Deal to purchase New Mexico Gas Co. opposed

March 15, 2014 • State News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A Florida company making a bid to buy New Mexico Gas Co. will address concerns about layoffs and costs to consumers at a public hearing next week.

The state attorney general and other New Mexico stakeholders have expressed worries about Teco Energy Inc. purchasing the utility, the Albuquerque Journal reported Saturday ( ).

Teco reached an agreement last May with Continental Energy Systems LLC, the parent company of New Mexico Gas, worth about $950 million, including the assumption of $200 million in debt. The company in September filed for regulatory approval [auth] from the state’s Public Regulation Commission, which will hold a series of hearings starting March 22.

“It’s a pretty contested case,” said Carolyn Glick, the commission hearing examiner assigned to the case. “Almost everybody who has filed testimony has opposed the transaction.”

Opponents say Teco is paying too much for the deal and has plans to cut 100 jobs in New Mexico. Company executives say there are plans to eliminate 136 jobs — 99 of those in New Mexico.

Teco President and CEO John Ramil told The Journal on Thursday that the positions being cut are “back office” jobs. The cuts will make New Mexico Gas more competitive and efficient and help lower rates, he added.

Company officials previously offered to share up to half of a projected $7.9 million in annual savings from the workforce cuts with customers by issuing unilateral rate cuts that would stay in effect from 2015 to 2017. The company also said it would retain New Mexico Gas President Annette Gardiner.

But representatives for energy consumers said they haven’t see anything official.

“Teco has been very reluctant to provide specifics,” said Peter Gould, general counsel for New Mexico Industrial Energy Consumers, which represents large users such as the University of New Mexico. “They have yet to explain how the job cuts and consolidation will impact customer service.”

After testimony is heard from both sides, Glick will make a recommendation on final approval by the five-member commission.

New Mexico Gas serves about 509,000 customers, most of them residential. If the deal officially closes, Teco’s subsidiaries would serve more than 1.5 million regulated electric and gas utility customers in Florida and New Mexico, the company said.

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