Energy giant promises more perks in New Mexico utility case

New Mexico News

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A top executive with global energy giant Iberdrola is promising more perks if local governments and others in New Mexico don’t stand in the way of a proposed multibillion-dollar utility merger.

Iberdrola’s chief development officer, Pedro Azagra Blázquez, was cross-examined Wednesday during the first day of an evidentiary hearing on the proposed acquisition of Public Service Co. of New Mexico by Iberdrola subsidiary Avangrid. Utility executives and other experts will be testifying over the next several days.

Supporters say the deal could boost renewable energy development in New Mexico. Critics are concerned about the potential for rate increases and Avangrid’s track record of poor customer service and power outages elsewhere.

Azagra Blázquez acknowledged during questioning by attorneys for the state’s largest county and a large water utility that Iberdrola and Avangrid would be willing to offer more rate credits and economic development funds if the groups would not oppose the deal.

He also confirmed that the company would include $1 million for a scholarship program for students in New Mexico’s largest metro area. Another $1 million would go toward apprenticeship programs for high school and college students.

Mariel Nanasi with New Energy Economy said company executives were making side deals contrary to rules that all parties must be a part of settlement talks. She called the promises “Christmas tree bonuses,” saying more details were needed.

The case, which is likely to affect the way power is produced and distributed for years to come, has spurred questions about transparency by the companies as well as alleged conflicts of interest that stretch to the state attorney general’s office.

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