Episode 840 | Earth Day: Energy Issues in New Mexico


>>THERE’S A LOT OF DEBATE
IN NEW MEXICO ABOUT HOW WE SHOULD ADDRESS OUR ENERGY
NEEDS IN THE FUTURE. THIS WEEK’S LINE OPINION
PANELISTS ARE READY TO SHARE THEIR THOUGHTS AND REACT TO
RECENT ENERGY ISSUES THAT MADE IT INTO THE HEADLINES
OF LOCAL AND NATIONAL MEDIA. I’M JOINED AT THE TABLE BY
JOURNALIST LAURA PASKUS, WHO REGULARLY COVERS
ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES HERE IN NEW MEXICO.
MACKENZIE GREENE-POWELL, A UNM GRADUATE STUDENT IN THE
DEPARTMENT OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE.
OUR GOOD FRIEND, LAURA SANCHEZ-RIV�T, SHE’S AN
ATTORNEY AND FORMER CEO OF THE NEW MEXICO GREEN
CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, AND, OF COURSE, A REGULAR LINE
PANELIST HERE ON NEW MEXICO InFOCUS.
AND CAROLYN PARRS, SHE’S OWNER OF MIND OVER MATTER
MARKET, A SANTA FE BASED MARKING FIRM THAT FOCUSES ON
GREEN BUSINESSES AND THE GREEN ECONOMY.
THANK YOU ALL FOR BEING HERE FOR THIS SPECIAL EARTH DAY
EDITION. NOW, THERE’S A LOT OF
ATTENTION RIGHT NOW ON THE SAN JUAN GENERATING STATION
IN NORTHWESTERN NEW MEXICO. PUBLIC SERVICE COMPANY OF
NEW MEXICO, OR PNM AS WE KNOW IT, WANTS TO SHUT DOWN
TWO UNITS AT THE COAL-FIRED POWER PLANT.
THE PNM PLAN NEEDS APPROVAL FROM THE STATE PUBLIC
REGULATION COMMISSION. BUT, A HEARING OFFICER
RECOMMENDED LAST WEEK THAT THE PRC REJECT THE PLAN.
OPPONENTS TO THE PNM PLAN SAY IT RELIES TOO MUCH ON
COAL AND SHOULD INCLUDE MORE ALTERNATIVE SOURCES OF
ENERGY TO REPLACE THE UNITS THAT WOULD BE SHUT DOWN.
LAURA SANCHEZ-RIV�T, WHAT DOES THIS DEBATE SIGNAL TO
YOU ABOUT THE CURRENT ENERGY CONVERSATION HERE IN
NEW MEXICO, BECAUSE THIS REALLY IS A FOCAL POINT OF A
LOT OF THINGS. POLICY, ENVIRONMENT, ALL THE
THINGS THAT WE WRESTLE WITH ON ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES ARE
HAPPENING RIGHT HERE AT PNM.>>THIS IS A HUGE OUTCOME, I
THINK, A HUGE CHANGE FROM WHAT PNM WAS EXPECTING TO
GET OUT OF THIS CASE. I SHOULD CLARIFY, IT WASN’T
REJECTED IN TOTAL. IT WAS ESSENTIALLY A
SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT THAT INCLUDED THE ATTORNEY
GENERAL AND THE LARGE INDUSTRIAL CONSUMERS IN THE
STATE, AS WELL AS PNM, FOR THIS PROPOSAL THAT INCLUDED
SHUTTING DOWN TWO COAL-FIRED UNITS IN THE SAN JUAN
GENERATING STATION. THE THING ABOUT IT IS THAT
THERE ARE FOUR UNITS TOTAL, TWO WOULD BE SHUT DOWN, AND
THAT’S A GOOD THING OVERALL. WE WANT LESS COAL.
BUT THE OUTCOME, THE REPLACEMENT POWER THEY WERE
GOING TO USE WAS 132 MEGAWATTS OF COAL FROM
ANOTHER UNIT. SO ESSENTIALLY, THEY’RE
GETTING RID OF COAL AND REPLACING IT WITH COAL FROM
ANOTHER UNIT, AND I THINK THE PROBLEMATIC PART OF THAT
IS THAT OTHER COMPANIES ARE ALSO CO-OWNERS, OTHER
ARIZONA UTILITIES AND OTHER PARTIES ARE CO-OWNERS OF
THAT, AND THEY’RE ACTUALLY GIVING UP THEIR COAL, AND
PNM WAS PROPOSING TO PICK UP SOME OF THAT COAL TO REPLACE
THE POWER. SO IT WAS I THINK A HUGE
STEP FORWARD IN TERMS OF TRYING TO REPLACE COAL WITH
RENEWABLE ENERGY, BUT THE HEARING OFFICER SAID, NO,
WE’RE GOING TO REJECT THAT 132 MEGAWATTS.
