Q&A: Public Regulation Commission District 3 Brian Harris
1) Why are you running for a seat on the commission?
I’m running because I understand the importance of implementing the Energy Transition Act, and to use the skills and experience I’ve developed over the past decades to make New Mexico a national leader in clean energy. The PRC has been dysfunctional. It needs professionals who understand this sector, not career politicians.
2) What are some specific goals you want to accomplish as a commissioner?
A. Meet or exceed the specific renewable energy goals of the Energy Transition Act, and start to create the regulatory framework to meet the eventual end points of 100% renewable generation. A lot of planning and discussion needs to happen for grid modernization, least cost transmission paths and a vast increase in distributed energy generation to happen quickly and to best of advantage of New Mexicans.
B. A top to bottom review of the state’s approach to regulating telecommunications and achieving the goal of universal service.
3) What are your thoughts about the new Energy Transition Act, and how would you work to balance both utility and consumer interests as the state transitions away from fossil fuels to renewable resources and carbon-free generation?
I was proud to support the ETA while it was in process and look forward to implementing it as Commissioner. Balancing interests is usually framed as narrowly as possible to focus on money. But ratepayers and utilities have other interests. Ratepayers need clean air and water, they need capacity and reliability and they need these services at the lowest rates feasible. Utilities need a predictable business and regulatory environment, future investment for additional capital construction and a reasonable return on investment. As for the process, that means getting involved from the beginning of any case or rule-making. It means knowing the parties’ positions, asking the right questions at the right time and helping to build a record that supports the Commission’s public interest determinations.
4) Voters will decide in November on a constitutional amendment to change the five-member elected commission to a three-member body appointed by the governor. What are your thoughts about the proposal?
I support the proposed Amendment. We must replace politicians on the PRC with professionals. New Mexico is just one of twelve states that has politicians overseeing utilities. It’s time for our state to join the rest of the country and ensure that qualified Commissioners have the expertise needed to make the best decisions for New Mexico’s energy consumers.
5) The PRC operates as a quasi-judicial body that requires commissioners to possess specialized knowledge and experience to function fairly and efficiently in the public’s interest. In your opinion, what are those needed qualities, and how do you personally meet the qualifications?
The most needed qualities are tenacity, a knowledge of the business and technical aspects of these diverse networks and collegiality. I have litigated high stakes cases in front of the PRC, in federal and state district court and the NM Supreme Court, and in the Executive Office of Immigration Review. I have lobbied for and against numerous bills on behalf of the ratepayer interest in the NM Legislature. All this work takes an enormous amount of preparation and an ability to keep a cool head when faced with extremely different viewpoints.
6) Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens?
7) Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding?
8) Have you ever been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of drunken driving, any misdemeanor or any felony in New Mexico or any other state? If so, explain.