Local community groups have engaged in the proceedings at the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission to elevate the often-marginalized voices of impacted communities and to ensure dedicated just transition funding, commitments for ongoing engagement from the Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) and Avangrid, and significant investment in renewable resources in the Four Corners region. These groups secured significant community investment and other benefits as part of the merger case between PNM and Avangrid (see background section).
However, community groups are also concerned that the merger could have the perverse consequence of extending the life of the Four Corners Power Plant. As a condition of the merger, Avangrid is requiring PNM to divest its remaining interests in coal-fired power generation, including its 13% share in Four Corners Power Plant to the Navajo Transitional Energy Corporation. The community groups will pursue early closure of the plant in a separate case before the Public Regulation Commission.
Community statements in favor of the PNM-Avangrid merger:
Joseph Hernandez, NAVA Education Project:
“NAVA Education Project supports the PNM-Avangrid merger because it presents an opportunity for the Indigenous communities who live and work adjacent to the San Juan Generating Station and Four Corners Power Plant to build a renewable energy economy. Many people in the area still do not have access to clean drinking water or electricity, nor broadband internet. We support this merger because it moves us in a direction that will lead to a healthier economy where Diné people can prosper for generations yet to come.
“NAVA Education Project and our Diné partner communities are actively working towards an energy transition because renewable energy is safer and healthier for our people. We must ensure that we sustain our culture and revitalize our land and water to build a prosperous future for our grandchildren’s children. It’s important that we are involved in all decision-making levels to make sure that: a) funding from this merger goes directly to impacted communities, and b) a viable renewable energy workforce includes Navajo people through job training and local apprenticeship programs and c) our communities are respected and given equal opportunity for a good quality of life.
“Supporting this merger will help our communities transition from a coal-based economy into a renewable energy economy and will empower Indigenous Peoples to reclaim their sacred connections and bring healing to the air, lands, and water. For those reasons, it is vitally important that transition funding is used to benefit the Navajo communities who have endured environmental degradation for many generations. With the funding from this merger the Navajo People, Tribal Institutions, and community-based organizations can collaboratively develop a strong workforce, support regional revitalization efforts, and reinvigorate traditional farming practices that will allow food sovereignty to flourish.”
Robyn Jackson, Diné C.A.R.E.:
“As one of the few Navajo groups from the Four Corners area that is an intervenor in the Public Regulation Commission case regarding the PNM-Avangrid merger, Diné C.A.R.E. supports the merger. We see Avangrid as an established renewables-focused company that is likely to act as the ‘adult in the room’ to rein in PNM, which has time and again proven itself reckless on climate and indifferent to the harms it has inflicted on our communities. We look forward to future renewable energy projects in the Four Corners region and on the Navajo Nation.
“A vocal minority has narrowly focused on the impact to ratepayers only, but there are other crucial considerations. For six decades, communities in the Four Corners region have suffered from the toxic byproducts of fossil fuel production, from facilities like the San Juan Generating Station and Four Corners Power Plant, so people in other parts of the state and Southwest cities could enjoy affordable electricity.
“Avangrid has demonstrated its commitment to a renewable energy future, and we look forward to that commitment extending to New Mexico, including helping communities transition from how we’ve generated energy in the past. It has happened too often, as with the now-closed Navajo Generating Station and the Black Mesa and Kayenta Mines – that companies have come in, damaged our land and water, hurt the health of our people, and then left with their profits. With Avangrid, we have an opportunity to apply $12.5 million for just transition efforts in the Four Corners region with community groups that are already engaged in community development.”
Kyle Tisdel, Western Environmental Law Center, attorney for community groups:
“The legacy of pollution and generational harm to front-line communities from coal-fired energy generation cannot be solved overnight, but this stipulation represents a pathway to a better future, including ongoing dialogue with impacted communities and resources to help these communities transition. I applaud Avangrid, PNM, and Attorney General Balderas for listening and responding to Native voices and for their commitment to a more sustainable future.”
Mike Eisenfeld, San Juan Citizens Alliance:
“San Juan Citizens Alliance supports utility transitions from coal-fired power plants to renewable energy. In fact, the economic market is dictating that utility transition from coal is happening faster than any of us thought. Our intervention in the PRC cases for abandonment of both San Juan Generating Station and Four Corners Power Plant have confirmed the importance of Four Corner community engagement in what happens when these coal facilities are retired. Critical elements of adequate transition planning include public health concerns, innovative opportunities in renewable energy and energy storage, investment in our communities, replacement of property taxes, adequate funding of school districts, workforce development, and job creation. Power purchase agreements for solar with PNM to replace San Juan Generating Station will create 1,500 jobs in Northwest New Mexico and transform the region to an energy storage hub that could bring many diverse economic opportunities.
“Avangrid has agreed to work with our organizations in northwest New Mexico, committing to transition funding, a 200-megawatt renewable energy project on the Navajo Nation, and investing in our communities and people. We plan to hold Avangrid accountable for decisions on the energy future in northwest New Mexico. We are not ratepayers of PNM. We are the collective voice of organizations concerned about PNM’s departure and Avangrid’s acquisition of coal facilities from PNM in the Four Corners region that are going to be replaced. SJCA supports the Diné intervenors in the PNM-Avangrid case where the prospects for a just transition and a renewable energy future with the proposed Avangrid merger must be pursued. Our intervention in this merger case is in good faith and long term, advocating for economic, social and environmental investments in Four Corners communities by Avangrid.”
Public benefits secured by community groups:
- An increase from $0 to $12.5 million in just transition funding to Indigenous groups impacted by coal plant abandonment — $2.5 million per year for five years,
- $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 $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.
Additionally, the community groups involved in securing these public benefits will continue their work to secure early closure of coal-fired Four Corners Power Plant as soon as possible in a separate Public Regulation Commission case currently underway.