The commission voted 3-0 to hold one or more workshops on the standard, which a coalition of 33 environmental organizations proposed in August.
Commissioners Jason Marks and Doug Howe were absent from the meeting.
“We agreed to schedule a series of workshops to see how much merit there is to this proposal and if it could work,” PRC Chairman Pat Lyons told the Journal.
The standard would ask New Mexico utilities to voluntarily agree to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from their generating plants by 3 percent per year starting in 2015. If a utility agrees, compliance would become binding, but the utility would be entitled to cost recovery through the PRC, and they would earn carbon reduction credits that they could trade to offset expenses.
Lyons said he has doubts whether such a voluntary program could work, or whether the PRC has the jurisdiction to obligate a utility to do something it volunteered to do.
“We need to look into the legality of it,” he said.
PRC general counsel Robert Parker also expressed concerns whether the commission has authority to regulate what is apparently an environmental issue, rather than an energy issue, said PRC spokesman Arthur Bishop.
“The PRC is not involved in things like emissions, which might technically be the jurisdiction of the Environment Department,” Bishop said.
The state Environmental Improvement Board rejected two mandatory carbon reduction plans earlier this year.
Advocates of the voluntary standard said they are pleased the PRC voted to gather public input.
“It keeps the proposal alive, and that’s encouraging,” said New Energy Economy Executive Director Mariel Nanasi.
Still, impact on ratepayers could be an issue when the proposal eventually comes to a vote at the PRC, Lyons said.
— This article appeared on page B1 of the Albuquerque Journal