Photo of PNM's San Juan Coal Fired Generator Plant for the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter website

Dear fellow Sierran,

On Aug. 13, PNM filed a new plan for the future of the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station as part of its negotiations with the Public Regulation Commission.

The agreement includes some significant improvements from PNM’s previous plan, but it still allows two units of the plant to continue operating and so will require our ongoing and active participation.

The new agreement gives New Mexico an opportunity to completely transition away from San Juan Generating Station in 2022. In addition to shutting down two units at San Juan, as the previous plan did, it requires PNM to file a case with the Public Regulation Commission in 2018 to justify continued operation of the plant and does not allow PNM to enter into a new coal agreement before the culmination of this
case.

The stipulation forces PNM to pay off some of its debts on the San Juan plant sooner, making a transition away from coal more economically viable when the coal contract ends in 2022. And starting in 2020 it requires PNM to buy 1 megawatt-hour of Renewable Energy Certificates for each additional megawatt-hour generated by the coal PNM is taking on at the remaining units. These RECs would have to be Clean Power Plan-compliant, meaning they would have to come from new or newer renewable generation, and demonstrate a preference for New Mexico RECS. We will continue to push PNM to build real renewable energy, on the ground, in New Mexico, stimulating job growth here.

The agreement still allows PNM to obtain 132 MW in remaining San Juan units to absorb departing owners’ shares, but it prevents PNM from buying more coal from San Juan or other plants unless it gets approval from the Public Regulation Commission. This means that if other owners flee the plant when the ownership agreement expires in 2022, PNM’s holding company can’t just buy up their shares
without Commission approval and continue to act as “owner of last resort.” The 132 MW will be at zero book value, so PNM will have less incentive to keep the plant operating after 2022.

This agreement makes a near-term transition from San Juan coal more likely, but it does not guarantee retirement of the remaining two units of this aging, polluting plant. That means we have a lot of work to do in the next three years. Each of us must keep the heat on PNM to seriously invest in clean-energy job creation in the Four
Corners and end San Juan’s pollution.

Send us a note to let us know you’re committed to keeping PNM’s feet to the fire:  camilla.feibelman@sierraclub.org. We have set up action teams throughout the Chapter that can help youtake action on this important issue. So please let us know if you want to stay or get involved.

While the Sierra Club isn’t represented by the Coalition for Clean and Affordable Energy (CCAE) in PRC proceedings and is not an intervenor in the San Juan case, we know CCAE’s participation in negotiations was key to creating the opportunity to move away from San Juan coal in 2022. We will continue our grassroots activism at the Public Regulation Commission to advocate for more New Mexico-built renewable energy and a commitment to end San Juan’s pollution.

It’s important for all pro-environment organizations to use the ongoing public process to push for an even better plan, starting with renewable energy built on the ground in New Mexico. The PRC has not yet ruled on PNM’s plan and will take public comment and hold hearings in the coming months.

PNM has been forced into this stipulated agreement by a large array of allied organizations and your activism. Instead of a plan that rubber-stamped operation of the aging San Juan plant in perpetuity, there will be continued pressure and opportunity to transition from dirty coal to clean energy. This was not easily conceded by PNM and has changed the direction they were going.

You should know that every rally in the cold or heat, every email, every letter, every telephone call and every meeting attended has helped to get us to this point. This is a critical time when we must be prepared to work even harder.

This is a continuation of the efforts that began when the Sierra Club and others took PNM to court to protect New Mexico and the Four Corners from the haze and harmful air-quality impacts of San Juan 12 years ago. I hope each of you will carry on this fight to the final elimination of coal-burning in our state and our country.

As chapter chair, I know the fight continues. I am so grateful for our Club, our membership and our community allies that have gotten us this far.

Thank you,
David Coss, Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter chair

 

Feature Photo courtesy of San Juan Citizens’ Alliance

PNM’s new plan for San Juan coal plant is better, but…