Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said she intends to work with legislators to reform the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission prior to next year’s legislative session.

The announcement comes as recent actions by the commission have caused confusion concerning closure of the state’s largest remaining coal-fired power plant and whether provisions of the state’s Energy Transition Act, signed by Lujan Grisham in March, pertain to it (see CEM No. 1547 [17]).

“It’s clear that reform is urgently needed to help restore sound decision-making to the Public Regulation Commission,” Lujan Grisham said Aug. 6, speaking at an energy summit hosted by U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich in Albuquerque. “I’m confident we can create proposals that will help transition the PRC towards a reliable and professional body capable of acting in the best interest of our families.”

The New Mexico Legislature, also in March, passed a joint resolution to propose a constitutional amendment that, if approved by voters, would transform the current commission from an elected to a governor-appointed body.

Currently, voters from five geographical districts elect commissioners to serve staggered four-year terms. If the amendment passes, three commissioners would be appointed by the governor from a list of qualified nominees to serve staggered six-year terms beginning in 2023. The Legislature would establish professional qualifications and continuing-education requirements for commissioners and procedures for the nominating committee. No more than two commissioners from the same political party would be allowed to serve on the commission simultaneously. The proposed structure is consistent with that of other Southwestern states, including Colorado, Nevada and Utah. Arizona’s five-member regulatory commission is elected to serve staggered four-year terms in statewide elections.

In the months leading up to the 2020 legislative session, scheduled to begin in January, Lujan Grisham plans to work with legislators, members of the business and conservation communities and other stakeholders on NMPRC reform legislation, according to a release issued by the governor’s office.

“Last legislative session, an overwhelming bipartisan majority of legislators voted to send a measure to the voters to restructure the Public Regulation Commission,” New Mexico Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth said in the press release, referring to the resolution. “Until these changes take effect, New Mexico must continue our progress as a leader in clean energy. I applaud the governor for taking this necessary action and look forward to working with her to pass legislation that protects ratepayers and gives New Mexicans the stability we expect and need from this regulatory body.”

Current commissioners’ apparent effort to sidestep the Energy Transition Act in overseeing Public Service Company of New Mexico’s abandonment of the San Juan Generating Station and their subsequent reluctance to provide clarity on the matter have attracted criticism from diverse stakeholders including government officials, legislators, utility executives and communities that will be directly affected by the 847-MW plant’s scheduled June 2022 closure.