After long wait, money starts to roll out for former employees of shuttered power plant

By: - July 21, 2023 4:30 am

(Photo courtesy of San Juan Citizens Alliance and EcoFlight / Creative Commons)

The New Mexico Legislature made changes this year to the state’s Energy Transition Act in an effort to speed up funding and job training opportunities for former employees of the San Juan Generating Station and coal mine in Farmington.

Some of the $20 million available has begun rolling out this month and officials say they’re making plans to get the rest out as quickly as possible.

About 450 workers lost their jobs at the plant, starting in 2020, and many are from the Navajo Nation. When utility Public Services Co. of New Mexico (PNM) finally closed it in 2022, the state allowed it to take out “energy transition bonds” and required it to put part of that money towards compensation for the community.

But that money has been slow to roll out. Mark Roper of the Economic Development Department said during a legislative committee hearing Tuesday that money only became available this month.

“The issue was we didn’t get the money from PNM until last summer, and then we had to wait until this legislative session to get the money appropriated,” he said.

The Department of Workforce Solutions says 126 of the workers report having found full-time work. Of them, 19 say they’re making the same or more as before, but more than twice that say they’re making nearly $28,000 less despite being employed full-time.

The department said it has delivered about 350 one-time payments of $20,000 to workers as of mid-July and continues to process applications.

Cabinet Secretary Sarita Nair said there are plenty of job openings in San Juan County, but few match the skill sets of the former employees of the plant. She says job training in areas of interest for the workers is the next priority.

“It’s not our job to pick winners and losers in terms of industries,” she said. “Our job is to listen to the workers, and whatever fields that they want to be trained in is where we’ll give them that exposure for training or experiences.”

Nair said anyone interested in that training should contact the Farmington Workforce Connection Office.

This article originally appeared on KUNM. It is republished here with permission.

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Megan Myscofski
Megan Myscofski

Megan Myscofski is a reporter with KUNM's Poverty and Public Health Project. She previously worked as a Business and Economics Reporter at Arizona Public Media, where she also reported, produced and hosted a narrative podcast, Tapped, on the cost of drought in Arizona. Before that, she was a reporter and host at Montana Public Radio and an intern on the podcast "Threshold". Her first audio journalism internship was in Essen, Germany as a high school exchange student.