In a recent development regarding the proposed merger between PNM Resources and Avangrid Inc., the New Mexico Supreme Court has denied a request to remand the case back to the state’s Public Regulation Commission (PRC). The court’s decision came after a joint request from the utility companies and the commission to reconsider the merger. This update has significant implications for the future of the merger and highlights the importance of upholding due process in regulatory oversight.
The PNM-Avangrid merger faced initial rejection by former commissioners in December 2021 after an extensive proceeding involving various stakeholders, including renewable energy advocacy groups, local governments, and the state attorney general. Seeking to challenge this decision, the utilities filed an appeal with the New Mexico Supreme Court in January 2022.
Transparency and Procedural Errors
In an attempt to revive the merger, two newly appointed commissioners signed a joint motion with the utilities in March 2023, seeking a remand and rehearing of the case. However, the court ruling revealed that the commissioners had erred in their procedural approach, as a rehearing would violate the commission’s rules. The court’s decision to deny the remand request reflects a commitment to maintaining procedural integrity and safeguarding the interests of all stakeholders involved.
Throughout the proceedings, concerns were raised regarding potential violations of the state’s Open Meetings Act and allegations of improper ex parte communications between the commission and the involved parties. Groups such as the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government and the Southwest Public Policy Institute voiced their apprehension, emphasizing the need for transparency and fair decision-making in the regulatory process. State Attorney General Raúl Torrez also warned against the possibility of decisions being made behind closed doors.
Protecting the Public Interest
The New Mexico Supreme Court’s decision to deny the remand request and proceed with oral arguments in September 2023 upholds the principles of due process and fairness. By adhering to established rules and procedures, the court reinforces the importance of protecting the rights of all stakeholders involved in the PNM-Avangrid merger case. This ruling ensures that the system of regulatory oversight, designed to safeguard the interests of ordinary New Mexicans and prevent utility overreach, remains intact.
In response to the impending energy shortage, PNM has formally requested energy developers to submit proposals that could add up to 700 MW of power. The request aims to address the potential rolling blackouts and fill the projected shortage.
PNM emphasizes the need to support its transition to a zero-carbon energy future by 2040 while ensuring reliable and low-cost energy for its customers. Critics question the abandonment of reliable nuclear power in favor of renewable sources, suggesting that political motivations may be influencing the decision.
A poll conducted by the Southwest Public Policy Institute indicates that the majority of New Mexicans prioritize affordable and reliable energy over green energy production. The survey reveals that a significant portion of respondents is uncertain or does not support the Energy Transition Act. This public sentiment raises questions about the true priorities of utility providers in the state and the potential consequences of the energy transition on the reliability and affordability of energy for New Mexicans.
The recent denial of the remand request by the New Mexico Supreme Court in the PNM-Avangrid merger case emphasizes the significance of upholding due process in regulatory proceedings. By rejecting the motion to remand and scheduling oral arguments, the court has demonstrated a commitment to transparency, fairness, and protecting the public interest.
The upcoming oral hearing in September will provide an opportunity for all parties involved to present their arguments and contribute to a comprehensive and informed decision regarding the future of the proposed merger. As the case progresses, the court’s decision will have implications for the merger, the state’s energy landscape, and the rights of New Mexicans.