IN ADDITION, THEY BASICALLY CHANGED OR REJECTED PART OF
WHAT THE FINANCING INCLUDED, OR THE AMOUNT, THE PROJECTED
AMOUNT OF NUCLEAR THAT HAD BEEN PROPOSED.
SO BASICALLY, PNM PROPOSED NUCLEAR FROM PALO VERDE
NUCLEAR GENERATING STATION IN ARIZONA, AND THEY
BASICALLY ESTIMATED IT TO BE TOO HIGH, AND THAT WOULD BE
SOMETHING THAT RATEPAYERS WOULD HAVE TO PAY FOR.
SO THE HEARING OFFICER SAID, NO, WE NEED TO BRING THAT
COST DOWN, BECAUSE IT’S ACTUALLY A LOT LESS THAN
WHAT YOU’RE ESTIMATING, AND THAT TURNS AROUND AND
BASICALLY MEANS LESS, YOU KNOW, BILLS, LOWER BILLS FOR
CONSUMERS.>>AND THAT’S THE BOTTOM
LINE HERE IN A LOT OF WAYS FOR FOLKS SITTING AT HOME.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR MY POCKETBOOK.
LAURA PASKUS, GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN.
IT’S ALWAYS GREAT WHEN YOU’RE HERE TO TALK ABOUT
THESE ISSUES. IN YOUR EXTENSIVE REPORTING
ON THIS ISSUE AND OTHERS, IT’S NO JOKE TO SAY THIS,
IT’S UNDER A CLOUD, THE FOUR CORNERS AREA.
NASA HAS DETERMINED THERE’S A BIG METHANE CLOUD THAT’S
BIGGER THAN ANY OTHER PLACE IN THE UNITED STATES RIGHT
NOW. I’VE ALWAYS BEEN CURIOUS,
HOW IS THAT EFFECTING THE DEBATE IN THE FOUR CORNERS
AREA? IS THAT SOMETHING THAT’S
TAKEN VERY SERIOUSLY? IS IT A CALL TO ARMS?
WHAT’S YOUR SENSE OF THAT?>>I THINK THERE’S A BIG
MEETING THAT’S GOING TO BE HAPPENING THIS WEEK WHERE
SCIENTISTS ARE GOING TO BE COMING AND TALKING WITH THE
PUBLIC ABOUT WHERE THIS METHANE IS ACTUALLY COMING
FROM AND HOPEFULLY WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT.
BUT I THINK YOU’RE RIGHT, THE FOUR CORNERS, WE’VE GOT
MINING, WE’VE GOT COAL-FIRED POWER PLANTS, WE’VE GOT OIL
AND GAS DRILLING.>>SURE, IT’S REALLY GROUND
ZERO FOR US HERE IN THE STATE, ISN’T IT.
WE’RE GOING TO COME BACK TO SOME OTHER THINGS GOING ON
IN THE FOUR CORNERS, AS WELL.
MACKENZIE, THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE, AS WELL.
LAURA SANCHEZ-RIV�T TOUCHED ON NUCLEAR ENERGY AND PALO
VERDE. WHERE DOES THAT SIT?
BECAUSE IF YOU THINK BACK A FEW WEEKS, THAT WAS A BIG,
BIG DEBATE. FOLKS GOT REALLY VEXED ABOUT
NUCLEAR ENERGY AS AN ALTERNATIVE.
IT WAS THE ANSWER FOR A LOT OF FOLKS.
FOR NEW MEXICO, WHERE DOES THAT STAND NOW?
>>WELL, I THINK IT’S INTERESTING BECAUSE PALO
VERDE IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST NUCLEAR GENERATING STATIONS
IN THE UNITED STATES, AND COMING OUT OF THE FUKUSHIMA
DAIICHI DISASTER, A LOT OF AWARENESS WAS GENERATED
AROUND THE DANGERS OF NUCLEAR POWER AND PEOPLE
WERE VERY KIND OF ANTI-NUCLEAR POWER,
ESPECIALLY IN GERMANY. THE COUNTRY ABANDONED IT.
