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MON: UNM to appeal grad worker unionization, Oil regulators aim to limit seismic activity, + More



UNM to appeal allowing grad student workers to unionize -Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The University of New Mexico plans to appeal a ruling that graduate student employees can unionize.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Sunday that UNM has filed notice of intent to appeal in 2nd Judicial District Court.

Cinnamon Blair, a university spokeswoman, says "because of the importance of these issues to our mission, we feel a correct and thorough legal examination of the issues is necessary and this is the role of the courts."

University graduate student workers first petitioned for union recognition in December 2020. A hearing officer on the the state Public Employees Labor Relations Board determined that graduate students were not regular employees because their jobs last for a semester.

Graduate students filed an appeal. Both sides made arguments in front of the board. In August, the board sided with the student workers. Earlier this month, the board called for graduate student workers to do a "card check" and see if a majority wanted to unionize.

UNM graduate student Ramona Malczynski, chair of the graduate student workers coordinating committee, said she wasn't surprised by the appeal. 

Their action was just "wasting taxpayer money on a lawyer," Malczynski said.

Blair says the notice of appeal is not meant to reflect negatively on the value of graduate student employees.

New Mexico oil regulators aim to limit seismic activity - Associated Press

New Mexico oil and gas regulators are watching closely as increased seismic activity is being reported in the Permian Basin along the Texas state line. 

Under a plan recently rolled out by the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division, pending permits for wastewater injection in certain areas will require extra review. More reporting and monitoring also could be required and if things worsen, the state could limit how much wastewater is injected in disposal wells. 

State officials say the protocols were developed in partnership with New Mexico Tech and after getting feedback from the oil and gas industry. 

Division Director Adrienne Sandoval said New Mexico is trying to be proactive with what she described as a pragmatic approach.

"While some of the biggest events have occurred over the state line in Texas, the time is now to ensure larger events do not occur in our part of the oil field," she said in a statement.

The protocols call for reporting and monitoring when two magnitude 2.5 events occur within 30 days and within a 10-mile radius. Within that area, operators will be required to provide weekly reports on daily injection volumes and average daily surface pressure and share that with the state when requested. 

If one magnitude 3.0 occurs, operators will have to reduce their injection rates — with higher reductions required closer to the epicenter.

Between March and September, the Oil Conservation Division received reports of seven earthquakes with magnitudes from 2.5 to 4.0 in an area about 35 miles east southeast of Malaga in southeastern New Mexico. Of these earthquakes, four were magnitude 3.0 or greater. 

State officials say they've been working with operators near the epicenters of these events. In some cases, that has resulted in operators voluntarily suspending injection operations.

Analysis by the Oil Conservation Division suggests that injection well activity is a potential cause or contributor to seismic activity. State officials, staff at the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and the industry are trying to better understand the fault situation in and around the area to determine when and how disposal activities can continue. 

In addition to 16 existing injection wells, the division currently has 72 pending applications for disposal wells within 10 miles of the area of concern.

Rio Rancho man dies while snowboarding at resort near Taos - Associated Press

A Rio Rancho man has died while snowboarding at a popular northern New Mexico ski resort.

Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe confirmed Monday that 28-year-old Jario Hernandez died over the weekend at Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort. 

Hogrefe says his office is still completing an investigation of the Saturday incident. But so far, there is nothing to indicate the resort was at fault. Initially, Hogrefe reported that Hernandez had hit a tree.

J.P. Bradley, the general manager, said ski patrollers arrived within minutes of receiving reports of a snowboarder in distress and administered CPR. Paramedics then took over and transported Hernandez to a hospital but he was pronounced dead.

The New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator will conduct an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

The resort, roughly 25 miles south of Taos, continued operating the ski area where the incident happened.

Offices dismiss ethics complaints against attorney general - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Three state watchdog offices have dismissed a nonprofit group's complaints accusing New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas of ethics violations in connection with a proposed merger involving the state's largest utility company.

The actions were taken by the state Ethics Commission, the State Auditor's Office and the New Mexico Supreme Court's disciplinary board on complaints filed by New Energy Economy, the Albuquerque Journal reported

The complaints alleged a conflict of interest was created when Avangrid, the company seeking to merge with Public Service Co. of New Mexico, hired an attorney to promote the merger.

