Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect a correction on the total number of people who will sit on the selection committee, and the Friday announcement of fourth selection committee member, Brian Egolf.
SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico is on the cusp of a major change in who regulates the state’s various utilities. Now we’re getting a better idea of who will choose the next group of regulators on the Public Regulation Commission (PRC.)
The office of the Governor announced Thursday several members of the eventual seven person bipartisan committee, tasked with nominating candidates for the state’s revamped PRC that’s slated to begin work in 2023. The PRC selection committee will include a former New Mexico pueblo governor, a renewable energy industry professional, and an career energy-environmental law lawyer.
The office of the state’s House Democratic leadership also announced Friday former NM House Speaker Brian Egolf will join the committee responsible for selecting the next PRC commission. Egolf is retiring from his powerful legislative role at the end of 2022.
New Mexico voters passed a measure in 2020, abolishing the publicly elected version of the state’s PRC, or the utility regulating board. While the PRC only existed in its current form for just over two decades, the publicly elected agency has been the source of criticism and various controversies across years of different commissioners. Some in the state have been calling for changes to the PRC as far back as 2011.
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The PRC maintains significant decision making power in the realm of some of the state’s largest entities that virtually all New Mexicans interact with. In regulating the state’s utilities, the PRC has been a central to decisions surrounding the proposed merger of PNM with Avangrid, and the scheduled shutdown of the San Juan coal-fired powerplant. Along with electric companies, the PRC regulates natural gas firms, some water and sewer companies, telephone utilities, moving companies and transportation industries.
The next PRC will be smaller with just three commissioners instead of five. Before that happens, the nominating committee will get to work.
The seven-member nominating committee will call for and review applications to the new PRC, then eventually turn in a list of at least five nominees to the Governor. The Governor will then choose three commissioners from the list to serve on the new PRC. Those choices will ultimately have to be confirmed by the New Mexico State Senate. No more than two can be from the same political party.
So who will help choose those commissioners? The Governor’s Office says Ron Lovato, Rikki Seguin and William Brancard will, in part, make up the new PRC selection committee. Governor Lujan Grisham selected Lovato from the committee.
Lovato is a former two-term Ohkay Owingeh pueblo governor. According to the Governor’s Office, Lovato “negotiated utility easements, equipment leases, and right-of-way agreements with national and statewide utility and telecommunications providers.” He’s also credited with successfully filing for FCC licensure for broadband frequency, bringing internet services to Ohkay Owingeh in northern New Mexico, near Española.
Rikki Seguin and William Brancard were selected by the secretaries of the state’s Economic Development and Energy, Minerals & Natural Resources departments. Both have connections to environmental issues.
Seguin is the current executive director of the Interwest Energy Alliance, a consortium of the largest developers and manufacturers of utility-scale renewable energy. According to the Governor’s Office, Seguin is a University of Florida graduate who has “has years of experience with New Mexico’s Public Regulation Commission” and experience navigating “technical details of clean energy development in the western United States.”
The third committee member announced Thursday, Brancard is a career energy and environmental law lawyer who is currently the Hearings Bureau Chief for the New Mexico Energy, Minerals & Natural Resources Department. Previously, Brancard was the NM EMNRD’s general counsel and the director of the department’s Mining and Minerals Division.