Hearings set for proposed rate hikes
By Brook Stockberger
Las Cruces Bulletin
El Paso Electric wants to raise electric rates for its customers in southern New Mexico.
Do you have an opinion on the subject?
You’ll have two chances to speak your mind Tuesday, Aug. 18 when New Mexico Public Regulation Commissioner Sandy Jones conducts a pair of informational, public hearings in Las Cruces.
The gatherings are scheduled for 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. at Doña Ana County Community College East Mesa Campus Auditorium, 2800 Sonoma Ranch Blvd.
At the beginning of each hearing, an El Paso Electric Company representative will provide a 15-minute presentation summarizing the proposed rate changes. Following the presentation, the hearing will be opened for comments from the general public. All comments will be recorded and placed into the record.
Written comments will be accepted as well. Those unable to attend any of the sessions are encouraged to e-mail their comments to Robert.Hirasuna@state. nm.us.
Jones said he appreciates the fact many people would find it a burden to have to travel to Santa Fe to speak out.
“It’s important they come and voice their opinions,” Jones said. “We want to make it convenient for people.”
After the public comment hearing has ended and all representatives of the Public Regulation Commission have departed, members of the public will have the opportunity to ask El Paso Electric representatives questions pertaining to the company’s proposed rate changes and any other issues regarding this case.
The Commission may set a time limit on the length of comments in order to accommodate all who seek to provide comment.
The PRC’s decision will not be made until 2016. If the PRC approves, the hike would be El Paso Electric’s first since 2009/2010.
“The process takes about a year,” Jim Schichtl with El Paso Electric said when the utility announced it would seek a hike.
The company reports the process is very much like a court trial with discovery requests for data.
“The final step is an actual hearing in Santa Fe,” Schichtl said. “In a rate case, the utility has the burden of proof.”
Both sides can present witnesses for cross examination, he said.
“Any parties affected — anyone who pays electric fees — can participate in the case,” Schichtl said.
When the rate case goes forward, you can do so as a private citizen if you are a customer of El Paso Electric, or you can be involved in a group to present a case.
A day earlier, Monday, Aug. 17, a pair of hearings are scheduled for outside of Las Cruces in Hatch and Anthony respectively. The hearing in Hatch is set for 10 a.m. at the Village Trustees Chambers, 133 N. Franklin St. The Anthony gathering is set for 5:30 p.m. at Anthony City Hall, 820 Highway 478.
More information about the PRC can be found online at www.nmprc.state. nm.us. More information about El Paso Electric can be found online at www. epelectric.com.
Brook Stockberger may be reached at 680-1977 or brook@lascrucesbulletin.