- Associated Press - Monday, August 7, 2017

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - State regulators began deliberations Monday over whether New Mexico’s largest electric utility can raise its rates by 9.2 percent over the next two years.

The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission started with a round of public comments before settling in for what is expected to be two weeks of testimony from expert witnesses and attorneys on both sides of the proposal. Commissioners will make a final decision later this year.

The Public Service Co. of New Mexico is seeking $62.3 million from customers to compensate for capital investment costs. Most of the expenses are related to the partial shuttering of the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station in northwestern New Mexico and pollution controls and maintenance at another coal-fired power plant in the region.

Other costs include infrastructure investment and revenue losses from more energy-efficient appliances and consumer behaviors.

The PNM plan calls for the increase in rates to be phased in through 2018 and 2019.

The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office, Western Resource Advocates and other groups have signed on to the proposal, which is the result of a settlement agreement reached earlier this year.

The environmental group New Energy Economy is objecting to the recovery of some costs related to the coal-fired power plants.

PNM’s request to raise rates comes less than a year after the Public Regulation Commission approved a $65.7 million rate increase for the utility - lower than the $123.5 million, or 15.8 percent, increase the company originally sought.

PNM officials have said the revised proposal the utility is presenting to regulators is supported by a broad and diverse group of parties.

PNM Resources Chairman, President and CEO Pat Vincent-Collawn has said repeatedly that she believes the proposal balances the needs of shareholders and ratepayers.

New Energy Economy executive director Mariel Nanasi said when PNM chose to make investments in the coal-fired power plants near Farmington, the utility failed to prove that the investments were prudent and that ratepayers shouldn’t have to pick up the costs.

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