Thursday, November 15, 2012

11/15: Pit Rule Update from SWOP

From SouthWest Organizing Project

Pit Rule Update

The Oil Conservation Commission is scheduled to meet today- Thursday 11/15/12 at 9:00 AM in Santa Fe. They are finishing up deliberations and expected to make a final decision on changes to the Pit Rule requested by groups representing the oil and gas industry. Their decision could weaken the rule which would have dire effects on the environment and public health in New Mexico.

The pit rule requires oil and gas companies to line their pits of toxic waste.Before the the pit rule, New Mexico had thousands of cases of groundwater contamination from oil and gas pits but since the pit rule has been in place there have been no cases of contamination at sites covered by the rule.

The pit rule holds oil and gas companies accountable making them pay for cleaning up contamination from pits instead of using taxpayer money.

That is why we are having a Pit Rule Forum today at 6:30 @ the SWOP office.

WHAT: Pit Rule Forum
WHEN: Thursday, November 15th @ 6:30 PM
WHERE: SWOP Offices 211 10th St. SW
We will be discussing the results of the hearing and writing letters to the editor in response to this important issue. Please join us. Food and refreshments will be provided. Translation will be available. Contact: Dustin 505-204-0023

November 15, 2012 at 10:13 AM in Action Alerts, Mining, Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Karen Montoya, the Democratic Candidate for PRC

DFNM_Ad_2 - like signsKaren Montoya, the Democratic candidate for PRC (Public Regulation Commission) in District 1 is a 14th generation New Mexican, a mother of two daughters and has two beautiful grandchildren.

Bernalillo County Assessor Montoya was elected to her second term in 2010 and is the first woman to hold this office.

Karen's top priority is to restore integrity to the PRC and to protect hard working New Mexican's against unfair and unwarranted rate hikes on energy, phone, gas and insurance-while protecting the environment.

Karen-1-192x300Karen believes the science of global warming is clear. She is concerned about those who would un-do the renewable energy standards that are in place -standards vital to protecting New Mexico as well as the Earth's climate. The opportunity to make New Mexico a leader in renewable energy such as solar, bio-mass and wind will be good for both our environment and our economy creating hundreds of good paying jobs.

The record of saving taxpayers money through her support of “Tax Lightning” as County Assessor reflects Karen’s attitude of fighting for the citizens of New Mexico. Karen’s opponent with his lack of experience and anti-renewable statements- has made the choice very clear.

In endorsing Karen Montoya for the PRC, Commissioner Jason Marks stated “Karen Montoya has got what it takes to be an effective PRC Commissioner for District 1. Karen will fight against excessive utility rate increases, and she'll promote renewable energy. I'm proud to endorse Karen Montoya to succeed me on the PRC.”

September 28, 2012 at 12:20 PM in 2012 NM PRC Races, Candidates & Races, Democrat, Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Mexico Public Regulations Commission passes Inmate Phone Resolution to the FCC

Media literacyFollowing is from the Media Literacy Project

Another victory in an eventful week of prison justice work in New Mexico and nationwide

On the heels of a historic meeting and passage of a prison phone rates resolution to the Federal Communications Commission, New Mexico can be proud that the Public Regulations Commission made a statement on behalf of New Mexican families today.

The New Mexico Public Regulations Commission (PRC) passed an inmate phone resolution requesting the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) take action on the Wright Petition (Docket 96-128) to protect consumers of inmate telephone services. Commissioner Jason A. Marks initiated discussion and action on the resolution by putting it on the agenda at today’s Open Meeting.

This comes less than 24 hours after an historic meeting between the name sake and plaintiff of the petition, 87 year-old Martha Wright, and the FCC in Washington, DC. In the nine years since this case was first filed against the Corrections Corporation of America, yesterday was the first time Wright had an opportunity to share her personal story with the FCC in person. This long overdue meeting was facilitated by the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice and Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-Met), of which Media Literacy Project is the New Mexico anchor organization.

Momentum has been building since Friday, when the Consumer Advisory Committee to the FCC (which includes Mag-Net members Media Literacy Project, Native Public Media, and Center for Media Justice) passed a prison phone rates resolution to protect the families of inmates from predatory practices.

Some phone companies get away with as much as $15 for a 15 minute call in American jails, prisons, and immigration detention centers. This burden rests on the families of America's roughly 2.3 million inmates. This practice does not only harm the inmates and their families that are struggling economically; it hurts communities. In 2010 Congress was briefed on the impact that familial communication and connectivity has on recidivism.

