HOUSE BILL 79
54th legislature - STATE OF NEW MEXICO - second session, 2020
RELATING TO ENERGY; AMENDING A SECTION OF THE PUBLIC UTILITY ACT TO PROVIDE FOR JURISDICTION BY THE PUBLIC REGULATION COMMISSION OVER TRANSMISSION LINE LOCATIONS; REQUIRING PUBLIC REGULATION COMMISSION APPROVAL OF THE LOCATION OF NEW MEXICO RENEWABLE ENERGY TRANSMISSION AUTHORITY FACILITIES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO:
SECTION 1. Section 62-9-3 NMSA 1978 (being Laws 1971, Chapter 248, Section 1, as amended by Laws 2005, Chapter 339, Section 6 and by Laws 2005, Chapter 340, Section 2) is amended to read:
"62-9-3. LOCATION CONTROL--LIMITATIONS.--
A. The legislature finds that it is in the public interest to consider any adverse effect upon the environment and upon the quality of life of the people of the state that may occur due to plants, facilities and transmission lines needed to supply present and future electrical services. It is recognized that such plants, facilities and transmission lines will be needed to meet growing demands for electric services and cannot be built without in some way affecting the physical environment where these plants, facilities and transmission lines are located. The legislature therefore declares that it is the purpose of this section to provide for the supervision and control by the commission of the location within this state of new plants, facilities and transmission lines for the generation and transmission of electricity [for sale to the public].
B. A person, including any municipality, shall not begin the construction of any plant designed for or capable of operation at a capacity of three hundred thousand kilowatts or more for the generation of electricity for sale [to the public] within or without this state, whether or not owned or operated by a person that is a public utility subject to regulation by the commission, or of any transmission [lines in connection with such a plant] line on a location within this state designed for or capable of operations at a nominal voltage of two hundred thirty kilovolts or more, including any substation or other facilities associated therewith, unless the location has been approved by the commission. [For the purposes of this section, "transmission line" means any electric transmission line and associated facilities designed for or capable of operations at a nominal voltage of two hundred thirty kilovolts or more to be constructed in connection with and to transmit electricity from a new plant for which approval is required.]
C. Application for approval shall contain all information required by the commission to make its determination, be made in writing setting forth the facts involved and be filed with the commission. The commission shall, after a public hearing and upon notice as the commission may prescribe, act upon the application. The commission may condition its approval upon a demonstration by the applicant that it has received all necessary air and water quality permits. A public utility regulated by the commission may submit an application pursuant to Section 62-9-1 NMSA 1978 for a certificate of public convenience and necessity prior to filing an application for location approval pursuant to this section in order to determine the need for the generating plant or transmission line prior to determination of the appropriate location.
D. Approval shall not be required for additions to or modifications of an existing plant or additions to an existing transmission line within existing rights of way.
E. The commission shall approve the application for the location of the generating plant unless the commission finds that the operations of the facilities for which approval is sought will not be in compliance with all applicable air and water pollution control standards and regulations existing or will unduly impair system reliability. The commission shall not require compliance with performance standards other than those established by the agency of this state having jurisdiction over a particular pollution source.
F. The commission shall approve the application for the location of the transmission lines unless the commission finds that the location will unduly impair important environmental values or the [operation of the proposed transmission lines will unduly impair power system reliability] commission determines that the applicant is able to construct transmission lines with substantially similar nominal voltage capacity and transmission benefits at another location at a substantially similar or lower cost that will result in less adverse effects on important environmental values.
G. An application shall not be approved pursuant to this section that violates an existing state, county or municipal land use statutory or administrative regulation unless the commission finds that the regulation is unreasonably restrictive and compliance with the regulation is not in the interest of the public convenience and necessity, in which event and to the extent found by the commission, the regulation shall be inapplicable and void as to the siting. When it becomes apparent to the commission that an issue exists with respect to whether a regulation is unreasonably restrictive and compliance with the regulation is not in the interest of public convenience and necessity, it shall promptly serve notice of that fact by certified mail upon the agency, board or commission having jurisdiction for land use of the area affected and shall make the agency, board or commission a party to the proceedings upon its request and shall give it an opportunity to respond to the issue. The judgment of the commission shall be conclusive on all questions of siting, land use, aesthetics and any other state or local requirements affecting the siting.
