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Down Low Dealings at PNM Regarding Rate Hikes

By Tracy Dingmann

Six local watchdog groups have filed statements in opposition to PNM’s plan to raise rates for electric service in New Mexico, saying the company negotiated the rate hikes in secret and without input from customers and other parties opposed to the rate hike.

The state’s largest electric utility had announced recently that it would seek a rate hike of as much as 25 percent on residential customers.

Subsequently, executives from PNM, along with members of the Public Regulation Commission and staffers from the office of the New Mexico Attorney General carried out negotiations regarding the rate hike and came up with a figure that appeared much lower.

Now representatives from six citizen’s advocacy groups say the groups negotiated the hike behind closed doors and did not take input from the people who will most be affected – the customers. The groups also say the negotiated agreement contains measures that will make it very easy for PNM to charge customers more again in a few short years.

“They didn’t allow other parties with concerns and issues to participate in that and, as a result, they came out with a very bad deal that does not fairly address the company’s needs, and does not fairly address the needs of customers,” said Steve Michel, chief counsel for the Western Resource Advocates energy program in Santa Fe.

Besides Western Resource Advocates, the other groups that filed statements in opposition to the proposed rate hikes are New Energy Economy, Prosperity Works, the Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy, the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, and the Commercial Energy User Coalition.

Michel points out that, while PNM is now asking for $85 million in rate increases in the negotiated proposal – down from an original request of $165 million in an earlier proposal – the new proposal includes a few “riders” and “reopeners” that could mean customers could pay much more for the same electric service within just a few years.

“You may have a rate increase even greater than what the company originally asked for. These rate riders really disguise and mask what’s really going on, as far as customer rates over the next few years,” he said.

If all of this makes you mad, consider calling your Public Regulations Commissioner and letting him or her know that you don’t support the agreement they negotiated in secret with PNM. Tell him or her that you want them to reject that agreement and start over, in public.

To find out who your commissioner is, visit the PRC website or call 1-888-4ASK-PRC (1-888-427-5772).

There is still time to make a difference!

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