The attorney, Marcus Real Jr., has previously represented Balderas in some matters and early in their careers they briefly worked together.

"We were always confident that these complaints would be fairly reviewed and found to be baseless," Balderas said.

NEE Executive Director Mariel Nanasi said she had "no comment" on the complaint dismissals.

New Mexico St. parts with coach Doug Martin after 9 seasons - Associated Press

New Mexico State announced Saturday it is making a coaching changes, moving on from Doug Martin after nine seasons.

Aggies athletic director Mario Moccia said after New Mexico State (2-10) ended its regular season by beating UMass that Martin's contract, which is set to expire after the season, would not be renewed.

"I wanted to take the opportunity to publicly thank Doug for everything he's done for the program," Moccia told reporters. "He faced many challenges, from social conduct to APR issues. And he more than improved those items."

Martin finished 25-74 at New Mexico State, a major college football independent. The Aggies will be joining Conference USA by 2023.

The 58-year-old Martin had one winning season, guiding New Mexico State to a bowl game in 2013 for the first time since 1960. The 57-year bowl drought was the longest in the country. The Aggies won the Arizona Bowl against Utah State to finish 7-6.

Navajo Nation reports 38 new COVID-19 cases, 2 new deaths - Associated Press

The Navajo Nation is reporting 38 new COVID-19 cases and two new deaths.

Navajo health officials released the latest daily virus figures Sunday, bringing the reservation's pandemic death toll to 1,542. The number of total cases was not immediately available but there have been more than 39,000 cases reported so far.

Tribal President Jonathan Nez says some public health experts believe the newly discovered omicron variant is already in the U.S. He again called for everyone in Indian Country to get fully vaccinated or get a booster shot and wear masks.

Health care providers and facilities across the Navajo Nation are administering COVID-19 vaccines and appointments are readily available.

The reservation covers 27,000 square miles and extends into parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

In the Hatch, Andy Nuñez wraps up 21 years in politics - By Algernon D'ammassa Las Cruces Sun-News

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, Andy Nuñez, the 85-year-old mayor of Hatch, made no bones about not wearing a mask in the village offices, despite New Mexico's indoor masking mandate for public spaces.

"I never wore the damn thing — unless I had to," he laughed, with a mischievous smile that crinkles his entire face and turns up the ends of his distinctive mustache.

For more than 20 years in New Mexico politics, Nuñez has gone his own way.

Since winning his first elected office in 2000 — representing New Mexico's 36th district in the state House of Representatives — he has served as a Democrat, an independent and finally as a Republican. In Santa Fe, he tussled with House leadership and his own party. During his first term in the Legislature, he won a seat on Hatch's board of trustees and simultaneously held local and state office.

He summed up his decision to enter politics at age 64 in simple terms: "I didn't like what my representative was doing, so I ran and beat him." He defeated Republican E.G. Smokey Blanton by 34 votes and held the seat for 14 years.

Looking back over 21 years in multiple offices, the highlights Nuñez cited for the Las Cruces Sun-News included his six-year drive to repeal a state law allowing applicants to obtain driver's licenses without documenting U.S. citizenship, arguing that the privilege was being exploited by criminals. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez signed a compromise bill he cosponsored in 2016.

He also sought funds to repair damage in his community from the disastrous Placitas Arroyo flood of 2006, and 15 years later, as mayor, he is still working on replacing a bridge that once stood on Canal Street. The bridge, which collected debris and contributed to flood damage in town, was later removed.

He expressed satisfaction over the village's pact with the Elephant Butte Irrigation District to maintain the arroyo, but he acknowledged flood trauma lingers in Hatch: "Some people are scared to death every time it rains," he said.

Nuñez expressed no regrets about another conflict that rocked his political career: In 2011, he supported a leadership challenge against House Speaker Ben Luján, a Democrat from Nambé, backing fellow Doña Ana County Democrat Joe Cervantes (now a state Senator) instead.

After voting "present" in the leadership election, Nuñez was removed as chairman of the House agriculture committee, and he later dropped his Democratic affiliation.

He ran for re-election as an independent in 2012, but came in at a distant third place behind Democrat Phillip Archuleta, who won the seat, and Republican Mike Tellez. Nuñez returned in 2014 and handily defeated Archuleta — this time, as a Republican.

