Thursday, February 10, 2011

PRC wants independent investigation

The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission decided it wants an independent third-party to investigate last week’s natural gas supply interruption to over 40,000 New Mexico Gas Company customers.

The PRC, at the urging of several commissioners, directed its Acting Chief of Staff to prepare an agreement providing for the retention of an independent third party to investigate and file a report with the Commission regarding the cause of the service disruption.

Commissioners say they want their investigation to focus on what happened and how to prevent future gas delivery failures. They also want the investigator to examine whether New Mexico Gas Company's response to the situation was appropriate, such as whether NMGC’s decisions regarding which customers should be curtailed and for how long, and what steps can be taken to ensure that such a situation does not occur again in the future.

PRC Chairman Pat Lyons said that having an independent entity conduct the investigation protect the public’s interest.

“We believe that in order for us to get the most comprehensive and objective information possible, an outside source must be contracted,” Chairman Lyons said. “The Commission will, of course, consider the views of NMGC, Commission Staff, the Attorney General and other interested parties before coming to any decisions. There were far too many people adversely affected by this situation and we want to ensure that New Mexicans never have to endure this kind of hardship again.”

Lyons’ desire to hire an independent investigator was largely endorsed by his Commission colleagues who approved the measure. An NMGC representative who attended Tuesday’s meeting said he agreed that an independent investigation would be prudent.

The Commission expects to finalize its order early next week, thus commencing the investigation process.

The PRC’s Pipeline Safety Bureau and its Utility Division will assist in the investigation.

“We want this done promptly, but we also want to make sure that it’s done thoroughly,” Chairman Lyons added. “New Mexico’s citizens deserve nothing less.”

Several taxpayers say the PRC is already independent of the legislature and executive branches and that they believe it's the commissioners job to do the investigation.

One person we talked to said, "That's what what we pay the PRC members to do."

The final structure and format of the investigation will be determined by the Commission at its Feb. 15 meeting.

From a news release.

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