Utility agreed to drop hydrogen-blending pilot, cut proposed rate increase in half, advocate for legislation enabling low-income utility rates
For immediate release: Nov. 11, 2022
Contact: Sara Gersen, Earthjustice, counsel for CCAE, firstname.lastname@example.org, 413-212-3100
Cara Lynch, Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy, email@example.com, 1-505-977-3025
On Thursday, Public Regulation Commission hearing examiners recommended approval of a settlement agreement between Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy, Western Resource Advocates, PRC staff, the New Mexico attorney general, New Mexico Affordable Reliable Energy Alliance, New Energy Economy, and Incorporated County of Los Alamos with New Mexico Gas Company on its rate case.
The hearing examiners set a Nov. 17 deadline for exceptions and a Nov. 21 deadline for responses, meaning the full Commission could vote as early as Nov. 23.
The settlement included:
- Agreement that NM Gas will not provide any customers a blend of hydrogen and natural gas without seeking the PRC’s approval in a future case;
- Agreement that NM Gas will use shareholder funds to pay for its Phase 1 pilot study and will share all data and findings from Phase 1 with parties in this matter.
- Agreement that the utility will share testing results of a pilot that is studying the impacts and potential hazards of hydrogen on household appliances;
- Agreement to analyze electric options when the company purchases passenger vehicles and trucks and to “show a preference” for electric passenger vehicles and trucks when feasible;
- Agreement to end an offer to finance, construct, and operate compressed natural gas fueling stations for customers on the customers’ property; and
- Agreement to analyze the feasibility of electrifying some or all of the company’s compressor stations.
Although not included in the settlement, the utility also agreed to work with WRA, CCAE, NEE and others on a legislative proposal to enable reduced utility rates for lower-income New Mexicans.
Statements in response:
“Under the settlement, customers won’t foot the bill for a hydrogen pilot project that would have increased climate pollution and put air quality at risk,” said Sara Gersen, a senior attorney at Earthjustice who represents CCAE in the case. “Without the distraction of this hydrogen pilot project, New Mexico’s leaders should tackle climate and air pollution by helping customers upgrade to zero-emission electric appliances and quit burning fossil fuels in their homes and businesses.”
“Not only will customers see lower rates than the company originally proposed, but under our agreement, New Mexico Gas has also agreed to study important health impacts of residential hydrogen-blend projects. Among other requirements, the company must report on indoor air-quality measurements as part of its Phase I hydrogen blend project,” said CCAE attorney Cara Lynch.
“We look forward to working with New Mexico Gas Company to establish low-income utility rates. A reduction in energy burden via low-income rates will help many families who are struggling to balance high energy bills, housing costs, and other essential expenses,” said Tammy Fiebelkorn with Southwest Energy Efficiency Project.
“This settlement agreement makes important improvements to New Mexico Gas Company’s initial request, including a lower rate increase than the company had sought and steps to strengthen the company’s plans to address climate change,” said Pat O’Connell, deputy director of Western Resource Advocates’ Clean Energy Program. “We look forward to continuing our work with New Mexico Gas Company on further ways to reduce the harmful methane pollution that is a significant contributor to the harmful fossil-fuel emissions that cause climate change.”