Though New Mexico is one of nine (including the District of Columbia) states that does not receive “kickbacks” from phone companies that profit off of exorbitant prison phone rates, we do have families with loved ones incarcerated in faraway states.

PRC Commissioner Marks said all of the commissioners were extremely supportive. “We were all in agreement,” said Marks. “They were all like, ‘Well, there shouldn’t be fees like that. Maybe, at most, some sort of percentage would be fair.’”

Media Literacy Project Executive Director Andrea Quijada emphasizes the impact of the PRC’s resolution. “In a state where thousands of our loved ones are incarcerated,” says Quijada. ”Media Literacy Project applauds our Public Regulation Commission’s effort to keep our families strong and connected.”

Read the NM PRC resolution in its entirety at the bottom of the MLP press release at our website.

September 28, 2012 at 09:17 AM in Prisons, Corrections, Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Let’s Get It Clear: The Message Behind the Heather Wilson Attack Ads

Produced by Peter Moulson, Special Correspondent

This June, a coordinated group of TV ads highlighted Heather Wilson’s history of siding with oil and gas corporations as they pollute groundwater while she collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from these industries.

Wilson drinking coffee
Photo from Heather Wilson’s Facebook page.
Note: Heather drinks a warm beverage, not water.  

The TV commercials produced by The League of Conservation Voters and Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund met with muted acceptance by the mainstream New Mexico media, and even Wilson herself. But at least one New Mexico TV station and a widely-read and syndicated New Mexico newspaper chewed on the TV ad from the Sierra Club for making Wilson “look like the Wicked Witch of the West”, and over all being “vague.” It appears that one more attack on Wilson was too much.

Sierra Club Drinking Fountain Still 1
Still from “Drinking Fountain”. Courtesy: Sierra Club.

It was The Santa Fe New Mexican which described the Sierra Club’s TV “attack ad” on Heather Wilson’s oil company cronyism as “vague”. The 30-second commercial did not mention the polluting chemical by name (it’s MTBE), or details of her voting record--for three consecutive years beginning in 2003, she voted in favor of energy bills that would have shielded MTBE manufacturers from lawsuits—and we thank The Santa Fe New Mexican for that research.

What political TV ad gives exact chapter and verse of their research? Try it yourself—in 30 seconds or less. Sounds as if Wilson’s oil and gas megabuck contributions are getting her in deep water, and somebody’s fighting back.

Thanks Sierra Club for stirring the pot.

July 25, 2012 at 09:21 PM in Guest Blogger, Heather Wilson, Political Ads, Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sen. Feldman Guest Blog: Gun Control in New Mexico Has Been Lost Cause: NRA on Ascendant since 2003

Following is a guest blog by Senator Dede Feldman. Sen. Feldman has her own blog with many great articles, follow this link here.

Even before last week’s tragic shooting in Aurora, and the rush of commentary it has aroused, I’d been thinking about the legislature’s total abdication to everything NRA. There’s a chapter on this very thing in the book I am now writing about the New Mexico Senate. Now it’s déjà vu all over again in Colorado and you’ve got to wonder whether New Mexico is next. New Mexico’s gun laws are so liberal. You can carry any kind of loaded gun as long as it is not concealed if you are not a felon or are over 19 years old. No permits, licenses, training, registration or fingerprinting are required for the possession or purchasing of rifles, shotguns or handguns. And if you have a gun—you can take it almost everywhere except federal buildings, courthouses, buses, bars and pre schools. And we’re not even talking concealed weapons here. State law now enables 24,000 licensees (at least they’re trained) to carry concealed weapons into movie theatres, banks, child care centers, churches, liquor stores, restaurants and-- as of 2010-- bars which serve food.

As far as I’m concerned, New Mexico lost its way on guns back in the early 200Os. In the wake of the Columbine shooting, New Mexicans, like the rest of the nation, were much more interested in gun control, particularly given our high rates of youth suicide and homicide). In 2001, in the name of child safety, Rep. Gail Chasey and I were successful in passing a “trigger lock” bill to prevent accidents resulting from unsafe storage of weapons, especially handguns. But Gov. Gary Johnson vetoed it and the legislature instead passed a concealed carry law, which, after initially being ruled unconstitutional (the NM Constitution states “Nothing her in shall be construed to permit the carrying of concealed weapons), went into effect in 2003. The NRA has spent tons since that time to weaken training requirements, and lower the qualifying age. And they have been successful. They’ve also been trying, with the help of their allies in ALEC, to get the legislature to adopt a “stand your ground” bill like the one so famous in Florida’s Trayvon Martin case. We already have these rights embedded in the NM constitution, but for the NRA, no matter. It would be another notch in the belt.

