Clean en­ergy pro­posal tar­gets NM coal-burn­ing pol­lu­tion

AG, en­vi­ron­ment groups say new stan­dard would pro­tect both cus­tomers, share­hold­ers

Albuquerque Journal - - BUSINESS - BY SU­SAN MONTOYA BRYAN AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The New Mex­ico At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s Of­fice and con­sumer ad­vo­cates are pe­ti­tion­ing state reg­u­la­tors to con­sider a new en­ergy stan­dard they say would pro­tect util­ity cus­tomers and share­hold­ers from the costs and risks as­so­ci­ated with fu­ture en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions.

The pro­posed stan­dard calls for elec­tric util­i­ties to re­duce car­bon diox­ide emis­sions from power plants that serve cus­tomers in the state by 4 per­cent a year through 2040. Sup­port­ers say that could amount to a re­duc­tion of sev­eral mil­lion tons of car­bon diox­ide, con­sid­ered a prime con­trib­u­tor to global warm­ing.

Steve Michel, the en­ergy pol­icy chief with the en­vi­ron­men­tal group West­ern Re­sources Ad­vo­cates, pre­sented the pro­posal to the Pub­lic Reg­u­la­tion Com­mis­sion on Wed­nes­day. It will be up to com­mis­sion­ers whether to be­gin the rule­mak­ing process, which would in­clude gath­er­ing com­ments, tech­ni­cal work­shops and pub­lic meet­ings.

Michel ar­gued the im­por­tance of tran­si­tion­ing to cleaner en­ergy sources, say­ing util­i­ties can face sig­nif­i­cant costs if they wait un­til reg­u­la­tions are in place. He also said there would be en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits to curb­ing the state’s re­liance on coal-fired power plants.

“It’s al­most cer­tain that the U.S. is go­ing to have to ad­dress car­bon pol­lu­tion. It’s just some­thing that has to be done,” he said in an in­ter­view. “This pro­posed reg­u­la­tion would as­sure util­i­ties in the state are well­po­si­tioned to ad­dress that as it emerges.”

The shift al­ready is hap­pen­ing among in­vestor-owned util­i­ties. The state’s largest elec­tric provider, Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­pany of New Mex­ico, is pre­par­ing to shut­ter part of its coal-fired power plant in north­west­ern New Mex­ico by the end of the year, and it has in­vested al­most $270 mil­lion in 15 so­lar gen­er­a­tion fa­cil­i­ties. The util­ity plans to add more so­lar to its port­fo­lio un­der a plan sub­mit­ted to reg­u­la­tors ear­lier this year.

Pub­lic Ser­vice Co. spokesman Pahl Ship­ley said the util­ity would re­serve its com­ments on the clean en­ergy stan­dard un­til a fi­nal ver­sion of the pro­posed rule is drafted.

Michel told the com­mis­sion that New Mex­ico’s util­i­ties are well-po­si­tioned to com­ply with the stan­dard given their cur­rent plans.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Hec­tor Balderas, a Demo­crat, said his of­fice sup­ports the pe­ti­tion be­cause he be­lieves states, cities and busi­nesses will have to fill what he re­ferred to as a reg­u­la­tory void.

“This pro­posed clean en­ergy stan­dard would have New Mex­ico be­gin to do that,” he said.

A pre­lim­i­nary re­port re­cently pro­duced by 13 fed­eral agen­cies states the an­nual av­er­age tem­per­a­ture is al­ready 1.18 de­grees warmer the last 30 years than it was from 1901 to 1960. If car­bon pol­lu­tion con­tin­ues un­abated, the re­port sug­gests tem­per­a­tures are pro­jected to rise another 4.83 de­grees by mid-cen­tury and 8.72 de­grees by the end of the cen­tury, or a few de­grees less if emis­sions are cut some­what.

JOUR­NAL FILE

PNM is plan­ning to close two of four units at the San Juan Gen­er­at­ing Sta­tion next year. Ad­vo­cates say steps like that should make it fea­si­ble for New Mex­ico util­i­ties to re­duce car­bon emis­sions by 4 per­cent a year.

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