AG Balderas is not serving NM in PNM merger talks

PNM’s solar generating array outside of Santa Fe. (Courtesy of PNM)

In (N.M. Attorney General) Hector Balderas’ (July 26 Journal) op-ed, he says an unreasonable woman wants to kill the PNM-Avangrid/Ibedrola merger. That would be me.

The AG proceeds to explain why the settlement is good for New Mexico and its ratepayers. He’s either misinformed or trying to mislead. Consider the following:

1. The AG’s own experts testified the merger was not in the public interest, the legal standard. AG expert witness Andrea Crane testified there were nine requirements that should be met in order to ensure the merger would be in the public interest.

2. Only two of these requirements were even addressed at all when the AG suddenly shifted its position from against to in favor of the merger.

3. Balderas ignored all of his expert’s conditions, other than trivial increases to the amounts devoted to rate credit and economic development, trivial as compared with the costs ratepayers will be saddled with.

4. One thing Crane was adamant about: “PNM should agree to assume all costs of abandonment of its interest in the Four Corners Power Plant and withdraw its filing for the abandonment of the plant under the Energy Transition Act that sets forth an estimated $300 million cost of abandonment.” Yet, the settlement and merger will not only stick ratepayers with PNM’s price tag, plus interest, for getting rid of this old coal plant, which has no value, but also will allow PNM/Avangrid to sell it to another company that will keep on burning coal. Ask Balderas why that’s in the public interest.

5. Balderas failed to explain why he made the shocking about-face, moving from opposing the deal to endorsing it, even though it was legally deficient and contrary to PRC rules. The AG’s position switched after several meetings with attorney Marcus Rael – his good friend and former partner who was hired by Avangrid’s parent company, Iberdrola, to influence Balderas and others. Perhaps Balderas said it best when he told the Santa Fe New Mexican on June 9 after visiting with Rael: “There are more important issues in the merger for the experts to focus on” than legal details. Shouldn’t our chief law enforcement officer be focused on the legal standards that exist to protect us?

6. Balderas has lavished lucrative contracts on Rael’s firm to represent New Mexico in cases the AG is responsible for litigating, resulting in millions of dollars in fees going from taxpayers to Rael’s firm. Rael is simultaneously representing N.M. taxpayers in these cases while lobbying our AG to settle with a multinational energy giant without first securing the consumer protections advised by his own experts – an apparent concurrent conflict of interest Balderas fails to address.

7. Balderas shows no concern top managers of Iberdrola/Avangrid face a criminal investigation in Spain (into allegations of) corporate spying, bribery, fraud and falsification of documents. (Or that) Iberdrola/Avangrid’s track record in the U.S. is riddled with regulatory fines and penalties for failure to provide reliable electricity and adequate customer service. Why would we want such a company here? …

In its securities disclosures, Avangrid stated: “Iberdrola exercises significant influence over Avangrid, and its interests may be different than yours.” … We should heed their warning. This merger is not in the public interest and the AG has a lot more to answer for.


Avangrid has poor customer service track record

AVANGRID IS running an ad on TV wooing the New Mexico public. The public needs to be aware its Maine subsidiary has been found guilty of poor electric customer service issues and has suffered related penalties. Like every other large corporate America business its primary interest is its

profit line. Unfortunately that results in poor customer service and poor maintenance. Please let the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (know) we do not want the same poor customer service issues in New Mexico.

SYLVIA I. ANDERSON
Albuquerque

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