Every state surrounding Nevada except one has stronger environmental laws, but the legislature may close the gap
Thank goodness for Idaho.
If it weren’t for the Gem State, the Silver State would be the intermountain place that most welcomes greenhouse gases and global warming, at least in its public policies.
Starting in 2004, Nevada utilities were required by law to have at least 5 percent of their power mix coming from alternative sources, with the percent rising 2 percent every biennium until 2013 by which time 15 percent is supposed to be derived from such sources.
Except for that, there’s not much in Nevada’s law books to deal with the global warming problem.
• Unlike Utah, Arizona, California and Oregon, Nevada does not have a statewide plan for how it intends to reduce the state’s part in causing global warming, nor does Nevada law require any fixed benchmarks to meet in reducing greenhouse gases.
• Unlike Idaho and Utah, Nevada has no requirement for a percentage of gasoline sold in the state to be ethanol. This is partly misleading, however. The Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources says that during part of the year, the two urban areas which contain most of the state’s population do have such requirements: “Clark and Washoe counties must add 10 percent ethanol in gasoline during winter months (five winter months in Washoe and three winter months in Clark).”
• Unlike Oregon and California, Nevada has no regulations to cap or offset power plant emissions.
• Unlike Oregon and California, Nevada doesn’t limit carbon dioxide emissions from car exhaust.
Gov. Jim Gibbons didn’t offer proposals in his legislative program this year to deal with this issue, except for a plan for coal liquefaction: “After visiting with Wyoming Governor Freudenthal and seeing what his state is doing, I will encourage the creation of a coal-to-liquids fuels plant in Nevada, similar to the successful plant in Wyoming. It would use existing rail to transport coal to the plant and convert that coal to diesel and jet fuel for use at airports. It could also create natural gas to be injected into a natural gas pipeline for domestic use.”
The idea was excoriated. Legislator David Bobzien observed that “Burning liquid coal fuel can emit twice as much CO2 as regular gas,” Dan Geary of the National Environmental Trust pointed out that Wyoming has coal, and Nevada doesn’t, the Las Vegas Sun pointed out that the technology is water intensive and Nevada’s a desert state, and Launce Rake of the Progressive Leadership Alliance called it “insane.” Gibbons seems to have backed off the idea, though State Energy Office Director Hatice Gecol says it may be revived later.
Gibbons also recommended “continuing to provide incentives to the utilities to improve the environment, reduce greenhouse gases, stimulate job growth, [and] hedge against fossil fuel volatility"—but it was mostly ignored since no one was proposing not continuing what incentives the state has.
Gibbons’ lassitude on the issue was a disappointment to many activists because in some state governments Republicans have been in the forefront of efforts to step in and act where the federal government failed to do so. These states have adopted stronger state policies than those at the federal level. The initiatives have come principally in Western and Northeastern states. A dozen states have enacted curbs on vehicle carbon dioxide emissions. Arizona, New Mexico, California, Oregon and Washington have formed a coalition to promote emission curbs, but Nevada was not invited to join because its policy stance was considered relatively primitive and undeveloped (see “Coal fired politics,” RN&R, March 29).
Studying the problem
In place of a legislative program, Gibbons has appointed a Nevada Climate Change Advisory Committee to make recommendations on reducing Nevada’s greenhouse gas emissions. But at the same time he joined the NextGen Energy Council, a coal-state group of governors seeking to build more coal-fired power plants.
While Gibbons as a member of the U.S. House never had to vote directly on issues affecting global warming, he was given only a 5 percent rating by the League of Conservation Voters for his votes on other environmental issues and he was critical of the Kyoto Accord committing signatory nations to deal with greenhouse gases.
Gecol has said the new advisory committee will make no assumptions that global warming exists. “They need to look at both possibilities,” Gecol said. “They need to evaluate all the scientific data.”
Gecol, a former chemical engineering professor at UNR, made that statement just 21 days after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in Paris issued its fourth straight annual report finding global warming to be a serious problem caused by the activities of humans, a report that was reviewed by scientists in 133 nations (www.ipcc.ch/SPM2feb07.pdf)
Nor can it be argued that there are no studies on global warming specific to the geography of the Intermountain West or the Great Basin in which most of Nevada is located. Many scientists have specialized in just those lines in inquiry. They include Phillip Mote of the University of Washington, Erik Beever of the U.S. Geological Survey, Frederic Wagner of Utah State, William Sprigg of the University of Arizona, Lynn Fenstermaker of Nevada’s Desert Research Institute, Stan Smith and Bob Nowak at UNLV and Soroosh Sorroshian of the University of California in Irvine.
Their findings are generally in line with everything known about warming in a global sense. Their studies offer troubling findings for the quality of life in the West, to say nothing of their implications for tourism—changes in the form precipitation will take (more rain, less snow), reduced snowpacks, earlier runoffs, declines in water supplies, accelerated fire cycles, and substantial impact on habitat and species.
In any event, any study the governor’s advisory committee undertakes or any recommendations it offers won’t be dealt with by the legislature until January 2009.
In the absence of a governor’s program on the issue, some legislators offered their own proposals.
Washoe County Assemblymember David Bobzien introduced Assembly Bill 178, increasing the number of households using renewable energy systems that can get in on net metering, a system of photo-electric panels that can add power to the grid and use that excess electricity to spin the usage meter backwards, actually reducing the electric bill. The measure was approved unanimously by the Assembly.
Senate Democratic floor leader Dina Titus of Clark County introduced Senate Bill 422 to “establish a statewide program for the control of greenhouse gases emitted by affected units in this State.” As drafted, it would have empowered the Nevada Environmental Commission to cap emissions of greenhouse gases by power plants in the state. It was approved and recommended for passage last week by the Senate natural resources committee, but only after it was amended to remove the capping language. It is now principally an inventory measure, providing for collection of information on the scale of the problem in Nevada. “[M]y bill requires the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection to develop a statewide greenhouse gas inventory that will identify and evaluate the sources, types, and amounts of greenhouse gases released in the State,” Titus said in a posting on her website that expressed hope that the information gathered will eventually lead to caps.
A measure introduced by the Senate commerce committee, S.B. 437, provides for 10 years of property tax cuts to homes meeting green building standards. It was approved by the committee last week. Also included in the bill was language amended in from another Titus measure that expands homeowner solar power credits to larger household solar generators and providing similar credits for homes using wind or water power.