Today, four northwest New Mexico community groups, along with the Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy (CCAE), joined an appeal to the state’s Supreme Court challenging the rejection of a merger between PNM Resources and Avangrid, a global leader in renewable energy. Through their participation in last year’s merger case, these groups secured commitments for significant public investment and economic transition for the Four Corners communities impacted by over 50 years of pollution from PNM’s coal-burning power plants (see background section below).
Had the Public Regulation Commission approved the merger, the merged company would have been responsible for fulfilling those commitments. These included $12.5 million in community-managed just transition funding that would have major economic and environmental benefits in the Four Corners region, and, in particular, in Tribal communities that have long shouldered the impacts of PNM’s coal-fired power plants. Without substantial community investments towards a just transition, a safer, healthier renewable energy economy will remain out of reach for the people living near the locus of New Mexico’s historic coal-based electric generation.
“We’re joining this appeal to ensure that Diné communities have a seat at the table in any future negotiations resulting from the Court’s decision on the merger,” said Robyn Jackson, interim executive director of Diné C.A.R.E. “We are the only parties to the PRC case that have achieved tangible results and provisions for this region—the region that we come from and work in. Anyone who supports indigenous community rights, self-determination, and a just transition for the Four Corners should be supporting our intervenor groups.”
“We got involved in this conversation from the start because we are concerned about the Navajo Nation’s opportunity to transition away from coal,” said Nicole Horseherder, executive director of Tó Nizhóní Aní. “That’s how we were able to get firm commitments for renewables and transition resources for impacted communities. It’s how we got commitments for 200 megawatts of renewable energy for the Navajo Nation and $12.5 million in transition funding. This is just the first step in recognizing how important transition is and how important support is to impacted communities in the area—and there is still more to do. As a community organization we want to stay committed to ongoing dialogue and the chance to shape the outcome. We will continue to advocate all the way through for the things that are most important to us. We support the merger because we want to see a renewable energy company retire all 100% of its coal shares and reinvest 100% to renewable energy. This way, all stakeholders benefit, not just PNM ratepayers and owners.”
“The multi-year transition funding Avangrid committed to as part of their proposed merger with PNM will give Navajo communities decision-making power in building a renewable energy economy,” said Joseph Hernandez, Diné Energy Organizer with NAVA Education Project. “This agreement would let us allocate funding directly to impacted communities for programs that work to give them an equal opportunity for a good quality of life. It’s time for us to reclaim a safer, economically sustainable, healthier environment for our people.”
“The coalition of local groups intervening in this Supreme Court case are most concerned about the secured legally binding agreements in the proposed merger for renewable energy, economic development, and the reclamation and decommissioning of coal facilities in impacted communities where residents are not PNM/Avangrid ratepayers,” said Mike Eisenfeld, energy and climate program manager at San Juan Citizens Alliance.
“The economic development and environmental justice elements that were negotiated to win the support of communities are important considerations in the appeal,” said Ona Porter, founder emerita and clean energy leader at Prosperity Works. “We are asking that our interests be considered essential and honored in the decision.”
The appeal will go before the Supreme Court of New Mexico, who will decide whether or not the PRC acted properly in rejecting the merger. The intervening groups will continue to fight for a merger approval agreement that will deliver more renewables, more just transition funding, more cleanup, and more engagement with impacted communities.
Public benefits secured by community groups:
- $12.5 million in just transition funding to Four Corners communities impacted by coal plant abandonment — $2.5 million per year for five years, with use of the funds to be determined by the impacted communities themselves. This is in addition to any funds that will flow to these communities from long-delayed ETA transition funding
- $7.5 million in economic development projects in New Mexico within three years that excludes use for fossil fuel projects;
- Development of at least 200 megawatts of renewable energy and storage on the Navajo Nation;
- A commitment by the new merged company to engage community groups on full demolition of the abandoned power plant and clean-up of the coal mine to allow new economic activity to grow in their place;
- $2 million in a statewide “Electrification for All” program that will also serve Navajo country;
- A commitment to 150 full-time jobs added within three years, some of which could be located in the region;
- $73 million in benefits to ratepayers, including rate credits, arrearages forgiveness, and increased spending on PNM’s low-income energy efficiency program;
- More aggressive decarbonization commitments, advancing the target from 2040 to 2035; and
- Many others here.