He then joined a new Republican majority in the House, which earned him the unusual distinction of serving among majorities even after switching parties.


'The people here got tired of me'

During that final term in the Legislature, after Hatch Mayor Judd Nordyke died in 2013, Nuñez was appointed to succeed him. He won the office in his own right the following year with 61 percent of the vote.

In 2016, Nuñez lost the House seat to Democrat Nathan Small as he defended himself against allegations that he had mishandled campaign funds during his years as a legislator. He denied the claims and no charges were filed.

"I didn't enjoy those last few years," Nuñez admitted.

Since then, Nuñez has concentrated on being mayor, winning re-election against three challengers in 2018. While the office carries a four-year term, he faced an election this year because of reforms passed by the state Legislature in 2018 enabling consolidated county elections.

In the Nov. 2 election, Nuñez narrowly lost to Trustee James "Slim" Whitlock by seven votes, according to unofficial results. His term ends Dec. 31, and while Nuñez indicated he would work all the way through then, he told the Las Cruces Sun-News his 21-year run in politics was over.

"I guess the people here got tired of me," he said following the election.

The Roswell native, who has lived in Hatch since 1986, said he was looking forward to spending time with his 18 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren.

He said the political center had shifted and he felt his former Democratic Party had grown "too liberal."

"I'm a conservative, and I believe in doing things in the proper way but not getting over in debt and so on," he said, "and we've got some very liberal people."

Among his final agenda items as mayor, he said, was meeting with county and federal authorities to bring more law enforcement resources into Hatch. Specifically, he is advocating one of the Hatch police force's eight officers be trained as a narcotics investigator. He said he is also mulling an offer for a drug-sniffing dog from the U.S. Border Patrol.

"Right now, right here, we've got a big problem with drugs," Nuñez said. "We're not taking care of the border the way we should."

Asked what gave him hope about state politics, he paused for several seconds before that large smile erupted again. Redistricting, he suggested, would lead to a better balance between Republicans and Democrats, the latter of whom hold majorities at the state Capitol as well as the governor's office.

During a roving discussion of state politics, he indicated a need for conservative politicians to protect the oil and gas industry and address labor shortages that have hit home in Hatch, especially on the farms for which the village is known as the "chile capital of the world."

Among a newer generation of leaders, he expressed confidence in state Sen. Crystal Diamond, the Elephant Butte Republican who was elected to a seat formerly held by fellow conservative Democrat John Arthur Smith.

Smith was unseated in a Democratic primary in 2020 by Lordsburg progressive Neomi Martinez-Parra. Diamond defeated her in the general election.


'As iconic as green chile'

Diamond said Nuñez "is as iconic as green chile throughout the Hatch valley — a true servant of New Mexico. He is a longtime champion of agriculture and an advocate for rural communities."

"Andy Nuñez is a great guy and a wonderful public servant," former New Mexico Gov. Garrey Carruthers, a Republican, said.

Carruthers recalled meeting Nuñez in 1957, long before either was involved in politics, at the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts (now New Mexico State University).

There, the young men worked in the dairy department as livestock judges, where Carruthers remembered him talking about his service in the U.S. Marine Corps. Nuñez majored in animal sciences after serving in the Korean War.

Nuñez joined the Legislature a decade after Carruthers served as governor, but learned the ropes in Santa Fe over 10 years as a lobbyist, with NMSU among his clients. Carruthers said that during his time as the university's chancellor from 2013 to 2018, his old friend was an "absolutely fantastic guy to work with" at the Capitol on NMSU's needs.

"There was no smoke and mirrors when you dealt with Andy," Carruthers said. "He was straightforward: He could help you or he couldn't help you."

Carruthers acknowledged that leaving politics is hard. "Once you've been in the arena, you pay attention," he said.

But Nuñez professed himself ready to be more of a spectator and a full-time family man once he finishes his work next month. He said he had been vaccinated against COVID-19 and wasn't too worried about rising cases in the county.

"None of my family is getting sick. We eat lots of chile," he joked, and flashed that smile once more.

2 suspects dead after 2 separate New Mexico police shootings -Associated Press

Law enforcement officers in New Mexico were investigating two separate shootings where officers fired at suspects Friday, leaving two people dead and another wounded. No officers were injured.

