The fight over the proposed takeover of New Mexico's largest utility by an international energy conglomerate has officially gotten nasty and weird.
During questioning before a hearing examiner at the Public Regulation Commission (PRC), an attorney representing Bernalillo County asked if Avangrid, a subsidiary of Spanish-based Iberdola, itself one of the world's largest energy companies, would fill a proposed local advisory board with foreign nationals who would give critical infrastructure details to terrorists.
Under the proposed terms of the merger, Avangrid would purchase Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) and install an advisory board of New Mexico residents. The company has also offered more than $65 million in rate credits and $6 million in forgiveness for past-due accounts, in addition to huge investments to upgrade PNM's infrastructure with renewable energy generation to meet the state's ambitious zero-carbon by 2040 electricity goal. On Thursday, Avangrid also offered to increase those rate credits and forgiveness amounts to address concerns raised by the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority.
During questioning of Avangrid's Pedro Azagra Blázquez on Thursday, attorney Jeff Albright, representing Bernalillo County, raised eyebrows among those in attendance by suggesting that the Spanish-owned company was somehow planning to install Arab and Spanish terrorists on the board.
Albright: There is also a requirement in the post-stipulation that the board be New Mexico residents. Are you aware of that?...
Albright: ... Would that allow for people who are moved here from other states to be members of the board?
Blázquez: I think the intent here is to retain people in New Mexico...
Later during the same line of questioning asking about who would be installed on the board, Albright pressed Avangrid's executive on whether they would appoint Spanish or Arab persons, then things got very weird.
Albright: If they chose someone from Spain to be on the board, or Qatar, or Syria, or Afghanistan. That would meet the requirements? Residents in New Mexico? That would meet the requirements?... Does the board have access to the infrastructure and the plans and development of transmission and generation information?
The bizarre line of questioning continued for more than three minutes with also Albright asking if a New Mexican with Russian heritage could be trusted with infrastructure drawings as well.
Albright's questions were interpreted by some watching to suggest that New Mexicans with recent Spanish or Arab backgrounds could not be trusted to look out for local interests or, worse, that they would help terrorists sabotage New Mexico's electric grid.
Watch the exchange captured on the PRC's YouTube archive:
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