PRC Says NO to Tri-State Rates
January 29, 2014
PRC Says “No” to Tri-State
The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC) voted Wednesday January 29, 2014 to continue the suspension of the rate increase proposed by Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Kit Carson Electric Cooperative’s (KCEC) wholesale electric power provider. The means the proposed 7 to 10% increase in rates will not go into effect until Tri-State proves it is justified. A hearing date for this matter has yet to be scheduled. As of the end of November 2013, the protest had saved KCEC members $1.313 million.
Tri-State had petitioned for a rehearing, contending they should be allowed to charge the proposed rates until the case is heard and a decision made by the PRC. KCEC members showed up in force at the hearing. The crowd was estimated at more than 300, including many elected officials and other community leaders. During the hearing Tri-State’s legal team representative and the representatives for the cooperative’s legal teams were allowed 20 minutes to present their case. Concerned citizens were also allowed to speak. Taos Mayor Darren Cordova, Questa Mayor Ester Garcia, County Manager Steve Archuleta, Espanola Chamber president Kelly Duran, Taos Chamber Chair Brad Malone, as well as KCEC board of trustees members Peter Adang, David Torrez and Bobby Ortega all spoke of the harm higher electric rates would do in New Mexico’s already challenging economy. At the conclusion of the presentations Commissioner Valerie Espinoza said, “I hear you.” Referring to the difficult times faced by her constituents.
The case will now be referred to a hearing examiner, who will set the schedule for when the rate case will be heard by the PRC. The case will then return to the PRC with recommendations. The PRC has the authority to order implementation of the rate increase or deny the increase and set rates according to what they think is fair and equitable. Kit Carson Electric Co-op, along with Springer, Continental Divide and Jemez co-ops, protested the proposed increase. Initially Tri-State officials indicated they would not propose an increase for 2014. KCEC and two other New Mexico electric cooperatives protested the proposed 2013 rate increase beginning that action in October 2012.
Originally Tri-State proposed increasing rates to its 44 member electric cooperatives in October 2012. This was the ninth proposed increase since 2000. Each time KCEC was alone it opposing the increase and, with no other resistance, the increases went into effect. In 2012 however, two other co-ops, Continental Divide and Springer, joined in KCEC in opposition. The latest protest added Jemez Electric Cooperative to those formally submitting notices of opposition. Since at least three cooperatives are in opposition, the increase was put before the PRC for a decision. With the addition of Jemez nearly half of all New Mexico co-op members are represented in the protest.
The New Mexico Supreme Court heard arguments by Tri-State on Wednesday December 18, 2013 in Santa Fe that they should be allowed to charge the increased rates until the case is decided by the PRC. Tri-State has also filed suit in federal court claiming the PRC does not have jurisdiction over them due to their involvement in interstate commerce. “We are very stubborn when it comes to watching out for our member’s best interest,” said Reyes. “We believe Tri-State is being punitive in the way they structured the proposed rate increase last year and again this year. As yet they have offered no justification. We intend to continue to oppose them at the PRC and in