Letters for May 12, 2011

Not so green

Re “Earth Day Program” (Supplement, April 28):

I have become very disappointed with the so-called local “green organization” that sponsors the local Earth Day celebration here in Reno, and I have really come to wonder if the mission of Nevada Econet is the more financial “green” rather than to “raise environmental awareness.”

For years, I have winced at the notion that one of Earth Day’s biggest sponsors is NV Energy, which operates two power plants (North Valmy and Reid Gardner) that are among the top 50 dirtiest power plants in the nation, according to a 2006 study of America’s Most Polluting Power Plants by Dirty Kilowatts.

Then last fall, Nevada Econet awarded the Reno City Council one of its Golden Pinecone Awards. The award is to honor “individuals and organizations who have made significant contributions toward sustaining and improving the natural environment,” which this body’s policies are far from being! This body has allowed higher density zoning and has hastened sprawl within the Truckee Meadows, opposed local activists’ efforts to successfully pass a 2008 ballot initiative to tie growth to water availability and pushes development in our most pristine outlying areas—the proposed developments in Ballardini Ranch and Winnemucca Ranch are examples.

But this year, I was bemused that the Earth Day festival had U.S. Nuclear Energy, a pro-nuclear energy organization who advocates for a nuclear dump site at Yucca Mountain, alongside environmental vendors.

Unfortunately, I have been left with the conclusion that Nevada Econet is becoming a vehicle for companies looking for a little greenwashing, a term describing the deceptive use of green PR or green marketing in order to promote a misleading perception that a company’s policies or products are environmentally friendly. And thus I believe the focus on “green” has become how much money this event can generate, rather than anything to do with the environment.

William Puchert

Lies and deceit

Re “Pennies from heaven” (Letters to the Editor, April 28):

When it comes to the contentious Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository issue, wishful thinking can be excused, but misstating facts cannot. Corrin Keck’s letter, “Pennies from heaven,” makes the outlandish claim that “the cost of building [nuclear waste storage facilities elsewhere in the country] would be redundant considering a completed ($13 billion) facility already exists at Yucca Mountain and only needs a certificate of occupancy to put in place the safety measures that Mr. Bryan substantiated.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. There is nothing at Yucca except one five-mile exploratory loop mined into the volcanic ridge for the purpose of studying geophysical conditions underground. To construct a repository there would require upwards of 44 miles of tunnels, plus extensive—and expensive—surface facilities, waste handling and repackaging facilities, yet-to-be designed robotics for handling and emplacing waste in the high radiation/high heat environment underground, even a $3 billion rail spur. What exists today at Yucca is not all that much different from the hundreds of abandoned and closed mines and tunnels that exist throughout Nevada. To call it a complete facility is laughable.

While the federal government has spent in the neighborhood of $8 billion studying Yucca over the past 25 years or so, that money was not used to construct a repository or much else, other than the exploratory tunnel.

The notion that there is a great economic windfall just waiting for Nevada to claim is equally laughable. While there is a Nuclear Waste Fund in the federal treasury, every penny in that fund is used to offset the federal deficit—just like the Highway Fund and other designated federal “funds.” Every dollar that is appropriated from the Waste Fund means that a dollar will be added to the federal deficit unless that dollar is cut from somewhere else. Unfortunately, there really are no pennies from heaven—only hard, cold realities. Among these is the fact that Yucca Mountain is an unsuitable and unsafe site for a nuclear waste repository or for storing or reprocessing dangerous spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. No amount of wishful thinking will change that.

Joseph C. Strolin
Nevada Nuclear Projects Agency

Publick Occurrences

After a great deal of reflection regarding the Pulitzer prizes given to the two Los Angeles Times reporters for breaking the Bell, Calif., pay and corruption scandal, I feel I must criticize the journalistic ethos and lack of moral responsibility shown by the Reno Gazette-Journal. What the story of the awarding of these prizes tells is of two hard-working investigative reporters rooting out public corruption, supported by their newspaper.

Whether it is the local RG-J policy or Gannett’s corporate policy, it is sad to see the main print journalism entity within the city of Reno not be brave and honest and take an aggressive posture in rooting out the possibility of criminal wrongdoing, fraud, malfeasance and misappropriation of public funds by the city of Reno.

By the RG-J’s own reporting, the city of Reno has made 14 illegal fund transfers, involving $22 million of taxpayer money. By definition, the term illegal denotes that a crime has occurred. Whether they are fraud is defined by intent. As per RG-J reporting, the interim city manager testified, during a Committee on Local Government Finance hearing, that these funds were transferred into an account to make the state-required year-end balance for one day, and transferred out of the account the following day. This, to this lay person, demonstrates felony intent.

It is inconceivable to believe that transfers such as these were orchestrated by anyone other than the highest level of city government (mayor, council, city manager, and finance director). To believe that rank and file, career civil service employees would undertake such action is also beyond belief. They have no motive. The possibility of losing one’s job, pension and serving prison time would deter most, if not all, career level employees of the Finance Department. The only people with anything to gain from these fraudulent undertakings would be the people with something to hide from the public—again, the mayor, council, city manager or finance director. History speaks for itself in this situation. The rapid turnover of finance directors, city managers and other financial officers at the city of Reno denotes ongoing problems within the city’s finance situation. Many of these people have had a sterling reputation prior to their employment by the city of Reno. A cursory investigation on the Internet will substantiate this fact. How many of these people have resigned, retired or been fired for not wanting to involved in a fraud?

These facts lead any thinking citizen to believe that there is corrupt activity going on at City Hall. It should be the job of your newspaper, as the public voice of the citizens of the city of Reno, to thoroughly investigate and report on these matters. To do anything else would lead one to believe that the RG-J is the bought and paid for shill of the Reno City Council and mayor, and is complicit in aiding them to cover up these admitted illegal wrongdoings (again by RG-J’s own reportings).

It is also interesting that the RG-J has not reported on the city of Reno’s reaction to the Home Rule bill regarding election of council members), the Nevada State Senate hearing regarding city and county year-end balances—Reno was required to testify and answer questions—or the ongoing development of a plan to correct the year end balance deficits as required by the Committee on Local Government Finance.

These failings by your newspaper will not be long tolerated by the citizens of Reno. Your readership demands no less than a full investigation, and the citizens of Reno certainly deserve no less.

James Sommer

Editor’s Note: James Sommer sent this letter to the Reno Gazette-Journal on April 29. At presstime, that newspaper has not published it, and editors offered little acknowledgement of its content. He asked that we publish it.