H. A public utility subject to the jurisdiction of the commission may elect to file an application pursuant to this section with the commission for location approval of an electric transmission line or associated facilities designed for or capable of operation at a nominal voltage of one hundred fifteen kilovolts or more but less than two hundred thirty kilovolts if:
(1) the public utility files an application for construction, extension, rebuilding or improvement of the electric transmission line or associated equipment under any applicable county or municipal land use statute, ordinance or administrative regulation; and
(2) the agency, board or commission of the county or municipality disapproves the application. For purposes of this subsection, "disapprove" means the failure of the county or municipal agency, board or commission to issue a final order approving the application within two hundred forty days of the public utility's filing of a complete application with the agency, board or commission. An application shall be deemed complete if within fifteen working days of the public utility's filing of the application, or a supplement or amendment thereto, the agency, board or commission fails to send written notice to the public utility enumerating the specific requirements under the applicable county or municipal land use statute, ordinance or administrative regulation that the application fails to satisfy.
I. Upon consideration of the application and the standards set forth in Subsection G of this section, the commission may authorize construction, extension, rebuilding or improvement of the transmission line or facilities notwithstanding the prior disapproval of the county or municipal agency, board or commission. The judgment of the commission shall be conclusive on all questions of siting, land use, aesthetics and any other state or local requirements affecting the siting.
J. Nothing in this section shall be deemed to confer upon the commission power or jurisdiction to regulate or supervise any person, including a municipality, that is not otherwise a public utility regulated and supervised by the commission, with respect to its rates and service and with respect to its securities, nor shall any other provision of the Public Utility Act be applicable with respect to such a person, including a municipality.
K. The commission may approve an application filed pursuant to this section without a formal hearing if no protest is filed within sixty days of the date that notice is given that the application has been filed. The commission shall issue its order granting or denying the application within six months from the date the application is filed with the commission; provided, however, that:
(1) if a public utility simultaneously files an application for approval of location of a transmission line pursuant to this section and an application for a certificate of public convenience and necessity pursuant to Subsection B of Section 62-9-1 NMSA 1978, the commission shall issue its order granting or denying the applications within nine months from the date the applications are filed with the commission; provided, however, that the commission may extend the time for granting approval an additional six months for good cause shown;
(2) if a public utility files an application for approval of location of a transmission line pursuant to this section after its application for a certificate of public convenience and necessity has been approved pursuant to Subsection B of Section 62-9-1 NMSA 1978, the commission shall issue its order granting or denying the application for approval of location of a transmission line within ninety days from the date the application is filed with the commission; and
(3) if a public utility files an application for approval of location of a transmission line pursuant to this section while its application for a certificate of public convenience and necessity is pending pursuant to Subsection B of Section 62-9-1 NMSA 1978, and the application for a certificate is subsequently approved, the commission shall issue its order granting or denying the application for approval of location of a transmission line within ninety days from the date the application for certificate of public convenience and necessity is approved.
L. Failure to issue its order approving or denying an application filed pursuant to this section within the time periods set forth in Subsection [J] K of this section is deemed to be approval of the application; provided, however, that the commission may extend the time for granting approval for a transmission line that is subject to this section for an additional nine months upon finding that the additional time is necessary to determine if the proposed location of the line will unduly impair important environmental values.
M. In determining if the proposed location of the transmission line will unduly impair important environmental values, the commission may consider the following factors:
(1) existing plans of the state, local government, public utilities and private entities for other developments at or in the vicinity of the proposed location;
(2) fish, wildlife and plant life;
(3) noise emission levels and interference with communication signals;
(4) the proposed availability of the location to the public for recreational purposes, consistent with safety considerations and regulations;
(5) existing scenic areas, historic, cultural or religious sites and structures or archaeological sites at or in the vicinity of the proposed location; and
(6) additional factors that require consideration under applicable federal and state laws pertaining to the location."
