Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A slab of concrete worth nearly $30 million?

A biomass energy company is holding almost $30 million in tax credits hostage with a small concrete slab. The tax credits are issued by the state of New Mexico. At the same time, there are legitimate, renewable energy projects waiting in line. Consumers anxious to get more of their electricity from clean and renewable energy must wait for wind and solar.

Unfortunately, New Mexico's regulators are allowing themselves to be bullied around by biomass electricity proponents.
New Mexico's rule, NMAC, states that "Construction of a qualified energy generator shall commence within 12 months of the application’s approval." The applicant, Western Water and Power Production Limited (WWPP), submitted an application for the state's production tax credits (PTC) that was approved on February 21, 2008. WWPP was required to meet the milestone of commencing construction by February 21, 2009 and they submitted documentation claiming to have done so.

What construction turned out to be, according to WWPP, was a graded road leading to a small slab on concrete. The state agreed on January 10, 2010, almost a year after the deadline in the rule, that this constituted "construction" so WWPP retains its nearly $30 million in tax credits from us the tax payers in New Mexico.

To add insult to injury, WWPP has just requested a waiver from the rule's next milestone that requires it to be generating electrical power and be in commercial operation within two years of the date it was awarded the tax credits. Well, that deadline was February 21!

Now, in an effort to further stall and hold on to the $30 million in clean energy tax credits, Western Water and Power Production LLC has filed a "Request for Waiver" of the state's rules. WWPP wants
until year end 2012 to generate electrical power and achieve commercial operation. The company's request is based on " the world-wide melt down of the credit system during the 2008-2010 period."

On top of this insult, WWPP has stated in its request filed with the New Mexico Energy Conservation Division (Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department) that it will use "Asian" financing for
project development and construction and will sell the power to a "California investor owned utility." So, how is it New Mexican's will benefits from this state tax credit?

Holding New Mexico's tax credits hostage until end of 2012, a period of 5 years, for energy (for California) that should not be considered clean or renewable when legitimate renewable energy producers are waiting in line is simply unacceptable. There are jobs for New Mexicans associated with wind and solar industries now, why should we wait until 2013 for a pie-in-the-sky biomass project?

Let Fernando Martinez (fernando.martinez@state.nm.us), Director of the Energy Conservation and Management Division (http://www.emnrd.state.nm.us/ECMD/index.htm) know this is unacceptable and to deny WWPP's request for a waiver of the state's rules and immediately make a determination based on the rules that the biomass facility in Estancia is no where close to generating electrical power.

So, I have a slab of concrete I am willing to sell for $30 million.

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