SANTA FE – Lawmakers are poised to resurrect legislation that would have helped New Mexico’s largest electric utility recoup some of its costs from closing a coal-fired power plant, which would have also provided economic development money for the surrounding community.
Many lawmakers said last week they are in talks with Public Service Company of New Mexico representatives and some legislative leaders about the bill – or at least pieces of it, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported. The bill ultimately died during the last legislative session.
“Discussions have been continuing,” said House Republican Whip Rod Montoya, from Farmington, describing the issue as “the most important thing to our constituents in San Juan County.”
State Sen. Jacob Candelaria, a Democrat from Albuquerque who co-sponsored this year’s bill, said he is also in talks about the issue.
“At the very least, we need to have more discussion and keep the momentum going,” he said, urging lawmakers to revisit the matter as committees meet in coming months.
It is unknown exactly what shape a deal might take and whether it can keep together an unlikely coalition of conservationists and business interests that may be necessary to pass a bill.
To be sure, Public Service Company of New Mexico spends big on state politics. The utility recently pumped $440,000 into a political action committee to influence races for the commission that regulates it, the New Mexican said.
Critics of the bill argue it would have amounted to a bailout of the company’s investment in coal energy. They also say the measure was an end run around the state’s utility regulator and would have left customers with higher bills.
Lawmakers, meanwhile, maintained that any legislation must be shaped in the open after contending that the last bill didn’t get enough public scrutiny before it was introduced ahead of this year’s session.
“We got bits and pieces through talking in the hall as opposed to having a chance to really look at something,” said state Rep. Patty Lundstrom, D-Gallup.
Proponents acknowledged Tuesday that the 2018 bill may have been too big, suggesting that any deal might be scaled back or at least rolled out in different pieces of legislation.