BUT FOR NEW MEXICO, WE HAVE THIS DEBATE ABOUT RENEWABLE
ENERGY, HOW ARE WE GOING TO SWITCH TO A LOW CARBON
ECONOMY, ESPECIALLY MOVING AWAY FROM COAL, AND YOU HAVE
A LOT OF PEOPLE PUSHING NUCLEAR POWER AS THE LOW
CARBON REPLACEMENT FOR COAL. SO I THINK THAT FOR
NEW MEXICO WE HAVE TO ASK OURSELVES, AS A SOURCE OF
URANIUM AND FACING NEW URANIUM MINING, WHICH WILL
ALSO POSSIBLY IMPACT GROUNDWATER, WE HAVE A
TERRIBLE HISTORY WITH HEALTH IMPACTS AND ENVIRONMENTAL
IMPACTS FROM URANIUM MINING THROUGHOUT THE STAY, DO WE
WANT TO GO DOWN THAT PATH OF REPLACING COAL WITH A
DIFFERENT SOURCE OF ENERGY WHICH IS LOW CARBON, BUT HAS
OTHER ASSOCIATED IMPACTS.>>THAT’S RIGHT.
>>IT’S A BIG QUESTION.>>IT’S AN INTERESTING
QUESTION, AND CAROLYN, THE IDEA IS THAT WE HAVE THIS
ONE GIANT GENERATING STATION UP THERE, BUT OTHER
ALTERNATIVE ENERGIES ARE CERTAINLY COMING TO THE
SURFACE, BUT NOT TO THE LEVEL THAT WE CAN REPLACE
THAT KIND OF ENERGY. WHAT DOES THAT DO TO THE
PUBLIC’S MIND? FOLKS WANT TO HAVE
ALTERNATIVE ENERGY. ALL THE POLLING SHOWS WE
HAVE TO HAVE IT, WE WANT TO HAVE IT HERE IN NEW MEXICO.
WHAT’S THE BIG STUMBLING BLOCK, THOUGH, TO PLACE COAL
POWER WITH SOMETHING ELSE?>>THE STUMBLING BLOCK HAS
OFTEN BEEN POLICY. NOT THE PEOPLE.
THE PEOPLE OFTEN PUSH IT. BUT POLICY.
AND SOMETIMES BUSINESS CAN STAND IN THE WAY, BUT
SOMETIMES BUSINESS CAN ACTUALLY CREATE THE CHANGE.
AND THAT’S WHAT I LOOK FOR. I KNOW THAT THIS PARTICULAR
PLAN BY PNM, ACCORDING TO PNM, WILL REDUCE THEIR COAL
BY 30%, SO IT’S NOT MORE COAL, BUT I THINK THE
PROBLEM IS THAT WE WANT MORE RENEWABLE ENERGY, AND IT’S
HOW FAST WE GET THERE. I THINK EVERYBODY WANTS
CLEAN ENERGY ON THIS PLANET. WE’RE ALL BREATHING THE SAME
AIR, WE’RE ALL DRINKING THE SAME WATER, BUT IN TIMES
WHEN WE’RE DEALING WITH BUSINESS, IT’S A SLOWER ROAD
THAN WHAT WE WANT IN THE ENVIRONMENTAL COMMUNITY.
>>SURE. LAURA SANCHEZ-RIV�T, ANOTHER
ANGLE ON ENERGY AND POLICY HAS TO DO WITH SENATE BILL
391, I’LL JUST GO RIGHT THERE, THAT THE GOVERNOR
VETOED, WHICH WOULD HAVE IN FACT — WHY DON’T YOU
EXPLAIN IT, ACTUALLY, AND WHAT HAPPENED THERE, AND
WE’LL GET INTO THAT.>>WELL, THERE’S ANOTHER TAX
CREDIT THAT WE HAVE HERE IN NEW MEXICO.
ESSENTIALLY, IF YOU’RE A HOMEOWNER AND YOU PURCHASE A
SOLAR SYSTEM, A PHOTOVOLTAIC SYSTEM, PV, FOR YOUR
ROOFTOP, YOU CAN GET A SOLAR CREDIT.
A CREDIT ON YOUR TAXES, THAT IS.
AND BEING TAX DAY JUST A FEW DAYS AGO, HUGE IMPACT FOR A
LOT OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE THAT SYSTEM.
