New Mexico is at a crossroads when it comes to combating climate change. The state’s transition to a clean energy economy is ongoing but filled with numerous challenges. It is essential then that the critical and transformative energy decisions in this state are made by the best possible leaders.
Many of these important decisions will be overseen by the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (“PRC”). The PRC is an independent state regulatory body that provides oversight for the major electric and gas utilities in New Mexico, including approving their investment decisions and setting their rates.
Historically, the PRC has been filled through elections, which has resulted in many commissioners with limited knowledge or experience in utility matters. New Mexicans spoke loud and clear in 2020 that they wanted an appointed PRC made up of folks best equipped with knowledge and experience to handle all the tough decision making.
The selection of Pat O’Connell to the PRC is a prime example of the type of candidate the changes to the PRC were made to bring forward. Commissioner O’Connell has spent years fighting for a clean and affordable energy future for all New Mexicans. He understands the complexities of rate design, energy programs, resource planning, and environmental justice and is one of the most qualified candidates in the state to lead this important body.
To say that Commissioner O’Connell is ill-suited or in conflict to be on the dais at the PRC because of his career trajectory is unequivocally false. It is in fact because of his rich experience from his time at the Public Service Company of New Mexico and Western Resource Advocates that he has the tools to guide New Mexico.
We need people like Commissioner O’Connell who understand PRC operations, utility operations, regional and national energy issues, and the best practices to direct New Mexico towards a clean, safe and reliable energy future. It makes no sense to disqualify an eminently qualified person because they have been previously involved in New Mexico utility proceedings. How can we seek the most qualified and knowledgeable candidates yet ask that they not have any prior experience working at utilities or advocacy groups?
New Mexico needs strong energy leadership moving forward, and it needs the intelligence and professionalism of Commissioner O’Connell.
Southwest Energy Efficiency Project