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State Utility Regulator Recognizes Climate Change, its Human Causes, and its Severe Consequences as an Undisputable Scientific Fact

The move follows a successful motion filed by the New Mexico Attorney General, WRA, and others


Western Resource Advocates today welcomed a New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (NMPRC) hearing examiner’s decision that climate change, its causes, and its consequences are well-established scientific facts. This action at the NMPRC follows a motion filed by New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, WRA, and other conservation and community groups. The motion was supported by many of the participants in the NMPRC’s PNM/Avangrid merger proceedings, and was not opposed by any party.

“Granting this motion is important not so much because it recognizes human-caused climate change and its devastating consequences, but because it also determines that this is settled science and no longer up for debate,” said Steve Michel, deputy director of Western Resource Advocates’ Clean Energy Program. “In other words, climate change, its human causes, and its potentially catastrophic consequences is now to be taken as a given. Just like parties in litigation do not have to prove obvious things like the effects of gravity, sunrise, and holding a match to gasoline, now they no longer need to prove the nature and consequences of climate change.”

The legal process for an administrative body to find that a scientific fact is so well established that it is beyond debate, and does not need proof, is called “taking administrative notice.” The scientific facts that Hearing Examiner Ashley Schannauer, with no opposition from a wide range of parties and interests, took administrative notice of today were:

  1. Climate change (which is a change beyond natural climate variability) is caused by human activity resulting in an accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The principal directly-emitted greenhouse gases responsible for climate change are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6).
  2. A predominant source for greenhouse gas emissions is the combustion of fossil fuels by power plants, by vehicles, in buildings and by industry.
  3. The direct consequences of climate change have been and will be wildfires, droughts, floods, extreme weather events and rising sea levels.
  4. Unless the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is quickly and substantially curtailed, the adverse consequences for public health, welfare and safety, the economy and the environment, and for all living things, is likely to be severe, widespread and irreversible.

While WRA is aware that some courts have taken judicial notice of climate change, this action by the NMPRC is either the first or among the first such action taken by a state utility commission.

“Hopefully, this will allow us to recognize that climate science is no longer debatable, and to instead focus all our attention on assuring we have a livable planet for our future,” added Michel.

Western Resource Advocates, the Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, Tó Nizhóní Ání, and the NAVA Education Project joined the Attorney General in filing the motion. The Sierra Club, New Energy Economy, Interwest Energy Alliance, and the merger’s joint applicants (Avangrid, PNM) supported the motion. No parties opposed the motion.


Jamie Trafficanda, 720-763-3737,

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