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Examiner says PNM should refile rate request

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Public Service Co. of New Mexico may be forced to refile its request for a 12 percent rate hike with the state Public Regulation Commission if commissioners accept a hearing examiner’s recommendation that PNM resubmit its case with more complete documentation.

The hearing examiner, Carloyn Glick, said that the rate request as now filed is “incomplete” because it does not include enough information about how PNM calculated estimated costs that it wants to recover through higher rates starting in 2016. The utility also did not make all documentation accessible electronically, a prerequisite in the case for PRC staff and intervening parties to fully vet the validity of PNM’s cost estimates.

That’s particularly problematic in this rate case, because PNM is projecting the costs it needs to recover for 2016 as a “future test year,” rather than seeking to recover expenses already incurred in a prior year.

“A filing using a future test period greatly increases the complexity of reviewing the filing for staff and intervenors in comparison to a filing using a historical test year,” Glick wrote in her recommended decision. “Under these circumstances, it is reasonable to dismiss PNM’s application for failure to comply with the future test year rule.”

Commissioners can accept or reject the hearing examiner’s recommendation. If they do dismiss PNM’s current application, however, that doesn’t mean the rate case won’t continue. It means the utility will have to refile its application with more complete documentation, perhaps setting the process back by a few months, Glick said.

“This was not at all a recommendation on the merits of PNM’s rate request,” Glick told the Journal. “If the commissioners accept the recommendation, it probably just delays things a few months.”

In the meantime, PNM and other parties in the case can file “exceptions,” or objections, to the hearing examiner’s recommendation, something PNM says it will do.

“We have just received the recommended decision and are reviewing it,” said PNM spokesman Pahl Shipley. “We disagree with the hearing examiner’s conclusion and believe the filing was complete, and we plan to file our exceptions within the allotted time period.”

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