Groups ask PRC to accept climate change science

Avangrid’s latest La Joya wind farm supplies PNM and the Facebook data center in Los Lunas. (Courtesy of Avangrid)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office, environmental organizations and community groups asked the state Public Regulation Commission on Thursday to accept climate change as “scientific fact.”

The organizations filed a motion for the PRC to recognize the contemporary “scientific consensus” acknowledging that climate change is caused by human activity, predominantly from greenhouse gasses emitted through fossil fuel combustion by power plants, vehicles, buildings and industry. The motion, filed as part of PRC hearings on the proposed merger between PNM Resources and energy giant Avangrid, requests that the science be incorporated into all decision making in the case.

Steve Michel

If the PRC accepts it, the motion would eliminate need for testimony, evidence or proof about the issue in the merger case. Without it, intervening parties could be required to present witnesses, said Steve Michel, attorney with Western Resource Advocates.

“It’s relevant to the case because of the many commitments that Avangrid is making to address climate change,” Michel told the Journal. “It eliminates the need to prove climate change by saying it’s not debatable anymore. It says the science is established, that we recognize and acknowledge it as a fact like gravity and the sunrise, and that addressing the issue is important.”

If the PRC approves the merger, Connecticut-based Avangrid would acquire PNM Resources and its two utility subsidiaries – Public Service Company of New Mexico and Texas New Mexico Power – in an all-cash transaction valued at $4.3 billion.

The two companies signed a settlement agreement, or “stipulation,” in the case with 13 of nearly two dozen participating parties, locking in signatory support for the merger in exchange for a series of commitments from Avangrid. That includes a promise to strive for 100% non-carbon generation in New Mexico by 2035 – five years ahead of PNM’s current goals – in good part by developing a lot more renewable energy.

Apart from Western Resource Advocates and the attorney general, five other stipulation supporters signed the motion regarding climate change, including the Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy and four community and indigenous organizations represented by the Western Environmental Law Center. PNMR, Avangrid and three other parties stated their support for the motion, including Santa Fe-based New Energy Economy, which opposes the stipulation agreement.

None of the remaining parties in the case has opposed the motion.

“The commission has an opportunity to help lead our state and the nation by recognizing the science and timeline of the climate crisis and by allowing this reality to help guide its decision making,” said Western Environmental Law Center attorney Kyle Tisdel in a statement.

Kyle Tisdel

If the PRC accepts the motion in this case, it could set a precedent to guide commission decision making in future cases when climate change issues arise, while potentially making the PRC the first state regulatory body in the U.S. to accept climate change as scientific fact in official proceedings.

“Some courts in the U.S. have taken that step, but I’m not aware of any state administrative agencies that have done it,” Michel said.

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