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August 17, 2010

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State Regulatory Relations

New Mexico Governor Appoints New Commissioner

Commissioner Theresa Becenti-Aguilar

Commissioner Theresa Becenti-Aguilar was recently sworn in to become the newest member of the five-person New Mexico Public Regulation Commission. Commissioner Becenti-Aguilar was appointed to fill the vacant District 4 post by Governor Bill Richardson.

The Commission’s newest member said she hopes a collaborative approach to conducting Commission business will benefit the elected board, the agency and, ultimately, the people of New Mexico.

“I’m a true believer in building consensus,” Commissioner Becenti-Aguilar said. “By making this a priority, I believe that this commission can accomplish many wonderful things through a collaborative approach.

“To my constituents within District 4, I vow to give them every opportunity to have their voices heard,” she continued. “Working with the other commissioners, the agency’s staff and the people of New Mexico is my top priority.”

Commissioner Becenti-Aguilar – who will hold the District 4 seat through the 2010 calendar year – is the Democratic nominee for the position on November’s General Election ballot.

Commissioner Becenti-Aguilar previously served as the agency’s Native American Liaison. She was responsible for establishing a working relationship between the Commission and 22 Tribes of New Mexico. One of her primary duties was to bridge the communication gaps between the parties to reach a compromise on issues such as the Native American Tax Exemption bases on utility and telecommunication companies within the state.

Additionally, Commissioner Becenti-Aguilar boasts eight years experience as a constituent services representative for former U.S. Representative Tom Udall and eight years as an executive assistance in the litigation division of the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office.

Commission Chairman David King, Vice Chairman Jerome D. Block and Commissioners Jason Marks and Sandy Jones each welcomed Becenti-Aguilar to the Commission and expressed their excitement and enthusiasm regarding her appointment.

Commissioner Becenti-Aguilar said she will strive to balance corporate and constituent interests. “The lives of citizens of District 4 are impacted by utilities, telecommunications and other pertinent issues that are overseen by this agency. I will balance the interests of regulated companies and constituents and my decisions will be based on records and information presented in each case that comes before this Commission,” she said.

“I feel both privileged and honored to be appointed to this position by Governor Bill Richardson,” Becenti-Aguilar said. “As the Commissioner representing District 4, I gladly accept this appointment and look forward to making important decisions on pressing issues during this crucial time at the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission.”


Federal Court Rules On Service Termination

The United States District Court for the Northern District of New York has ruled in favor of a tenant who sued the City of Auburn, New York for terminating her water service and then requiring that she pay off her absentee landlord’s delinquent account in order to have her service reinstated. The Court agreed that the City had the right to terminate water service as result of unpaid bills, but found that customers were first entitled to be heard. In addition, the Court concluded that the City had violated the plaintiff’s constitutional rights when it demanded that she cure her landlord’s default before restoring her service:

The City clearly failed to provide the plaintiff with proper notice prior to depriving her of her property interest in water service, a violation of plaintiff’s right to procedural due process. Additionally, there was no rational basis in the City’s act of requiring Pilchen to pay on her landlord’s delinquent account before reinstating water service, a violation of plaintiff’s right to substantive due process. Similarly, the lack of a rational basis for coercing the plaintiff to assume her landlord’s debt and the disparate treatment she received as a tenant were violations of her right to equal protection.

Pilchen v. City of Auburn, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 79379 (August 5, 2010).