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PRC unanimously rejects rehearing on PNM transmission line

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission in this file photo unanimously approved as service contract between PNM and Facebook for construction of a data center in Valencia County, photographed on Wednesday August 17, 2016. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission unanimously rejected on Thursday motions to reconsider a decision to charge Facebook nearly half the cost of a new $85 million transmission line.

Public Service Company of New Mexico and two other intervenors in the case had asked the five-member commission to reconsider its mid-April decision, which said PNM could not charge general ratepayers anything for building the transmission line. That’s because a PNM executive testified during hearings in February that the line would only serve Facebook by carrying electricity from a new wind farm near Encino to Facebook’s data center in Los Lunas, plus wholesale customers who sell to markets outside the state.

But PNM has since corrected that testimony, calling the transmission line a “network upgrade” that benefits everybody, including wholesale and retail customers alike. It requested a rehearing on April 30 for the commission to reconsider its position to allow costs to be shared equally among everybody.

Both the Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy and New Mexico Industrial Energy Consumers filed similar motions in support of PNM.

But at the PRC’s open public meeting Thursday, commissioners rejected those motions on a technicality. They said PNM and the other parties did not explicitly ask to reopen the case record for new evidence to be entered through a formal rehearing, forcing commissioners to rely on existing evidence in the record.

“If they want to raise new issues, we would have to reopen the record and bring in new evidence for all parties to comment on,” said Commissioner Stephen Fischmann during Thursday’s meeting. “These motions don’t ask for that.”

Staff attorney Judith Amer told the commission that PNM was only asking the PRC to issue a new, revised order in the case. That means commissioners still had to rely on the PNM executive’s testimony in February that the line won’t serve retail customers, said Commissioner Cynthia Hall.

“PNM unfortunately didn’t provide us with anything in the record to refute that, so we couldn’t reach a different conclusion than we already reached in April,” Hall told the Journal. “In discharging our judicial function, we have to follow the rules.”

Nevertheless, PNM’s official request on April 30 clearly stated it was a “motion for expedited rehearing,” with similar language contained as well in the motions from the other two parties.

“We are deeply disappointed in the commission’s decision today,” said PNM spokesman Ray Sandoval in an email to the Journal. “We understand that we created initial confusion (in the February testimony), but after clarifying the information, we believe the law and precedent should have led the commission to modify their decision. We are in the process of reviewing our options on how to proceed.”

PNM could now decide to appeal to the Supreme Court.


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