Public Utilities Commission
The Public Utilities Commission of Nevada opened its doors for residents and environmentalists to have a say in policies affecting their homes, families and the Nevada landscape. On Oct. 3, two consumer sessions were hosted by the PUC at 1:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. to address questions and concerns from the community. Attendees were invited to the floor to share their grievances.
“We just try to hear what people have to say,” said Dawn Rivard, the consumer outreach director for the PUC.
“Many addressed smart meters, billing problems, renewables,” said Peter Kostes, public information officer for the PUC. “Those in rural residential areas talked about paying too high prices for their energy bills.”
Consumer sessions were also held in Carson City and Las Vegas. While only around 30 attended the Reno forum, the Las Vegas consumer sessions drew a large crowd of more than 100.
“It was the most people who have ever attended,” said Rivard.
While the majority of attendees were individual home owners and NV Energy rate payers, organizations such as the Nevada Conservation League and the Sierra Club encouraged members to attend and speak up about environmental concerns. Power plants, money, human health and energy conservation were the primary talking points of the assembly.
Marjorie Sill, a Nevada resident since 1959, urged the committee to close the Reid Gardner coal-fired power plant.
“I have been an advocate for environmental protection for many years,” said Sill. “We are fortunate in Nevada to have a huge resource of clean energy, solar, geothermal, and do not need to rely on dirty coal power. Reid Gardner is simply not needed anymore. We cannot afford 12 more years of this polluting power plant. The unkempt landfill leaches into ground water, clearly a violation of the Clean Water Act.”
The process for addressing issues is fairly straightforward. After members of the public share complaints, the matters are often solved in house. NV Energy, the Nevada Bureau of Consumer Protection, and the consumer complaint resolution staff are on hand to speak with people immediately. Issues that can’t be answered directly at the session can lead to an investigation. Several complaints were made about the potential health risks and instability of smart meters, and an investigation is now underway. The Reid Gardner power plant has been under investigation since late September.
Nearly all the attendees at the first Reno session agreed that the city should continue to push for long term sustainable choices. Scientist and resident David von Seggern called out NV Energy for not supporting conservation efforts.
“We got a notice that power bills were going to be increased because we were conserving too much,” he said. “We should not be penalized for conserving energy.”
Despite his concerns, von Seggern was optimistic about the future of Reno’s landscape.
“We’ve got great momentum going here in Nevada,” he said. “As an outdoor enthusiast, I like to see the air as clean as possible.”