The Democrats lost their huevos on this one long ago, on the federal level, and when pro-gun Richardson became Governor, the funding for all the advocacy efforts dried up. Moms on a Mission, the mothers of three boys killed in the East Mountains who came to help us lobby for safety have disbanded. The families of other victims are now just support groups--- not rabble rousers asking why anyone should be guaranteed the right to carry a 100-round a minute assault rifle like the ones used in the Virginia Tech shooting, and now Aurora.

Meanwhile, on the Republican side of the aisle our Governor tweets about her perfect aim and great performance on the Concealed Carry test. And the Republican stronghold of Catron County has had a law on the books since 1994 requiring heads of households to maintain a firearm and the ammunition to use it.

For the past decade there have only been about eight or nine of us on the floor of the Senate resisting the flood of guns everywhere-- or even complaining about the fact that citizens are now carrying guns in the Roundhouse. Not even the shooting of Gabby Gifford, Albuquerque’s Emcore tragedy provokes a rational discussion here in the Wild West.

  What a surprise! It’s the policy of the NRA, with approximately 30,000 members in New Mexico, not to discuss shootings like the one in Aurora. After all, people are crazy and it would happen anyway. What you gonna do? Wait until we’ve solved everyone’s unresolved psychological issues, I guess. Meanwhile, it could happen to your kids.

July 24, 2012 at 07:16 AM in Guest Blogger, Guns, Regulation | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, June 01, 2012

Guest Blog: Where is Our Voice on the PRC? by Danny Maki

Where is our voice on the PRC? Earlier this week the PRC just granted Blue Cross Blue Shield an increase of 6.9%. That is their 3rd increase in 4 years. As an employee of a non-profit that took a pay cut in December due to the economic downturn, this decision to increase the insurance rates does not represent me. Does it represent your best interest?

This political season amidst the letters to the editor advancing "their" candidate by tearing down the candidate they wish to stop, we seem to have forgotten the real importance of the PRC election. The fact of the matter is PRC has ignored the best interests of us, the New Mexico public.

I am Danny Maki, a life-long resident of Santa Fe and now a candidate for the District 3 seat on the powerful but badly troubled and struggling Public Regulation Commission. In the U.S. Congress I worked on the law that created healthcare reform, and because of that experience I understand the importance of a comprehensive healthcare plan so that we are not subjected to these out of control rate increases during an economic downturn. Healthcare is a right, not a privilege.

The work of the PRC is complex and highly technical. I worked at the PRC and I have direct experience analyzing rate cases. I already understand the economic, legal and finances aspects that factor into a rate case and I am prepared on Day One to start the job by asking the informed, tough, but fair questions that remain unanswered.

My grandparents were born and raised in rural areas of New Mexico. My aunts, uncles and cousins live in rural New Mexico today. I understand and value the importance of accessibility. That is why I will bring the commission to the people of New Mexico by holding open office hours in all counties in District 3. This will enable New Mexicans to voice concerns directly to me about a rate case, so I can be a strong voice for consumers across the district.

Another recent action at the PRC that doesn't represent the best interests of New Mexicans is the inappropriate behavior of the current chairman of the PRC, Pat Lyons. A small example of Lyons' inappropriate behavior include his personal use of a Ford 250 pickup truck for approximately 65 days which probably violated the rules of a federal program, resulting in more than $1,100 of questionable costs to the public, that's costs to us as taxpayers. And that's according to an under-publicized audit earlier this year. I am the contender who will hold him accountable for his inappropriate leadership, if it can be called leadership.

As part of a fresh, innovated approach as a PRC commissioner, I'm inviting the non-partisan community groups like the League of Women Voters to perform an audit of the PRC starting my first day in office.

Part of the process to reform the PRC is to ensure that the Commission is serving you at its full potential. This campaign season I propose re-establish a standard of political discourse and focus on our visions for the PRC.

We need a voice on the PRC, a new, fresh perspective. I will work harder, smarter and get the kind of results we've yet to see from the current Public Regulation Commission in New Mexico. Never forgetting my roots in Northern New Mexico, or whom I'm working for, I will put people first again. And while that may seem tough to most career politicians, it's all I've ever known.