SECTION 2. Section 62-16A-4 NMSA 1978 (being Laws 2007, Chapter 3, Section 4) is amended to read:
"62-16A-4. AUTHORITY--DUTIES AND POWERS.--
A. The authority shall:
(1) do any and all things necessary or proper to accomplish the purposes of the New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority Act;
(2) hire an executive director and such other employees or other agents as it deems necessary for the performance of its powers and duties, including consultants, financial advisors and legal advisors, and prescribe the powers and duties and fix the compensation of the employees and agents. The executive director of the authority shall direct the affairs and business of the authority, subject to the policies, control and direction of the authority; and
(3) maintain such records and accounts of revenues and expenditures as required by the state auditor. The state auditor or the state auditor's designee shall conduct an annual financial and legal compliance audit of the accounts of the authority and file copies with the governor and the legislature.
B. The authority may:
(1) make and execute agreements, contracts and other instruments necessary or convenient in the exercise of its powers and functions with any person or governmental agency;
(2) enter into contractual agreements with respect to one or more projects upon the terms and conditions the authority considers advisable;
(3) utilize the services of executive departments of the state upon mutually agreeable terms and conditions;
(4) enter into partnerships with public or private entities;
(5) identify and establish corridors for the transmission of electricity within the state;
(6) through participation in appropriate regional transmission forums, coordinate, investigate, plan, prioritize and negotiate with entities within and outside the state for the establishment of interstate transmission corridors;
(7) pursuant to Subsection C of this section, finance or plan, acquire, maintain and operate eligible facilities necessary or useful for the accomplishment of the purposes of the New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority Act;
(8) pursuant to the provisions of the Eminent Domain Code, exercise the power of eminent domain for acquiring property or rights of way for public use if needed for projects if such action does not involve taking utility property or does not materially diminish electric service reliability of the transmission system in New Mexico, as determined by the public regulation commission;
(9) receive by gift, grant, donation or otherwise, any sum of money, aid or assistance from the United States, the state of New Mexico, any other state, any political subdivision or any other public or private entity;
(10) for any project, provide information and training to employees of the project regarding any unique hazards that may be posed by the project, as well as training in safety work practices and emergency procedures;
(11) issue bonds pursuant to the New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority Act as necessary to undertake a project;
(12) enter into contracts for the lease and operation by the authority of eligible facilities owned by a public utility or other private person;
(13) enter into contracts for leasing eligible facilities owned by the authority; provided that any revenue derived pursuant to the lease shall be deposited in the renewable energy transmission bonding fund;
(14) collect payments of reasonable rates, fees, interest or other charges from persons using eligible facilities to finance eligible facilities and for other services rendered by the authority; provided that any revenue derived from payments made to the authority shall be deposited in the renewable energy transmission bonding fund;
(15) borrow money necessary to carry out the purposes of the New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority Act and mortgage and pledge any leases, loans or contracts executed and delivered by the authority;
(16) sue and be sued; and
(17) adopt such reasonable administrative and procedural rules as may be necessary or appropriate to carry out its powers and duties.
