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PNM Investors’ Meeting Draws Protests

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Copyright © 2012 Albuquerque Journal

PNM Resources President and CEO Pat Vincent-Collawn touched on the stewing controversy over the San Juan Generating Station during Tuesday’s annual shareholders’ meeting, but it wasn’t the message protesters outside wanted her to deliver.

Waving signs such as “Save Our Skies” outside Alvarado Square, about 50 protesters from various environmental groups made it clear they want the coal-fired plant near Farmington closed and replaced with renewable energy.

The plant is under a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency order to install expensive pollution controls – cost estimates range from $350 million to $750 million – to reduce haze.

Balancing environmental programs and customer cost impacts are a “very delicate issue that has sparked much debate,” Vincent-Collawn said.

“We have told the EPA and the state of New Mexico that if we are able to move to a dialogue on alternatives,” she said, alluding to the state’s request of EPA to stay the order, “we will continue to seek a balanced approach that considers customers’ costs, environmental benefits and economic impacts to the citizens of the state.”

Noting the completion of a $320 million environmental upgrade at San Juan, she said the American Lung Association just rated San Juan County’s air as among the nation’s best.

The state has proposed a less-costly alternative it says would achieve similar visibility improvements.

Some critics says it doesn’t make sense to continue making huge investments in a 40-year-old coal plant. Two state regulators recently suggested replacing some of the plant’s units with natural gas.

Vincent-Collawn briefly spoke on San Juan in a 20-minute, generally upbeat address highlighting the company’s past year.

On other topics, Vincent-Collawn reported the company’s regulated utilities, PNM and TNMP, had solid years, and selling First Choice Power and shedding its interest in Optim Energy has set a “new foundation for financial stability.”

PNM, she said, brought on line 22 megawatts of utility-scale solar facilities last year and is involved in a major battery-storage and solar project. It proposes to add 20 more megawatts of solar and its first geothermal power in its 2013 renewable plan.

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