June 1, 2012 at 09:54 AM in 2012 NM PRC Races, Candidates & Races, Energy, Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Al Park Receives Ten More Endorsements for Public Regulation Commissioner

Al Park’s Campaign for Public Regulation Commissioner is proud to announce that it has been endorsed by 8 more community leaders as well as two more unions. Al’s campaign for the PRC continues to receive strong support from local leaders due to his outstanding record of results as a legislator and vision for the PRC’s future. The endorsements include:

  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers New Mexico Building Trades
  • Morris “Mo” Chavez, Former Superintendent of Insurance
  • Marty Esquivel, Albuquerque School Board Member
  • Don E. Leonard, Sandoval County Commissioner J
  • im Noel, Former Secretary of Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources
  • Stuart Paisano, Former Governor of Sandia Pueblo
  • Ben Rodefer, Former State Representative
  • John Sapien, State Senator
  • Kiki Saavedra, State Representative, Chair of House Appropriations Committee

Albuquerque School Board Member Marty Esquivel commented, “Based on Al’s record of supporting ethics and transparency reform as a member of the State House I know that he is serious when he talks about reforming the PRC.” Park helped pass the Whistleblower Protection Act, Gift Act, and fought for an independent ethics commission while in the State House.

Former New Mexico Secretary of Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources, Jim Noel cited Park’s advocacy for renewable energy programs within the state as the reason for his endorsement. “His vision regarding developing New Mexico’s renewable energy sector is something our economy desperately needs.” Secretary Noel continued, “And his experience on the House Energy Committee will be invaluable to the PRC as it makes sure our utilities are making progress toward their requirement that 20% of their energy comes from renewable sources by 2020”

“I am honored to receive these endorsements,” said Park. “It goes to show that my commitment to creating a green energy economy and bringing ethics reform to the PRC has really resonated with people,” Park continued. With today’s endorsements 25 local leaders and organizations have endorsed Al Park’s campaign for Public Regulation Commissioner. For a full list of endorsements please visit http://www.alparkfornewmexico.com/p/endorsements.html

May 10, 2012 at 12:15 PM in 2012 NM PRC Races, Energy, Green Economy, Regulation | Permalink | Comments (2)

Congressman Heinrich Introduces Password Protection Act of 2012

Identical House & Senate Bills Introduced Today to Protect Constituents’ Online Privacy

On Wednesday, May 9, 2012, U.S. Representatives Martin Heinrich (NM-1) and Ed Perlmutter (CO-7) introduced legislation aimed at curbing the growing practice of employers requiring prospective or current employees to provide access to password-protected accounts as a condition for employment. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced an identical companion bill today in the Senate.

“Employers demanding Facebook passwords or confidential information on other social networks is an egregious privacy violation and should be against the law,” said Rep. Heinrich. “Personal information like race, religion, age, and sexual orientation is often accessible on social networking profiles, and by having access to this information employers could discriminate against an applicant who would otherwise be qualified for a job. In an ever expanding world of technology, we need to have clear laws on the books to protect Americans' right to privacy.”

The Password Protection Act of 2012, drafted in consultation with major technology companies and legal experts, addresses this problem by enhancing current law to ensure that compelling or coercing employees into providing access to data stored in private accounts is prohibited.

“Employers seeking access to passwords or confidential information on social networks, email accounts, or other protected Internet services is an unreasonable and intolerable invasion of privacy,” said Sen. Blumenthal. “With few exceptions, employers do not have the need or the right to demand access to applicants’ private, password-protected information. This legislation, which I am proud to introduce, ensures that employees and job seekers are free from these invasive and intrusive practices.”

“People have an expectation of privacy when using social media like Facebook and Twitter,” said Rep. Perlmutter. “They have an expectation that their right to free speech and religion will be respected when they use social media outlets. No American should have to provide their confidential personal passwords as a condition of employment. Both users of social media and those who correspond share the expectation of privacy in their personal communications. Employers essentially can act as imposters and assume the identity of an employee and continually access, monitor and even manipulate an employee 's personal social activities and opinions. That's simply a step too far.”

Recent news reports have highlighted a disturbing increase in the number of employers asking prospective employees to hand over usernames and passwords to their personal accounts on websites like Facebook. Some job applicants are even being asked during interviews to log into these websites and allow interviewers to browse the applicant’s profile, acquaintances, and other information. Others are being asked to provide passwords on job applications.

