Hannah Grover, Farmington Daily TimesPublished 7:55 p.m. MT Feb. 24, 2020

FARMINGTON — The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission hearing examiners have recommended that the commission approve Public Service Company of New Mexico’s application to abandon the San Juan Generating Station and refinance past investments using low-interest bonds. However, that does not necessarily mean the San Juan Generating Station will close in 2022.

In fact, Farmington Mayor Nate Duckett described the recommended decision as a positive step forward in the effort to keep the plant open.

“Now PNM is able to close a chapter on what they’ve been trying to do for years,” Duckett said.

He said that will allow Enchant Energy to ultimately take ownership of the plant, retrofit it with carbon capture technology and keep it open.

The recommended decision is not the final decision. The various parties involved in the case now have the opportunity to weigh in on the recommendation before the PRC ultimately decides whether to accept it, amend it or reject it.

The final decision will likely come by the end of March.

Recommended decisions generate mainly positive reactions

The hearing examiners issued two recommended decision documents on Feb. 21. One document focused on the abandonment — or PNM ending its operations — of the San Juan Generating Station. The second document focused on financing.

The Energy Transition Act, which became law in 2019, allows investor-owned utilities like PNM that are regulated by the PRC to apply for a financing mechanism known as securitization. This involves using low-interest bonds to refinance the past investments into the power plant.

“Regulatory abandonment does not mean closure,” said Enchant Energy Chief Operating Officer Peter Mandelstam.

He said the recommended decision is an important step forward for the success of the carbon capture project.

“I see this as a win for the City of Farmington and Enchant,” Mandelstam said, adding that, most importantly, he sees it as a win for PNM’s ratepayers.

Enchant Energy is not directly involved as an intervenor in the case, but its partner, the City of Farmington, did intervene. Intervenors are allowed to file testimony and cross-examine witnesses.

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