Bill to alter ETA tabled in committee

Power lines frame the San Juan Generating Station near Farmington. (Eddie Moore/ Albuquerque Journal)

A bill to modify the state’s Energy Transition Act died Saturday in the Senate Conservation Committee, which voted 5-4 to table the proposed legislation.

Senate bill 84 sought revision of two sections of the energy law, which the Legislature approved in 2019 to require public utilities to convert state grids to 50% renewables by 2030, 80% by 2040, and 100% carbon-free generation by 2045.

Some environmental and consumer advocates said the law, as written, reduces Public Regulation Commission authority to fully vet the prudence of past utility investments in coal and other fossil fuels, while forcing the agency to automatically approve 100% recovery for utilities when shutting down coal plants to comply with renewable requirements. In those cases, utilities can recover their costs through low-cost bonds that customers pay off through a monthly charge on their bills.

SB 84 would have removed a clause in one section of the law that limits PRC authority to cut the amount a utility recovers when regulators “order” a utility to close a fossil fuel facility. And it would have re-written another section to explicitly allow regulators to fully vet a utilities’ past investments and deny 100% bond recovery if it chooses.

One of the bill’s three democratic sponsors, Sen. William Tallman of Albuquerque, told the committee that SB 84 would preserve the law’s environmental goals while protecting consumers.

Some 10 environmentalists and consumer advocates also spoke in support. But another 10 environmentalists and consumer advocates spoke against the bill, warning that the reforms could wipe away funding included in recovery bonds to assist local communities impacted by coal plant closures.

That swayed Democratic Sen. Carrie Hamblen of Las Cruces against the bill.

“I worry about that funding being put in jeopardy,” Hamblen told the committee.

Democratic Sen. Joseph Cervantes joined Hamblen and three Republicans in opposing SB 84.

Cervantes said the Legislature should have addressed the issues raised before approving the law in 2019.

“You don’t often get mulligans (do-overs) in life,” Cervantes said. “That ship has sailed.”

 

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