FARMINGTON – As Four Corners residents debate the future of the San Juan Generating Station, the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission has called for additional hearings this month to discuss plans to replace the power generated by the coal-fired plant.
The hearings begin Jan. 21 in Santa Fe, with the first day dedicated to public comments. Part of the Public Service Co. of New Mexico’s (PNM) application to end operations at the generating station requires establishing a viable alternative power plan for its customers, which must be approved by the Public Regulation Commission (PRC), which is responsible for ensuring utility customers have fair and reasonable rates and services.
The PRC is charged with approving the utility company’s replacement power plan to continue providing electricity to its customers in the face of the company’s scheduled abandonment of the coal-fired plant in 2022. Although PNM has submitted several plans, it has previously said it prefers using the Piñon Gas Plant, located near the San Juan Generating Station, for natural gas production. The plant would remain operational until 2040. This replacement plan would also call for a combination of solar energy and battery storage.
The hearing is also an opportunity for intervenors to share their own ideas about how PNM should best replace the coal-fired energy from the generating station.
Some intervenors – like the San Juan Citizens Alliance – support a full renewable energy and battery storage replacement power plan. Others worry about the economic impact of the plant’s closure to the Four Corners – it’s one of the largest employers in the region – and encourage the plant to remain open in some capacity to maintain jobs.
According to the commission, intervenors who have filed witness testimony during the past few months will also have the opportunity to question witnesses during the hearing. The witness testimony will be available on the commission’s portal on its website.
The hearing comes a few weeks after commissioners from the PRC traveled to Farmington for an open hearing, where many community members submitted public testimony in favor of Enchant Energy retrofitting the San Juan Generating Station with carbon-capture technology. Continued discussions around Enchant Energy’s proposal are expected to be included in the hearing in Santa Fe, even though PNM has previously said it will not consider buying power from Enchant.
In addition to considering the replacement power plan, the commission is tasked with determining if the state’s new energy transition law would apply to PNM’s initial closure proposal, filed before the passage of the law.
PRC Chairwoman Theresa Becenti-Aquilar organized the meeting in Farmington and urged participants to attend or submit public testimony for the Jan. 21 hearing in Santa Fe. Those unable to attend the hearing in person are encouraged to submit public comment in writing or online.