The Password Protection Act of 2012 enhances current law to prohibit employers from compelling or coercing employees into providing access to their private accounts:

  • Prohibits an employer from forcing prospective or current employees to provide access to their own private account as a condition of employment.
  • Prohibits employers from discriminating or retaliating against a prospective or current employee because that employee refuses to provide access to a password-protected account.
  • The Password Protection Act only prohibits adverse employment related actions as a consequence of an employee’s failure to provide access to their own private accounts. It preserves the rights of employers to: Permit social networking within the office on a voluntary basis. Set policies for employer-operated computer systems. Hold employees accountable for stealing data from their employers. Employers that violate the Password Protection Act may face financial penalties.

The other House Members joining Reps. Heinrich and Perlmutter as original cosponsors are Reps. Ben Ray Luján (NM-3), Bobby Rush (IL-1), Jim Cooper (TN-5), Lois Capps (CA-23), Larry Kissell (NC-8), David Cicilline (RI-1), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), John Lewis (GA-5), Steven Rothman (NJ-9) & Adam Schiff (CA-29).

May 10, 2012 at 09:02 AM in Regulation, Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01) | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, April 09, 2012

PNM Ratepayers Deliver More than 3,000 Petitions Demanding that Utility Invest Huge Profits in Clean Energy

On Tuesday, April 10, members of Sierra Club, SouthWest Organizing Project (SWOP), Dine Citizens Against Ruining our Environment (Dine CARE), CREDO Action, and 350.org will deliver more than 3,000 petition signatures to Public Service Co. of New Mexico (PNM) CEO Pat Vincent-Collawn at PNM’s headquarters in Albuquerque, demanding that the utility use their huge profits to invest in clean energy instead of relying on old, dirty coal-fired power plants. The petition signatures were collected online in response to a recent report from the organizations called “Perspective on PNM,” which exposed the utility's massive corporate profits and extravagant executive compensation, as well as PNM’s meager investment in clean energy and efficiency programs.

The “Perspective on PNM” report found that since 2008, PNM's electricity rates have increased by 41 percent, adding $250 per year to the average residential ratepayer's bill in the midst of the recession. The report also revealed that the company has directed 79% of its recent rate increases to corporate profits, and less than 6% to efficiency and renewable energy. In addition, PNM lags behind other New Mexico utilities in meeting state laws for renewable energy investments and efficiency programs that create jobs, cut pollution, and save people and small businesses money.

VISUALS: New Mexicans with colorful signs, pies with 6% slices cut out, to represent PNM’s paltry investment in clean energy.
WHAT: Rally and Petition Delivery to PNM
WHO: Sierra Club, SouthWest Organizing Project, Dine CARE, Project 350NM, and CREDO Action

Speakers:

  • Juan Reynosa, SouthWest Organizing Project (SWOP)
  • Donna House, Dine Citizens Against Ruining our Environment (Dine CARE)
  • Shrayas Jatkar, Sierra Club
  • Deirdre Smith, Project 350NM

WHEN: Tuesday, April 10, at Noon (12pm)
WHERE: 414 Silver Avenue, SW, Albuquerque, NM 87102 (Map)

April 9, 2012 at 12:33 PM in Action Alerts, Energy, Environment, Green Economy, Regulation | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New Mexicans Can “Breathe A Little Easier” Thanks to EPA’s Proposed Carbon Pollution Standard

San juan gen plant_coal
Photo above taken in Nov., 2011 by Martin LaMonica/cnet

From the Sierra Club: Local Groups and Citizens Express Support for New Safeguards that Will Hold Industrial Polluters Accountable and Help Protect New Mexico Communities’ Health

Today, New Mexicans are breathing a little easier after the Environmental Protection Agency’s and Obama Administration’s release of a proposal to limit carbon pollution from new power plants, which is essential to improve public health. Local organizations including Physicians for Social Responsibility of New Mexico, New Mexico Interfaith Power & Light, New Mexico Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, and Environment New Mexico applauded the new standards.

“Every year, coal-fired power plants dump more than two billion tons of dangerous carbon pollution and other pollutants into the air,” said Dr. Robert Bernstein with Physicians for Social Responsibility of New Mexico. “This new standard announced by the Obama Administration and the EPA will establish the first national limits on carbon pollution from new power plants and move our nation a much-needed step forward toward protecting public health from the harmful effects of climate change. Doctors, nurses, scientists and other health experts say that carbon pollution is particularly dangerous for children because it makes smog pollution worse, which triggers asthma attacks and permanently damages and reduces the function of children’s lungs.”

