PNM Plans to Waste Tens of Billions of Gallons of Water by Burning Fossil Fuels

For Immediate Release: June 25, 2014
Contact: Jim Mackenzie -350 New Mexico, 505 350-6000
    David Robertson, Sierra Club – Rio Grande Chapter, 505-803-6242

Albuquerque, NM --- The Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) is squandering a chance to save tens of billions of gallons of water through the year 2033 by investing in large-scale, cost-effective renewable energy. PNM is instead planning to use mostly nuclear, coal, and natural gas, all highly water intensive, to replace the power from two soon to be shuttered stacks at the San Juan Generating Stations in northwestern New Mexico. The Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club and 350 New Mexico issued its “PNM Water You Thinking Report” today detailing PNM's plan to unnecessarily consume large amounts of water in power production, which the utility described in their December filing to the Public Regulation Commission (PRC).

"As New Mexico experiences its most extensive drought in 130 years, water is becoming increasingly precious," said David Robertson, the principal author of the Water You Thinking Report and member of the Sierra Club’s Rio Grande Chapter Executive Committee. Robertson added, "PNM’s plan would use 5.17 billion gallons of water per year burning fossil fuels. A plan with 30% renewable energy would use only 3.83 billion gallons. Clearly, in the arid Southwest, and under current climate conditions - which are likely to get far worse - the renewable energy alternative is the more sensible approach for water conservation. “

In addition to ongoing PRC hearings on the subject, Albuquerque’s Mayor RJ Berry has until June 27th to sign City Council Resolution recognizing the importance of water in long-term electrical production decisions. The City Council Resolution (F/S R-14-59), passed on June 9th states in part that, " ... the energy industry has not sufficiently transitioned to less water consumptive forms of energy generation ...." (p. 3, line 1).

"Mayor Berry has an important opportunity to stand with ratepayers and farmers and oppose the PNM's plan by signing the City Council Resolution. We have a unique opportunity here to stimulate the economy with the development of new renewable industries across the state, that not only protect our water but also create jobs," said Jim Mackenzie of 350 New Mexico.

Water is consumed in large quantities to cool traditional fossil fuel and nuclear electrical generating plants. The Water You Thinking Report details how decisions in the San Juan Replacement Power case (Docket #13-00390-UT) will effect water consumption in the San Juan and Colorado Rivers Basins. Many New Mexico municipalities including Albuquerque and Santa Fe rely on water from the San Juan River. In contrast, cost effective wind and photovoltaic solar power generation consumes no water.

“El Paso Electric, which serves west Texas and southern New Mexico has announced that it will go coal free by 2016. This utility is purchasing solar from a 50MW facility called Macho Springs which its getting for 5.79 cents per kilowatt-hour which is less than half the cost of dirty, coal powered energy from newer plants,” said Camilla Feibelman, Director of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club. “It’s time for PNM to get up to speed with the region and the urgency of this drought.”

As part of compliance with Clean Air Act Regional Haze Requirements, PNM will be retiring San Juan Units 2 and 3 at the end of 2017, per agreement with the State of New Mexico and the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Hearings in the PRC case are now scheduled to begin August 29, 2014. The PRC will issue a final ruling on the power replacement in 2015.

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Click to view:

Presentation - PNM Water Report SC350 (.pdf)

Report - PNM Water Report SC350 (.pdf)