One of the shootings broke out in the Albuquerque area and involved at least one Bernalillo County sheriff's deputy while the other occurred about 100 miles east of Albuquerque and involved officers from several agencies.

In the Albuquerque-area shooting, at least one deputy fired at a man after deputies located a vehicle reportedly involved in a hit-and-run crash, the Sheriff's Department said.

A Subaru Outback matching the description of the hit-and-run vehicle was down the road where it had crashed through a fence, Sheriff Manuel Gonzales said.

As deputies approached, the driver got out of the vehicle with a rifle, Gonzales said.

"Apparently the subject exited with a firearm, at least one deputy shot (and) struck the individual," the sheriff said.

Deputies provided first aid to the wounded person who was rushed to a hospital where he died, a sheriff's statement said.

Along with the rifle, multiple weapons were located inside the Subaru, the statement said.

The other shooting was reported by New Mexico State police later Friday afternoon. 

State police said that sheriff's deputies from Santa Fe and Torrance counties and state police were involved in the shooting and no officers were injured. The officers were pursuing a vehicle thought to be involved in an earlier robbery, police said.

During the chase, a passenger in the vehicle fired multiple shots at officers and officers shot back, the police statement said. 

The vehicle eventually crashed into tree and police began ordering the suspects out of the vehicle, it said. Eventually, one suspect crawled out the driver's side window and was taken to a hospital for treatment of gunshot wounds.

The passenger, a woman, was found dead inside the vehicle, it said.

That shooting happened along U.S. 285 about 2 miles south of Interstate 40. The remote intersection of the two highways is known as Clines Corners. A 30-mile stretch of U.S. 285 was closed between Clines Corner and U.S. 60 in Encino while police investigated. 

Resurrecting a rural church's treasures in New Mexico - By Michael Tashji Santa Fe New Mexican

The treasures hidden inside San Antonio de Padua church in Cordova are about to undergo a painstaking restoration.

The retablos (painted altar screens) and bultos (statues) date to the historic church's construction in 1832; they depict Catholic saints and events such as the Crucifixion.

The project is being led by Nuevo Mexico Profundo, a nonprofit organization founded in 2018 to raise money to preserve historic churches. Over the next few weeks, it will restore three altar screens and 22 statues created by José Rafael Aragón, a master santero, or creator of religious images.

"I picked this project because it needed to be done," Frank Graziano, founder and executive director of Nuevo Mexico Profundo, told The Santa Fe New Mexican.

Cordova is a village of around 500 residents between Española and Peñasco off the High Road to Taos (N.M. 76). Originally called Pueblo Quemado — because of a charred Pueblo ruin nearby — the town established a post office in 1900 and changed its name to Cordova, the name of a local prominent family.

According to historical church documents, San Antonio de Padua church was built in 1832 and constructed of adobe bricks. It includes an altar on the west end and a choir loft on the east end, where two sets of double doors sit below the bell tower.

"There's only a small group of us that use the church consistently," said Angelo Sandoval, who manages the church as its mayordomo. He said it's used on occasion for funerals, but it had not hosted a consistent Mass for at least 10 years.

"We have Mass on the feast day of our patron saint on the 13th of June or the Sunday closest," he said. San Antonio de Padua was a Portuguese Catholic priest and friar of the Franciscan Order who died on June 13, 1231.

The wooden retablos stand behind and on either side of the altar. The center screen is about 10 feet tall and 14 feet wide, and the two side screens are about 12 feet tall and 6 feet wide.

Painted on the screens in red, green, gold, black and blue are depictions of St. Gertrude the Great, Our Lady of Sorrows, the Franciscan Shield, St. Peter the Apostle, St. Raphael the Archangel, St. Michael the Archangel, Our Lady Refuge of Sinners, St. Claire of Assisi and more.

In front of the screens, standing 12 to 20 inches, are 22 bultos including Jesus on the cross, Jesus as a boy, the Virgin Mary, St. Anthony of Padua and Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Graziano said he raised $24,000 for the restoration. The primary donors include the Thaw Charitable Trust, Susan Foote, and Anne and Jeff Bingaman. Bingaman represented New Mexico as a U.S. senator from 1983-2013.

The restoration is set to be carried out over several weeks beginning Monday by master santero and restorer Victor Goler, with the approval of the Archbishop's Commission for the Preservation of Historic New Mexico Churches.

