What is the PRC exactly? A fast food chain? A standardized test for nursing students? An obscure department within the CIA?
Don't be ashamed of your ignorance. You're not the only otherwise well-informed voter asking these questions. The Public Regulation Commission (PRC) is one of the most powerful governmental bodies in New Mexico, but most New Mexicans have only the vaguest notions about what it actually does.
Here are the basics. New Mexico's PRC was created in 1999 to regulate public utilities, fire safety, transportation, the formation of corporations, and telecommunications and insurance companies. In other words, the commission has serious influence over consumer costs and protections as well as creating a competitive free market. Five commissioners serve on the PRC, each elected to four-year terms, and a qualified candidate should understand the importance of balancing regulations that are both fair to consumers and industry, as well us understanding issues such as pipeline safety and protecting public safety and the environment. They serve for a maximum of two terms and earn salaries of approximately $90,000.
This year, Republican Ward Camp and Democrat Jason Marks are vying for the PRC seat in District One, which includes a sizable chunk of Albuquerque. We asked both about their positions and experience. After careful consideration, we've decided to back Camp.
From the early '80s to the late '90s, Camp worked as an attorney. In that capacity, he amassed a great deal of experience with energy and utility matters by representing industry clients before governmental bodies similar to the PRC. For the last six years, Camp has worked for various private businesses related, in one way or another, to the energy industry. During this period, he's traveled all over the country consulting on electricity and energy efficiency issues.
Camp's work history is tailor-made for this position. He has occupational experience directly relevant to almost every aspect of the PRC's sphere of influence. During his interview with the Alibi, he also spoke with enormous passion, insight and detail about PRC topics that would bore the pants off a lesser informed citizen. Camp spoke eloquently about the need to spend the necessary funds to update New Mexico's antiquated energy infrastructure so that we can make a practical transition to renewable energy in the future. Camp also spoke at length about the need for public education, new pricing strategies and better information sharing to help make our state more energy efficient.
If elected, Camp would take a large pay cut, but he convinced us that he would do this without any ambitions beyond serving the public interest and spending more time with his family. Another point in Camp's favor is related to the internal bickering of various PRC representatives over the last couple years. Many PRC watchers have noted that this constant infighting has threatened to make the commission dysfunctional. In our opinion, Camp has the diplomatic and personal skills necessary to navigate through sticky periods in what can apparently be a very tense regulatory environment.
As his opponent was eager to point out, Camp is no enemy of utilities and industry. Despite this fact, Camp speaks with genuine enthusiasm and knowledge about the need to transform New Mexico into a leader in renewable energy. His endorsement by the Sierra Club suggests that, although business definitely will have a place at his table, Camp recognizes the need to pragmatically balance corporate and industry needs with consumer and environmental protection. With our endorsement, we fully expect Ward to strike a thoughtful and informed balance on the commission.
We feel that Jason Marks is also an intelligent candidate with a genuine passion for renewable energy and consumer protection. He holds a recent law degree from UNM and has 16 years of consulting experience related to administering affordable health care costs. Marks made strong points about the need for the PRC to stop cutting costly deals with industry, namely the recent Qwest fiasco, that allowed the company to skirt its end of the bargain in delivering needed services to rural areas.
On balance, though, Camp distinguishes himself from his opponent with his experience, knowledge and enthusiasm for a positive and pragmatic approach to regulation. He made it clear that the values of conservation play an integral role in his moderate brand of conservatism. We view this as a very good thing.
Ward Camp has the Alibi's endorsement.