New Mexico has a public regulations commission, five members elected from five districts of the state. Their primary jobs are seeing that utility customers have “fair and reasonable rates,” for “reasonable and adequate services.”
They have a lot of smaller responsibilities, too, like motor carrier regulation, the state fire marshal’s office, the firefighter training academy, pipeline safety and the registration of all corporations and limited liability companies doing business in New Mexico.
Nowhere in that job description is it mentioned that the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC) should throw a $39 million monkey wrench into the works of a $1.4 billion deal, but that’s just what they did when they ruled by a unanimous 5-0 vote that $39 million for a new power line which the state’s power utility PNM wanted charged to retail customers, should be billed to Facebook instead.
Why dat? PRC hearing officer Carolyn Glick said her recommendation was based in part on testimony from a PNM official that all of the 166 megawatts of power from the BB2 power grid extension would be dedicated exclusively to Facebook’s Los Lunas facility. Therefore, she said, Facebook should have to pay for it.
All five commissioners agreed.
Somebody should have given them a map. A look might have suggested to them how the utility they regulate’s power grid works.
The BB2 power line runs a pretty nice arc, about 20 to 30 miles out from the center of Albuquerque, from Encino in Torrence County, east and little south of the city, through Santa Fe County, to the town of Bernalillo, in Sandoval County, north of A-B-Q.
Look at a map and you will see what you heard on that list – nothing about Valencia County. Valencia County is where the Facebook plant is located, in the town of Los Lunas. The $39 million power line is not plugged into Facebook.
It is plugged into PNM’s statewide juice bank, for which, the arrival of Facebook did add demand for electricity. And the new BB2 power line will add enough juice from a new cluster of wind farms down near Encino to cover the utility’s obligations to Facebook while assuring there will be no diversions from those “reasonable and adequate services” for the power company’s retail customers.
It’s true that Facebook negotiated a good rate on their electricity costs as part of the incentives for settle in New Mexico, but PNM says, even with their discount, Facebook will contribute more than enough new money to pay for the $39 million power line and benefit the PNM corporate account, which will eventually lower or stabilize consumer costs.
What’s not to like? Ask the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission.
Steve Terrell is the Capital Reporter and Columnist for The New Mexican, the daily newspaper of Santa Fe, NM. He also presents Terrell’s Sound World on KSFR FM 101.1 in Santa Fe.