Las Vegas Sun

March 1, 2015

Currently: 61° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account


Commission’s vote to oppose NV Energy bill ‘ticks off’ legislator

Reid-Gardner Generating Plant

Reid Gardner Station, a coal fired power plant in Moapa, is shown on Friday, Dec. 7, 2007. Sierra Pacific was fined a million dollars and required to install $85 million worth of new pollution control technology at the plant. Launch slideshow »
Click to enlarge photo

Sen. Kelvin Atkinson

The state Public Utilities Commission today said NV Energy’s bill in the Nevada Legislature to close the Reid-Gardner coal-powered plant was fatally flawed and would not protect Las Vegas customers from higher rates.

The commission voted unanimously to support the accelerated decommissioning of the plant — the target of complaints about air pollution — but object to other portions of Senate Bill 123, which would permit the utility to build other facilities without oversight of the state.

Commissioner Rebecca Wagner called the bill, now before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Labor and Energy, “more smoke and mirrors.”

Commissioner David Noble said the bill failed to “provide real protection for ratepayers.” Commission Chairwoman Alaina Burtenshaw called it a “huge gamble for ratepayers and shareholders.”

The vote by the PUC drew an immediate angry response from Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, chairman of the committee reconsidering the legislation after an initial approval, referral to the Senate Finance Committee and referral back to the Energy committee.

“I’m ticked off that they would do this,” he said.

The Legislature sets the policy, not the PUC, and he said it was inappropriate that the commission voted on the measure.

He said he was trying to reach a compromise on the controversial bill and that this would interfere with his negotiations.

Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, said the PUC was disrespectful of the Legislature by voting on a bill that is not finalized. His committee will likely reconsider the bill Friday.

The bill would shut down Reid-Gardner and allow NV Energy to build other natural gas and renewable energy plants while shackling the PUC’s oversight authority for rate increases associated with the construction.

Donald Lomoljo, staff counsel for the PUC, said the bill and a conceptual amendment would “leave the commission as a rubber stamp” to NV Energy's plans.

Lomoljo said there were rumors the PUC supported a new conceptual amendment submitted to Atkinson. But those rumors were false, Lomoljo said. There has not been any meeting with the commission since April 12.

Staff member Anne-Marie Cuneo told the commission there would be a “devastating balloon” payment in 2021. The bill, she said would have a significant impact on ratepayers.

Noble agreed, saying there would be a “huge impact” on ratepayers in 10 to 20 years.

Wagner said she supported the closure of Reid-Gardner and has been an advocate of renewable energy such as solar, wind and geothermal. But sections of the bill, she said, would give NV Energy a competitive edge over smaller companies in developing solar energy.

After the vote, Barry Gold of the Nevada Chapter of AARP praised the decision, saying the bill would raise rates without the scrutiny of the PUC. Dan Jacobsen of the state Bureau of Consumer Affairs said the bill would permit NV Energy to build new power plants without an assessment of need.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: comment so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

No trusted comments have been posted.