Fischmann to run for Public Regulation Commission in 2018

From the Las Cruces Sun-News, November 21, 2017. by the Las Cruces Sun-News.

LAS CRUCES - Former State Sen. Steve Fischmann has announced that he will run for the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission in 2018.

Fischmann, a Democrat, will challenge Democratic incumbent Sandy Jones for the PRC seat in District 5, which covers the entire southwestern part of the state, stretching north to Los Lunas. In the last couple of years, Fischmann has been among the leaders of an effort to oppose El Paso Electric's rate increase request.

“My goal as a PRC commissioner will be to transform the PRC from an agency that’s guided by monopoly utility interests, to an agency that guides utilities in the public interest,” Fischmann wrote in an announcement statement. “The motto of this campaign will be ‘Consumers First.’”

Fischmann said that, working with the city of Las Cruces and Doña Ana County, a local public advocacy group opposing the rate hikes have helped spare El Paso Electric’s New Mexico customers millions of dollars in annual rate increases.

In a column published by the Sun-News in March, Fischmann referred to the construction of two new El Paso Electric power plants, at a cost of $160 million, as a “plant-building boondoggle.”

He contended that the two plants would only be needed for about 50 peak hours a year, and that demand could be lowered by changing billing practices to charge higher rates at peak hours and lower rates when usage is less.

Fischmann said in his announcement that he would continue to fight for long-term utility planning and regulation practices that stand to save consumers billions in future electricity costs while protecting the environment. 

“New Mexico has the potential for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs that lower costs for consumers, create well-paying jobs, and improve our ability to attract new businesses. I will keep an open mind to all proposals that further the public interest,” Fischmann wrote. “I’ll ensure that consumers have the same access to commissioners as industry lobbyists and get them equal representation on the PRC’s team of staff experts.”

Fischmann was elected to the state Senate in 2008, and served one term. Since leaving office, he has also been an advocate for tighter rules on payday lenders in New Mexico. A group he co-founded lobbied successfully for a new interest rate cap on storefront loans.

The Public Regulation Commission oversees electric, gas and water utilities; motor transportation; trains' and telecommunications. It also houses the State Fire Marshall’s department.   

Jones was first elected to the PRC in 2006. He lost to Republican Ben Hall in 2010. In 2014, Jones narrowly defeated Merrie Lee Soules by fewer than 200 votes in the Democratic primary, before then beating Hall in the general election.

Editor's note: The location of PRC District 5 has been corrected in this article.

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