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BPU tables CRC discussion

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By Arin McKenna

Due to a clerical error, the Los Alamos Board of Public Utilities tabled a discussion on the Charter Review Committee’s recommendations for changes to the charter section governing the Department of Public Utilities.

The agenda identified the CRC proposal as a discussion item rather than an action item. The board chose to delay consideration until action could be taken. CRC Chair Susan O’Leary gave a brief presentation to the board and answered questions.

BPU plans to take the issue up during its Oct. 16 meeting. A special meeting will be scheduled if council requests the BPU response earlier.

The board approved changes to a proposed ordinance regarding the gas rate structure.

The ordinance, which would change billing from a fixed rate to one in which customers are billed for the actual cost of gas plus a fixed rate per unit to cover operational costs, came before council in August.

Council sent the ordinance back to BPU, requesting a sunset clause and a cap on rates. The ordinance approved on Wednesday sunsets the ordinance in three years and caps rates at three times the current rate, at .99 per therm.

Council approval would be required if rates should fluctuate beyond that.

June Gladney, purchasing manager for Los Alamos Public Schools, voiced the only public comment on the proposed ordinance, which includes a five percent increase in revenues for gas distribution due to fluctuations in the cost of gas and an increase in operating and maintenance expenses. Gladney spoke out against the increase because of impact on the schools.

The ordinance will be reintroduced at the council meeting set for Sept. 27 and is scheduled for a public hearing Oct. 29.

BPU was scheduled to vote on a bid for reconstruction of the road to the Los Alamos Reservoir, but the item was pulled. It will also be pulled from the county council’s Sept. 27 agenda.

The project will have to be rebid to include costs for repairing additional damage incurred during last week’s flooding. Construction on the road is likely to commence in the spring of 2014.

Utilities Manager John Arrowsmith updated the board on the impact of the State Implementation Plan for meeting regional haze requirements for the San Juan Generating Plant.

The new agreement between New Mexico, the Environmental Protection Agency and PNM calls for the plant to close two units by 2017 and install less expensive technology on the remaining units. The EPA plan originally called for high-priced filters to be installed on all four units.

The remaining units will be unable to produce sufficient energy to supply all the current owners, but some owners are willing to withdraw. Their departure will actually make additional megawatts available to the remaining owners.

DPU is considering the purchase of an additional five megawatts of power, dependent on the renewal of its contract to supply power to Los Alamos National Laboratory.