New Mexicans are showing their support for the new carbon rules, saying the EPA is doing its job under the Clean Air Act – and holding power plants accountable for the amount of pollution they spew into the air. The New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board recently repealed two plans that would have required statewide carbon polluters, including major stationary sources like coal-fired power plants and oil and gas refineries, to reduce emissions beginning in 2012 and 2013. The Public Service Co. of New Mexico, (PNM), the largest electric utility in the state, oil and gas associations, and New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez lobbied against the common-sense state carbon pollution limits.

“The EPA and Obama Administration stood up to the big polluters like PNM and opposed their efforts to block clean air standards,” said Shrayas Jatkar with the Sierra Club in New Mexico. “Our public leaders would be wise to remember not to put corporate polluters’ profits ahead of our kids’ health and know that New Mexico families want the EPA to protect us from dangerous air pollution from power plants.”

In addition to strictly limiting carbon pollution and protecting public health, many say these new standards will also spark innovation in clean technologies and create green jobs here in America.

“Like the EPA and Obama Administration’s clean car standards that will cut carbon pollution from new vehicles nearly in half by 2025 while at the same time helping rebuild the American auto industry, standards for new and existing power plants will likely spur innovation and create jobs,” said Mark Westbrock of Positive Energy, a New Mexico solar installation company. “The new technologies necessary to make significant reductions in harmful carbon pollution will encourage innovation in the power sector leading to clean technology manufacturing jobs.”

The standards announced today will limit carbon pollution from new power plants. The EPA is also working to develop standards to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants, and is expected to issue a draft proposal for existing plants early next year.

New Mexico is home to two of the nation’s oldest and largest coal-fired power plants, the San Juan Generating Station and Four Corners Power Plant. Both coal plants rank in the Top 50 for carbon pollution, together emitting over 23 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.

“We also applaud Administrator Jackson for continuing to work with scientists, economists and public health officials on a process for addressing carbon pollution from existing power plants. The health and safety of current and future generations depends on us tackling this problem,” said Sanders Moore with Environment New Mexico.

March 28, 2012 at 05:59 PM in Energy, Government, Regulation | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Court Denies Attempt by Gov. Martinez and PNM to Stall Pollution Controls for Coal-burning Plant

A BIG WIN for the people's health in the four corners.

Smog-in-shiprock
Photo from New Energy Economy; (photo: Smog in Shiprock, New Mexico – credit: Jane Partiger/EcoFlight)

A federal court ruled today that PNM must comply with a decision last fall requiring the utility to install pollution controls to significantly cut the 16,000 tons a year of harmful haze, ozone, and fine particle-producing nitrogen pollution that pours from the smokestacks each year at the San Juan Generating Station near Farmington, N.M.

Gov. Susana Martinez and PNM had petitioned the court to delay the EPA’s pollution-control requirement from taking effect while they challenge the agency’s decision in court. Today’s 10th Circuit decision denies the Martinez-PNM delay, at the same time sending a positive signal that EPA’s decision stands on solid legal ground.

“Now it’s really time for PNM and Gov. Martinez to stop standing against the health of our communities who breathe this coal plant’s pollution day in and day out,” said Sarah Jane White with the Navajo group Diné CARE. “It’s time they start standing instead where the people of New Mexico stand – on the side of energy from clean sources that create jobs and protect health, land, air and water.”

The San Juan plant sits just outside the borders of Navajo tribal land near Farmington. “As long as San Juan Generating Station is running, it needs the best pollution controls possible,” said White, “but when you look at the smartest use of precious ratepayer dollars, moving off coal to renewable energy is the answer.”

The federal court’s decision comes on the heels of a report released earlier in the week that revealed that while PNM has been fighting EPA’s pollution control requirements, the utility has raised average residential rates 41 percent since 2008, and steered the large majority of the money into corporate profits.

"PNM is already irresponsibly funneling over a hundred million dollars of New Mexicans' hard-earned money into skyrocketing corporate profits during a tough recession,” said New Energy Economy Executive Director Mariel Nanasi. “Now Governor Martinez and the utility should immediately stop wasting more ratepayer and taxpayer money fighting clean air and public health in court, and start investing in cleanenergy."

