Amid electricity debate, House GOP seeks to postpone emission standards - Albuquerque Journal

Amid electricity debate, House GOP seeks to postpone emission standards

In this file photo, House Minority Leader James Townsend, R-Artesia, listens to the governor’s State of the State speech broadcast in the House Chambers on the opening day of this year’s session. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE — With just seven days left in the session, House Republican leaders are calling for quick passage of legislation that would postpone New Mexico’s plans to impose new limits on carbon emissions from large coal-fired power plants.

House Minority Leader James Townsend, R-Artesia, said policymakers at the Capitol should make it a priority before the session ends Thursday to address the prospect for rolling blackouts this summer.

Electricity disruptions, he said, could be a matter of life and death for people who rely on medical equipment for oxygen or other help. Businesses also face the prospect, Townsend said, of losing inventory that must be kept cool or is otherwise in danger of spoiling.

“It’s going to get ugly,” he said.

But Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said it’s the responsibility of the Public Service Company of New Mexico, not the Legislature, to address the issue.

“This is a PNM problem,” Lujan Grisham told reporters. “They need to be responsible and ready.”

She said her administration has held meetings with PNM officials and expressed confidence the state’s largest utility would take the necessary steps to prevent widespread blackouts.

“Today, PNM has to make sure we have adequate electricity all summer, all fall and all winter,” Lujan Grisham said.

Townsend, however, suggested House Bill 138 — not yet authorized for lawmakers to take up this session — as a potential solution. It would postpone for three years certain emission limits that are set to go into effect Jan. 1.

The bipartisan proposal is aimed at making it easier for the San Juan Generating Station to stay open the next few years.

The plant is now expected to close in June.

PNM has said keeping the plant open beyond this year isn’t an option. They would need to negotiate a new contract for coal to supply the plant, and other utilities that share ownership of the plant are expected to balk at signing a new operating agreement.

PNM has, however, suggested that delaying the shutdown until September might be an option.

As for a legislative solution, it would take approval from Lujan Grisham to add House Bill 138 to lawmakers’ agenda this session. The bill would also have to pass both legislative chambers and their committees by noon Feb. 17.

The measure is sponsored by Democratic Rep. Anthony Allison of Fruitland; House Minority Leader Rod Montoya, R-Farmington; and Republican Reps. James Strickler of Farmington and Ryan Lane of Aztec.

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