PNM scraps pipeline plan near Navajo Nation

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New Mexico’s largest utility announced that it has shelved plans for a new $100 million pipeline and natural gas plant project in San Juan County near the Navajo Reservation.

PNM’s gas plan met the fiercest resistance from the advocacy organization New Energy Economy, which accused the utility of proposing an unnecessary project to justify increasing customer rates and the company’s profits.

“We are thrilled that PNM is dismissing their gas plant and gas pipeline case,” said Mariel Nanasi, New Energy Economy’s executive director, in a statement. “Consumer demand is actually going down, but despite this, PNM thought they could get away with even more bloat: $100 million for a superfluous gas plant and gas pipeline just to line the pockets of PNM’s senior management off the misery of the poor.” – Albuquerque Journal

That news comes as Native Americans enter a new month of protests against a North Dakota pipeline proposal that has gained national attention.

Newsweek

North Dakota Pipeline Protests, Newsweek

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported last week that PNM had withdrawn its request to the state’s Public Regulation Commission because projections for new energy needs have been revised downward. The Albuquerque Journal reports that job losses and declining energy use in the industrial sector contributed to the decline in power use.

Similarly, renewable energy use is up across the country and particularly in New Mexico.

In related news, PNM told investors that profits had dropped (though they still made a $41 million profit in one quarter).  The ABQ Journal reports that PNM told investors that a “major industrial” client was reducing load, causing it to revise it’s energy projections.  That company appears to be Intel which took a huge corporate tax break pushed by the governor, then announced huge layoffs and cutbacks in services.

PNM has reported a 16 percent net earnings drop to $40.9 million in the third quarter compared to the same time a year ago. The drop was due in part to decreased electric demand at Intel’s Rio Rancho plant, as well as a recent rate case decision that approved a customer rate hike far smaller than the one PNM had requested. The company’s third quarter earnings reflected $11.3 million in pre-tax regulatory disallowances and restructuring costs as a result of that decision.

New Mexico’s economy – a driver of energy use – is ranked “one of the worst” in the country under the economic policies of Governor Martinez.

And despite a huge growth in renewable energy sources for major utilities, PNM last year bought a coal mine.

Last year, PNM created a subsidiary company, then loaned it $125 million to purchase one of the world’s largest coal mines.  The company also spent $153 million to acquire ownership rights in a nuclear power plant in Arizona.   A PRC hearing examiner later recommended that PNM not be able the new nuclear costs along to customers.