For decades, nitrogen emissions from coal-burning power plantshave been a major source of harmful haze in the Four Corners region, clouding the air and views in economically important national parks. Premature deaths, asthma attacks, heart attacks, chronic bronchitis, and hospital visits from San Juan Generating Station’s pollution cost an estimated $255 million a year, according to the Clean Air Task Force.

Nitrogen oxide reacts with other compounds to form small particles that penetrate deeply into sensitive parts of the lungs. It is also a raw ingredient in the formation of ground-level ozone, which leads to asthma attacks, respiratory problems, lung damage, and even premature death.

Western Environmental Law Center and Earthjustice represented the following groups contesting the request by PNM and Gov. Martinez to delay implementation of the pollution controls: New Energy Economy, San Juan Citizens Alliance, National Park Conservation Association, Diné Citizens Against Ruining our Environment, and Sierra Club.

March 1, 2012 at 09:00 PM in Environment, Regulation, Susana Martinez | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

New Report Finds New Mexico Utility PNM Used Huge Rate Hikes on Residents to Fuel Soaring Profits During Recession

The Sierra Club, New Energy Economy, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Dine’ CARE, and Southwest Organizing Project released a report today finding that New Mexico’s largest utility, the Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM), has aggressively pursued major increases in electricity rates, corporate profits, and executive pay during a period of economic hardship for many residents.

Pnm pic 2 001
The analysis of financial documents and investor presentations of PNM and its parent company, PNM Resources (PNMR), reveals that since 2008 the utility has directed 79 percent of the $182 million it has raised from rate increases into corporate profits ¾ driving a 2500 percent profit increase.

“With three rate hikes in four years going mostly to corporate profits while New Mexicans are struggling, PNM is behaving like a big Wall St. bank,” said New Energy Economy Executive Director Mariel Nanasi. “The utility’s claims to care about residents and rate impacts ring hollow.”

The report finds that in 2010, the year unemployment in New Mexico hit 8.4 percent, PNMR raised pay for its top five corporate executives by 68 percent, including doubling CEO Pat Vincent-Collawn’s pay to nearly $2.5 million a year.

PNM’s 2008, 2009, and 2011 rate hikes have amounted to an additional $250 a year for the average New Mexico residential ratepayer, a 41 percent increase, according to the analysis. Less than 6 percent of the money from PNM’s rate hikes was spent toward energy efficiency programs that benefit ratepayers or clean energy projects that create jobs and reduce reliance on costly and polluting coal plants, such as PNM’s San Juan Generating Station near Farmington.

“PNM has been enriching its investors while stalling on renewable energy investments and efficiency programs that create jobs, cut pollution, and save New Mexicans money,” said Shrayas Jatkar, Sierra Club organizing representative in Albuquerque. “This is a wake-up call that ratepayers and regulators must closely question any PNM rate increases going forward.”

Pnm pic1 001

While the state’s other investor-owned utilities, El Paso Electric and Southwestern Public Service, are complying with state law by providing 10 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources, PNM is failing to meet the standard. On energy efficiency programs that save New Mexicans money, PNM lags far behind the 5 percent savings required by 2014, the report finds.

“New Mexicans want more energy coming from clean sources without the air pollution, toxic ash waste, and intensive water use of burning coal,” said Mike Eisenfeld with the San Juan Citizens Alliance in Farmington, where residents are exposed to air pollutants from the nearby San Juan Generating Station and Four Corners Power Plant. “On that priority, PNM is holding our state back.”

The Perspective on PNM report notes that 80 percent of PNMR stock is held by financial institutions, largely outside of the state. After the November 2011 sale of its Texas energy business First Choice for $270 million, PNMR used the money to repurchase $230 million in PNMR shares, meaning “most of the money left New Mexico instead of being invested in-state,” according to the report.

"PNM has been resisting the air pollution controls needed at its San Juan coal plant at the exact same time they've been putting so much money to profits," said Lori Goodman with Dine' Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment (Dine’ CARE). "That's an added insult to all who live near that plant's pollution, and it says a lot about PNM's priorities."

The report is being shared with members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation and Public Regulatory Commission (PRC).

Please click here for a PDF version of the report, “Perspective on PNM: Rates, Profits & Priorities During the Recession (2008-2012).”

 

February 28, 2012 at 04:41 PM in Business, Corporatism, Energy, Environment, Regulation | Permalink | Comments (5)