One of the first ones off grid has a Jacob's wind generator that was last used by farmers prior to Rural Electrification. At one time, long ago, you may have been right about batteries - but now you're all wet. Check the Google! I'm sure that you could find some useful information. Watch Elon Musk on YouTube - his April 30th roll out of his new battery's - you're not going to be able to say "what do you do when it's dark?/when the wind doesn't blow? Coal &Nuclear are DEAD! We just haven't buried them yet.

Tom Ribe

The air and water we depend on belong to everyone but PNM thinks it can foul our water and poison our air so they can make profits. Clearly we need a state owned utility that is controlled by the people. Capitalism doesn't work in many cases and PNM shows how the corporate model fails. Global warming is an emergency but PNM doesn't care. They are driven by ignorance, contempt and greed.

Philip Taccetta

Henry Griswold. Stop it! You're breaking my heart! Solar buy back is hurting PNM's bottom line? Are you aware that until Elon Musk unveiled his new line of batteries, there really wasn't a battery suitable for grid scale storage? Even these will not be available in the near future. There are more promising battery technologies out there but still not ready! The Logical solution would be for homeowners to get their own batteries and tell PNM to take a hike! I could care less about PNM's bottom line - all they care about is keeping themselves, their shareholders, and their buddies in the coal business happy! They are at best, stretching the truth, at worst, downright lies! Coal needs to stay - IN THE GROUND!

henry Griswold

there are batteries for solar arrays, but they're expensive. it's either coal or nuclear for us

henry Griswold

pnm should stop paying for 'buy-back' elec generated by private parties. they should get back-up storage batteries. pnm would then stop losing the profit they could make on 'buy-back elec. this would help their bottom-line

Philip Taccetta

"PNM earlier this month filed a coal supply agreement with Westmoreland Coal Co., as well as a purchase and sale agreement between BHP Billiton and Westmoreland for the San Juan Mine." This borders on insanity! Retirement Investment Accounts, University's and private investors have been divesting all coal investments. Coal Company stocks have fallen to single digit prices - from $50/60 per share, they're now looking at less than $5/share. PNM is trying to insure all their corporate cronies get their money out before it goes completely belly up! Of course, the ratepayers will be the ones paying for that!

“Proprietary information and trade secrets” How many secrets can there be for burning coal? All utility companies that burn coal must have all the same information as PNM does. Certainly sets off my BS detector!

I believe this entire issue should be put up to a vote with all of their ratepayers! It is too important an issue to leave with the PRC and some of the commissioner's questionable ties to PNM. This will, after all, affect the citizens of New Mexico for the next 20 years!

Wind and Photovoltaics are at least competitive if not cheaper than any coal fired plant. Especially two that need many $millions in upgrades. Antique plants should be decommissioned and recycled! Nuclear power from AZ? Just because of a bad investment by PNM? I wonder what the line loss is over that distance?

I believe Alasdair, Joseph and Thomas represent the thoughts of most PNM ratepayers!


Alasdair Lindsay

The way PNM has approached this whole process makes me wonder what they are trying to keep hidden. There are new and more economical ways of producing energy now than there has ever been. To not go this route only means that shareholders are more important to PNM than the customer base. Coal is a hot potato issue that will only become more so as time progresses. There is no better time than now to make the switch as the liability of coal in the future will end up costing us more, not only monetarily but also in our health.

Joseph Hempfling

Plain and simple; READ MY LIPS; COAL IS NOT THE ANSWER; ALTERNATIVE ENERGY IS ! and yes, it is that simple yet these conglomarents prefer to continue to drag their feet, hide their heads in the proverbial sand and do the MINIMAL in making it happen considering only their bottom lines; PROFITS BEFORE PEOPLE ! All because legally they can. The Technology is here, now lets have enough moral courage, to seize it before we do any more damage to the Planet and the people who inhabit it temporarily, including you and me.

Thomas Carlson

The biggest reason why PNM wants to continue to burn coal, the dirtiest most environmentally unfriendly fossil fuel out there is because... THEY OWN A COAL MINE! Did they tell you that in the ad? Migrating to solar messes up their business model. They can't figure out how to make money from it.

My wife and I are in the process of putting solar panels on our roof so that we can eventually disconnect from PNM and its addiction to coal.

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