Assisting him will be master santeros Felix Lopez and Jerry Sandoval (uncle to San Antonio de Padua's mayordomo, Angelo Sandoval).

Goler, 58, lives in Taos, where he creates religious paintings and restores religious artifacts. He grew up in a family of restorers and began working with his father and uncles around age 13, he said.

Goler has worked in La Iglesia de Santa Cruz de la Cañada, San Francisco de Asís Mission Church in Ranchos de Taos, Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Arroyo Seco and Saint Anthonys Catholic Church in Questa.

He has also worked as a conservator for the Harwood Museum of Art, the Millicent Rogers Museum and the Tesoros de Devoción (The Larry Frank Collection) at the New Mexico History Museum.

"I have a good understanding of the materials that were used," Goler said. "José Rafael Aragón, his methods were very traditional."

The wood for the screens and statues would likely be Ponderosa pine, and the gesso (primer) would be made from an animal hide glue mixed with white gypsum, Goler said.

"As far as the pigments go, they had to crush all their own," Goler said, using minerals, plants and bugs for colors. The artists also would create varnishes by distilling grain alcohol and using it to dilute tree sap.

"What we are doing in this conservation effort is we're just conserving," he said. The process involves surface cleaning, stabilizing the pigment and sealing the work with a high-quality varnish.

The process includes creating an animal hide glue made from Russian sea sturgeons and gluing the paint back onto the gesso. Goler and his team will use syringes to get the glue behind the chipped paint. He said all the work will be done on the premises and will take around 200 hours to complete.

Sandoval, 43, who lives in Cordova, said he hopes the restoration will preserve the art and reinvigorate the congregation.

"I want to make sure that I leave the church in better condition, so that my grandkids and great-grandkids are able to utilize the space for their prayers, for their baptisms, for, hopefully, their weddings," he said.

Community systems offer alternative paths for solar growth - By John Flesher Ap Environmental Writer

Strolling his church's rooftop among 630 solar panels, Bishop Richard Howell Jr. acknowledged climate change isn't the most pressing concern for his predominantly Black congregation — even though it disproportionately harms people of color and the poor.

"The violence we're having, shootings, killings, COVID-19," Howell said wearily. "You're trying to save families, and right now no one's really talking about global warming."

Yet his Shiloh Temple International Ministries in north Minneapolis welcomed the opportunity to become one of many "community solar" providers popping up around the U.S. amid surging demand for renewable energy.

Larger than home rooftop systems but smaller than utility-scale complexes, they're located atop buildings, or on abandoned factory grounds and farms. Individuals or companies subscribe to portions of energy sent to the grid and get credits that reduce their electricity bills.

The model attracts people who can't afford rooftop installations or live where solar is not accessible, such as renters and owners of dwellings without direct sunlight.

"We're helping fight this climate war and blessing families with lower costs," Howell said.

Nearly 1.600 community solar projects, or "gardens," are operating nationwide, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. Most are in Minnesota, Massachusetts, New York and Colorado, although 41 states and Washington, D.C., have at least one. Florida has relatively few but they're big enough to make the state a leading producer.

Together they generate roughly 3.4 gigawatts — enough for about 650,000 homes — or roughly 3% of the nation's solar output. But more than 4.3 gigawatts are expected to go online within five years, says the Solar Energy Industries Association.

"We can have a cheaper, cleaner and more equitable system for everyone if we build smaller, local resources," said Jeff Cramer, executive director of the Coalition for Community Solar Access, a trade group.

Yet it's unclear how big a role community solar will play in the U.S. transition from fossil fuels to renewables.

The Biden administration is continuing a $15 million Energy Department initiative begun in 2019 to support its growth, particularly in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. The department announced a goal in October of powering the equivalent of 5 million households with community solar by 2025, saving consumers $1 billion.

But power regulation happens at the state level, where interest groups are fighting over what defines community solar and who should generate it.

The Solar Energy Industries Association says the label should apply only where private developers and nonprofit cooperatives, not just utilities, can operate solar gardens and send power to the grid. The association says 19 states and Washington, D.C., have such policies.

Utilities say having too many players could unravel regulatory structures that assure reliable electric service. They warn of disasters such as last winter's deadly blackout in Texas.

"You've got lots of individual profit-motivated actors trying to make a buck," said Brandon Hofmeister, a senior vice president with Consumers Energy. The Michigan power company is fighting state bills that would allow non-utility community solar providers.