C. Except as provided in this subsection, the authority shall not enter into any project if public utilities or other private persons are performing the acts, are constructing or have constructed the facilities, or are providing the services contemplated by the authority, and are willing to provide funds for and own new infrastructure to meet an identified need and market. Before entering into a project, the following procedures shall be implemented:
(1) the authority shall provide to each public utility and the public regulation commission and publish one time in a newspaper of general circulation in New Mexico and one time in a newspaper in the area where the eligible facilities are contemplated and on a publicly accessible web page maintained by the authority, an initial notice describing the project that the authority is contemplating, including a detailed description of the existing or anticipated renewable energy sources that justify the determination by the authority that the project facilities are eligible facilities. The description shall contain, at a minimum, the names of all persons that already are or will develop the renewable energy sources, all persons that will own the renewable energy sources and the peak output capacity, source type, location and anticipated connection date of the renewable energy sources;
(2) any person with an interest that may be affected by the proposed project shall have thirty days from the date of the last publication of the initial notice to challenge, in writing, the determination by the authority that the facilities are eligible facilities. If a challenge is received by the authority within the thirty days, the authority shall hold a public hearing no sooner than thirty days after receiving the challenge and after a minimum of two weeks notice in the same newspapers and web page in which the initial notice was given. Following the public hearing, the authority shall make a final determination of eligibility and give notice of the determination pursuant to Section 39-3-1.1 NMSA 1978. Any person or governmental entity participating in the hearing may appeal the final determination by filing a notice of appeal with the district court pursuant to Section 39-3-1.1 NMSA 1978;
(3) public utilities and other persons willing and able to provide money for, acquire, maintain and operate the eligible facilities described in the notice shall have the following time period to notify the authority of intention and ability to provide money for, acquire, maintain and operate the eligible facilities described in the notice:
(a) within ninety days of the date of the last publication of the initial notice if no challenge is received pursuant to Paragraph (2) of this subsection; or
(b) within ninety days of the date of the notice of determination if a challenge is received pursuant to Paragraph (2) of this subsection; and
(4) in the absence of notification by a public utility or other person pursuant to Paragraph (3) of this subsection, or if a person, having given notice of intention to provide money for, acquire, maintain and operate the eligible facilities contemplated by the authority, fails to make a good faith effort to commence the same within twelve months from the date of notification by the authority of its intention, the authority may proceed to finance or plan, acquire, maintain and operate the eligible facilities originally contemplated; provided that a person that, within the time required, has made necessary applications to acquire federal, state, local or private permits, certificates or other approvals necessary to acquire the eligible facilities shall be deemed to have commenced the same as long as the person diligently pursues the permits, certificates or other approvals.
D. In soliciting and entering into contracts for the transmission or storage of electricity, the authority and any person leasing or operating eligible facilities financed or acquired by the authority shall, if practical, give priority to those contracts that will transmit or store electricity to be sold and consumed in New Mexico.
E. The authority and any eligible facilities acquired by the authority are not subject to the supervision, regulation, control or jurisdiction of the public regulation commission, [provided] except that the authority shall not enter into any project for the construction of a facility unless the location of the facility has been approved by the commission pursuant to Section 62-9-3 NMSA 1978. Nothing in this subsection shall be interpreted to allow a public utility to include the cost of using eligible facilities in its rate base without the approval of the public regulation commission.
F. In exercising its powers and duties, the authority shall not own or control facilities unless:
(1) the facilities are leased to or held for lease or sale to a public utility or such other person approved by the public regulation commission;
(2) the operation, maintenance and use of the facilities are vested by lease or other contract in a public utility or such other person approved by the public regulation commission;
(3) the facilities are owned or controlled for a period of not more than one hundred eighty days after termination of a lease or contract described in Paragraph (1) or (2) of this subsection or after the authority gains possession of the facilities following a breach of such a lease or contract or as a result of bankruptcy proceedings; or
(4) the facilities do not affect in-state retail rates or electric service reliability.
G. A public utility subject to regulation of the public regulation commission pursuant to the Public Utility Act may recover the capital cost of a project undertaken pursuant to the New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority Act from its retail customers only if the project has received a certificate of public convenience and necessity from the public regulation commission. A municipal utility exempt from regulation of the public regulation commission may recover such costs only if the project has been approved by the governing body of the municipality. Costs associated with a project undertaken pursuant to the New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority Act are not recoverable from retail utility customers except to the extent the costs are prudently incurred and the project is used and useful in serving those customers as determined by the public regulation commission."
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