BUT IT REQUIRES YOU TO ACTUALLY PURCHASE UP FRONT A
SYSTEM THAT IS FOR MANY PEOPLE, HOMEOWNERS AND
OTHERWISE, NOT AFFORDABLE. IT JUST IS A LOT OF EXPENSE
UP FRONT. THIS PARTICULAR BILL WOULD
HAVE EXPANDED THAT SOLAR CREDIT TO INCLUDE SYSTEMS
THAT ARE LEASED. SO ESSENTIALLY, YOU WOULD
LEASE THE EQUIPMENT FROM A COMPANY, LIKE SOLAR CITY,
FOR EXAMPLE, WHO IS COMING TO NEW MEXICO AND STARTING
OPERATIONS AND BRINGING A LOT OF JOBS WITH THEM.
BASICALLY, YOU COULD LEASE THAT ENTIRE SYSTEM AND PAY
IT BACK OVER TIME AND SO FORTH, LIKE A NORMAL LEASE,
AND YOU COULD STILL TAKE THE CREDIT, THE TAX CREDIT OFF
OF YOUR INCOME TAXES. SO IT’S A HUGE POTENTIAL FOR
INCREASING THAT MARKET TO PEOPLE WHO OTHERWISE WOULD
NOT HAVE THE CAPITAL TO INVEST UPFRONT.
>>WHAT’S THE OTHER SIDE OF IT?
WHAT WAS BEHIND THE VETO? I MEAN, THAT ALL MAKES SENSE
TO ANYBODY SITTING AT HOME THAT’S THINKING ABOUT THIS.
IT’S EITHER MONEY OUT OF YOUR POCKET, AND ONLY A FEW
OF US CAN DO THAT, A STOUT FIVE FIGURES, OR LITERALLY
LEASING OR RENTING. WHAT’S THE ISSUE?
>>I WOULD NEED TO SPECULATE, BECAUSE I WASN’T
THERE AT THE TIME, OF COURSE, AND DON’T HAVE
NECESSARILY A DIRECT LINE TO THE GOVERNOR, BUT I WOULD
SAY THAT IT WAS A VICTIM TO POLITICS.
IT WAS ACTUALLY POCKET VETOED.
THAT MEANS IT DIDN’T COME WITH A VETO MESSAGE, IT JUST
WASN’T ACTED UPON BY THE DEADLINE.
SO THAT MEANS THAT IT BASICALLY GOT VETOED.
BUT ESSENTIALLY, THE INSIDER BASEBALL IS THAT THE
GOVERNOR HASN’T TRADITIONALLY SUPPORTED THIS
INDUSTRY AS MUCH AS OTHER INDUSTRIES.
THIS IS ONE THAT CERTAINLY THERE WAS A LOT OF DIFFERENT
PARTIES THAT SUPPORTED IT. I THINK IT CAME DOWN TO, YOU
KNOW, PICKING WHICH PROGRAMS THE GOVERNOR REALLY FEELS —
LIKE THE FILM CREDIT, THERE WAS AN EXPANSION FOR THAT.
AND THIS JUST WAS NOT ONE THAT MET THAT.
I THINK TRADITIONALLY, HAVING WORKED AT TAX & REV
IN THE PAST, I CAN SAY THAT MUCH, I THINK TAX & REV
LOOKS AT EVERY TAX CREDIT WITH A PARTICULAR
FINE-TOOTHED COMB ON WHETHER IT’S SOMETHING THAT THEY
FEEL, BASED ON THEIR PROJECTIONS, WILL ACTUALLY
SPUR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, AND THIS IS ONE THAT I
SUSPECT DIDN’T MEET THAT THRESHOLD THAT THEY WERE
LOOKING FOR. I DON’T THINK IT’S GOING TO
GO AWAY, AND I THINK IT’S GOING TO CONTINUE TO BE
PUSHED FOR DURING THE INTERIM COMMITTEES, AND
CERTAINLY NEXT SESSION.>>LAURA PASKUS, IT’S
INTERESTING, AGAIN, FOLKS WANT TO DO THIS.
THEY WANT A WAY TO FINANCIALLY MAKE THIS WORK.
AND AS AN ECONOMIC DRIVER, IT SEEMS TO ME, IF YOU HAVE
THE SYSTEM IN PLACE, YOU HAVE ALL THESE ANCILLARY
BUSINESSES THAT SUDDENLY POP UP TO SUPPORT IT.
