Rio Grande Foundation Submits Comments to NM PRC in Support of NM Gas Co. Sale to TECO Energy

Hydraulic fracturing drilling rig in the Permian Basin in West Texas. The Permian Basin is in the northwestern part of Texas and the southeastern part of New Mexico. Oil has been recovered for decades in the area. The fracking industry recently revived production and the area is experiencing a new oil boom.

New Mexico Public Regulation Commission
PO Box 1269
Santa Fe, NM 87504-1269
Case number: 13-00231-UT

Comments to the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission on the purchase of New Mexico Gas by TECO Energy

On behalf of the Rio Grande Foundation, utility customers, and advocates of freedom throughout New Mexico, I urge you to approve of the proposed TECO purchase of New Mexico Gas Co.

For starters, New Mexico Gas is currently owned by an equity or hedge fund. This was always expected to be a temporary situation. It would be far better for New Mexico Gas to be owned by TECO, a utility company with a 115 year track record of serving its customers.

For those who are concerned about rates and prices, TECO has proposed that NMGC customer rates will be frozen until at least July 2017. NMGC will retain its name, and its headquarters will remain in Albuquerque. While New Mexico’s economy has struggled mightily in recent years, TECO’s management is “bullish” on New Mexico. The company’s CEO John Ramil recently was quoted as saying, “The Company is looking at New Mexico to be a growing state, and New Mexico Gas Co. to continue its growth.
Given the onslaught of negative economic news from our state in recent years, it is wonderful to have a business that sees our state’s growth potential looking to come here and invest.

A positive attitude is an important factor, but the real potential for New Mexico lies in TECO’s willingness to replicate its successful Florida model of investing in filling stations for vehicles that use clean natural gas produced right here in New Mexico. Due to broader market forces and newly-discovered supplies, natural gas prices remain at historically-low levels, spurring calls for increased investments in fueling stations.

In fact, whether the fuel in question is gasoline, electricity, or natural gas, a large national network of filling stations is an absolute necessity in order for alternative fuels to become widespread.

TECO has a proven track record and stated interest in investing in infrastructure and the communities it serves. NMGC which is currently owned by a hedge fund with a business model that involves purchasing and “flipping” under-valued assets is unlikely to make such investments.

One final point on the importance of the NMGC sale is the need for government bodies to respect free markets and a business’ desire to sell a company that does business in New Mexico to another business. It is one thing for regulatory bodies to stand in the way of such transactions for tangible, specific reasons. It is another thing to stand in front of these business transactions out of abstract fears.

My organization has worked assiduously to research and explain how New Mexico can improve its economy. While there are myriad issues to overcome before our state becomes truly business-friendly, there is no easier way to become a pariah among investors and businesses than to be seen as a place where once you have invested resources, you are unable to sell those investments.

Venezuela and Argentina are just two nations whose economies have suffered greatly from such capricious state actions. New Mexico should not fall into that trap.

I urge the PRC to allow the proposed sale to go through.


Paul J. Gessing
Rio Grande Foundation
PO Box 40336
Albuquerque, NM 87196