PNM Resources Inc., the parent company of New Mexico’s largest electric provider, this week reported earnings of more than $176 million for 2011 and “improvements in ongoing earnings per share of nearly 25 percent.” But PNM’s earnings report came as environmental groups accused it of pursuing rate hikes, higher profits and exorbitant executive pay at a time when ratepayers are struggling to pay their electricity bills. On Tuesday, February 28, five nonprofit groups — The Sierra Club, New Energy Economy, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Diné CARE and Southwest Organizing Project — issued a new report contending that while rate increases in 2008, 2009 and 2011 have amounted to an additional $250 million in revenue for PNM, less than 6 percent of the money was spent on energy efficiency programs and clean energy projects. “With three rate hikes in four years going mostly to corporate profits while New Mexicans are struggling, PNM is behaving like a big Wall Street bank,” said Mariel Nanasi, executive director of the environmental group New Energy Economy.
On February 29 — an international “Leap Day of Action” mobilized by the Occupy movement — protesters with (un)Occupy Albuquerque and Occupy Santa Fe continued to turn up the heat on PNM by joining forces for a coordinated protest outside the corporation’s downtown Albuquerque headquarters. Here is a video report from KOB that covers the un/Occupy protest and environmentalist criticism against PNM:
Then on Thursday, March 1st, environmentalist won a victory for clean energy as the US Court of Appeals denied PNM’s request for a delay in the Environmental Protection Agency’s five-year compliance deadline for the company’s flagship San Juan coal-fired plant to install “selective catalytic reduction” (SCR) clean air technology. However, the court will now consider the merits of appeals against the requirement by PNM, the N.M. Environment Department and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez. Those parties maintain EPA’s mandate would cost New Mexico electric ratepayers and others about $750 million or more while a New Mexico plan could meet the same federal visibility rules for $77 million, or about one-tenth of the cost. Environmental groups that have fought the company over San Juan emissions for years contend PNM has greatly exaggerated the cost of selective catalytic reduction, noting its share of the cost based on the EPA number would actually be $160 million. Some have criticized the state proposal as “nothing more than a cheap air filter.”
The EPA’s rule would provide far greater visibility and health benefits, said Shrayas Jatkar of the Sierra Club. “A long-term affordable energy strategy that works for New Mexico means transitioning away from dirty coal and meaningfully investing in energy efficiency … and installing renewables,” said New Energy Economy’s Mariel Nanasi.