FINANCING AGENCIES, PEOPLE LEASING EQUIPMENT, ALL THAT
KIND OF A THING. YOUR SENSE OF THIS AND WHERE
THIS EITHER PUTS US DOWN THE ROAD OR NOT, THIS VETO OF
THIS BILL.>>YOU KNOW, I REACHED OUT
TO THE GOVERNOR’S OFFICE YESTERDAY BECAUSE I WAS
CURIOUS, YOU KNOW. IT SEEMED LIKE A NO-BRAINER
TO ME THAT THIS WOULD BE SOMETHING THAT SHE WOULD
SIGN, AND I HEARD NO RESPONSE BACK.
SO I CAN’T ACTUALLY EXPLAIN WHY THE GOVERNOR’S OFFICE
WOULD NOT SIGN IT, WOULD POCKET VETO IT.
BUT I THINK IT KIND OF REMINDS ME OF WHAT WE WERE
TALKING ABOUT WITH THE SAN JUAN, IS THAT ENVIRONMENTAL
ISSUES — LIKE WE THINK OF RENEWABLE ENERGY, OR WE
THINK OF THIS COAL REPLACEMENT PLANT AS
ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES, BUT THEY’RE JUST NOT ANYMORE.
THESE ARE ECONOMIC ISSUES. AND THE REASON THE CITIES
ARE PULLING OUT OF THIS, OR NOT SUPPORTING THIS
AGREEMENT, IS IT DOESN’T MAKE ECONOMIC SENSE TO BE
SUPPORTING COAL ANYMORE. AND I THINK IT DOES MAKE
ECONOMIC SENSE TO BE LOOKING AT SUPPORTING MORE RENEWABLE
ENERGY AND COMPANIES.>>SURE.
>>WE HAVE 2016, OR UNTIL NEXT SESSION, WE HAVE 18
MORE MONTHS FOR THIS TO HAPPEN, AND I HAVE TO AGREE
WITH YOU, LAURA. ALSO WHAT WAS EXTENDED WAS
THE SUSTAINABLE BUILDING TAX CREDIT.
SO IT’S LIKE, WHICH ONE ARE WE GOING TO DO RIGHT NOW,
AND WHICH ONES THAT WE HAVE TO LET GO FOR NOW.
SO IT WAS NOT A GOOD THING. BUT WHAT I DID — PETER
WIRTH, SENATOR PETER WIRTH, I HAD AN OPPORTUNITY TO DO
THE RECAP OF WHAT HAPPENED, AND HE SAID THAT NO BAD
BILLS, NO BAD ENVIRONMENTAL BILLS GOT PUSHED THROUGH.
BUT IT WAS THE HARDEST SESSION HE HAD EVER BEEN
THROUGH. SO I STILL FEEL POSITIVE
THAT THIS IS GOING TO HAPPEN, AND WE CERTAINLY
HAVE A ROBUST COMMUNITY THAT CAN HELP IT, BUT I THINK IT
JUST WENT — IT WAS LIKE, WHICH ONE IS GOING FIRST.
>>INTERESTING.>>GO AHEAD.
>>I JUST WANTED TO MENTION QUICKLY TO A POINT THAT
LAURA MENTIONED, IT USED TO BE YEARS AGO WHEN YOU WORKED
ON ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES THAT YOU WERE AN
ENVIRONMENTALIST, AND YOU BASICALLY WERE TALKING
ABOUT — YOU WERE USING LAND AND WATER AND CRITTER
PROTECTION TYPE ARGUMENTS. THEY WERE VALUE BASED
ARGUMENTS. I THINK TODAY’S EFFECTIVE
ADVOCATES USE DOLLARS AND CENTS AS THE ARGUMENT, AND
THAT IT’S REALLY IMPORTANT TO GET TO THE BOTTOM LINE
AND MAKE THE ECONOMIC ARGUMENT IN ORDER TO BE
EFFECTIVE, ESPECIALLY IN A STATE LIKE NEW MEXICO.
>>THAT MAKES SENSE. UP NEXT, CYFD SECRETARY
MONIQUE JACOBSON SITS DOWN WITH US TO TALK ABOUT HOW
SHE THINKS THE DEPARTMENT CAN IMPROVE SERVICES FOR
VULNERABLE CHILDREN AND FAMILIES.

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