Others say utilities are simply ducking competition.

"What's really driving the rise of community solar is the free market," said John Freeman, executive director of the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association, a trade group. "It saves money and promotes a cleaner environment."


Community solar took off in Minnesota after lawmakers in 2013 required Xcel Energy, the state's largest utility, to establish a program open to other developers. It has more than 400 gardens — tops in the U.S. — with nearly 500 applications pending.

Keith Dent and Noy Koumalasy, who are married, say subscribing to the Shiloh Temple Garden has lowered their bills an average of $98 per year.

"You're generating your own power and saving a little money," said Dent, who helped install several complexes built by Cooperative Energy Futures, a local nonprofit.

Xcel, which is required to buy the gardens' electricity, says the state formula for valuing solar energy makes it too expensive. The costs, spread among all the utility's customers, essentially force non-subscribers to subsidize community solar, spokesman Matthew Lindstrom said.

Community solar backers say Xcel's claim ignores savings from local gardens' lower distribution costs.

Among Cooperative Energy Futures gardens are 3,760 panels on a parking deck overlooking the Twins' baseball stadium and a collection on a farm near Faribault, 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Minneapolis.

Although conflicted about taking six acres out of production, farmer Gerald Bauer supports the climate cause and says lease payments of $1,200 per acre make community solar a financial winner.

"Farming doesn't even come close to the revenue that the solar generates," he said, walking through rows of panels framed by fields of corn.

A cooperative project for a municipal roof in nearby Eden Prairie has twice as many would-be subscribers as panels.

"There are people in the community who want to support clean energy any way they can," said Jennifer Hassebroek, sustainability coordinator for the suburban city.

But community solar developers are hitting a roadblock: Under state law, residents and businesses can subscribe to facilities only in their county or an adjacent one.

That means the heavily populated Twin Cites have many potential subscribers but are short of space for gardens. Rural areas have plenty of room but fewer buyers for the energy.

"Instead of spreading across the state, we're going to concentrate on those counties that are adjacent to the subscription demand," said Reed Richerson, chief operating officer of Minneapolis-based U.S. Solar Corp., which builds solar projects in half a dozen states.

A bill by State Rep. Patty Acomb, a Democrat representing a Twin Cities suburban district, would drop the "contiguous county" rule.

But Xcel says that contradicts a basic community solar principle: producing energy close to where it's used.

Community solar is billed as making renewable energy more available to households, especially needy ones. Yet businesses and public entities with sustainability goals, such as schools and city halls, subscribe to most of the power.

Some states are trying to change that.

New Mexico requires at least 30% of each community solar project's subscribers to be low-income. Colorado, Maryland, New Jersey and Oregon reserve portions of energy for low- and moderate-income residents. New York provides financial incentives for developers to recruit them.

"There's still a lot to be done to open community solar market access to marginalized folks," said Gilbert Michaud, an assistant professor of public policy at Loyola University Chicago.


Community solar is struggling in states without established systems.

Michigan has about a dozen projects, although Consumers Energy this summer opened a 1,752-panel garden on abandoned factory grounds in Cadillac.

Conservative Republican Michele Hoitenga and progressive Democrat Rachel Hood are sponsoring House legislation to establish a state-regulated program open to third-party energy providers and utilities.

Hoitenga says it would boost freedom and the economy without raising taxes. Hood emphasizes climate benefits and equal access to renewable energy.

But their bills are opposed by Consumers Energy and DTE Energy, the state's two biggest utilities. They would cause "overproduction of energy ... and ultimately higher rates," said DTE Energy spokesman Pete Ternes.

Prospects are brighter in states friendly to non-utility developers such as New Jersey, Maine and Illinois, said Rachel Goldstein of the consulting firm Wood Mackenzie.

She forecasts a 140% nationwide jump in production capacity by 2026, although growth could hinge on lifting barriers such as project size limits.

Community solar likely won't rival home rooftop installations soon if ever, Goldstein said, much less approach utility-scale operations.

"It's not realistic to say we're going to solve the climate crisis with this and everyone's going to be a millionaire," said Timothy DenHerder-Thomas, general manager of Cooperative Energy Futures. "But we can say you're going to have a better life, more affordable and cleaner."