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State regulators require PNM to refile rate case

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The state Public Regulation Commission voted 5-0 on Wednesday to dismiss Public Service Company of New Mexico’s request for a 12-percent rate increase because the information provided was “incomplete.”

As a result, PNM will have to completely refile its application, something it’s expected to do by Sept. 1.

That will set the hearing process back by a number of months, in turn delaying the start date for any rate hike eventually approved by the commission.

Under the original application, new rates could have taken effect next January.

PRC hearing examiner Carolyn Glick had recommended the commission dismiss PNM’s request because the utility failed to provide enough information about how it calculated estimated costs that it wants to recover, and because it did not make all documentation accessible electronically.

Such online access is critical for PRC staff and intervening parties to fully vet the validity of PNM’s cost estimates, said Judy Amer, attorney with the PRC Office of the General Counsel, which supported the hearing examiner’s recommendation.

“Staff and intervenors need to be able to trace with relative ease the numbers and match them with supporting data,” she told commissioners.

PNM had asked commissioners to reject the refiling recommendation and said it should instead be able to submit more testimony and exhibits to correct any deficiencies. It said it met the standards applied to other utilities and that commission decisions should not be “inconsistent.”

“We are deeply disappointed in the decision and disagree with the hearing examiner and the commission,” PNM spokesman Pahl Shipley said Wednesday. “This type of inconsistent decision making creates uncertainty for consumers and regulated companies in New Mexico.”

But Amer said filing a completely new application would make it much easier for staff and intervening parties to review and verify data.

Some intervenors said the material provided by PNM and the way it was technically presented created huge problems when sifting through data.

“Parties in the case had submitted, all together, like 1,000 discovery questions,” said New Energy Economy Executive Director Mariel Nanasi. “It was very hard to understand the data, and we need to be able to comprehensively review PNM’s justifications for a rate increase.”

Steve Michel, chief counsel for Western Resource Advocates, said the way the information was filed impeded the ability to work with PNM’s spread sheets.

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