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December 1, 2021

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Neighbors win battle against NV Energy transmission line

Henderson Planning Commission denies project, but utility can appeal to City Council

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Neighbors living along the path of a proposed NV Energy transmission line won their fight with the utility Thursday night when the Henderson Planning Commission voted down the project.

NV Energy had argued that a new transmission line in east Henderson would allow it to meet the area’s future needs in the most cost-efficient way.

Residents living near and under the proposed line argued that the 135-foot towers and their 20 lines would devastate their property values and that paying millions more to build around their neighborhoods would be a justifiable expense.

After three extensive public hearings, the Planning Commission sided with the residents in the Tuscany and Section 4 neighborhoods and unanimously denied NV Energy’s request.

NV Energy has until July 8 to file an appeal, something Government Affairs Executive Dave Rigdon said the company will consider.

“We have to go back and discuss it based on the input we’ve heard tonight,” he said.

He said NV Energy will also re-examine six alternatives it presented last month at the commission’s request that skirted the neighborhoods but increase the project’s estimated $27 million price tag by between $5 million and $19.5 million.

Rigdon has cited an example in Washoe County in which county officials required NV Energy to bury a transmission line and the Public Utilities Committee, which regulates the company, required Washoe residents to pay a special rate to cover the additional expense.

Rigdon said NV Energy is bound to keep costs low by using existing rights-of-way first. The company already has an easement along the proposed route, while the alternatives would all require it to purchase additional land.

“Everybody always tells us, ‘Before you find new corridors, before you go looking for places to build new lines, use the corridors you already have.’ That is exactly what this project is about,” he said.

Residents said the proposal to replace the existing 36-foot wooden poles — 80-foot metal poles in Tuscany — carrying three lines with 135-foot metal poles carrying 20 lines would place an unfair financial burden on them by lowering their property values and making homes difficult, if not impossible, to sell.

William Dibendetto, secretary treasurer of the Tuscany Homeowners Association, said the transmission line could be the deathblow to his struggling community, which only has 700 of 2,000 homes built and a builder, Rhodes Homes, in bankruptcy.

“We are a struggling community,” he said. “If we could declare bankruptcy, we would. We don’t need anything that will ruin the aesthetic.”

Other residents argued that electromagnetic frequency (EMF) waves from the lines pose health risks.

Tuscany resident John Masse said his mother always told him to stay away from power lines.

“In this case, I have to go with my gut, and I think you have to go with your gut,” he told commissioners. “I think we should all listen to our mothers.”

Rigdon pointed out that there is no standard for EMF exposure in Nevada, and that the proposed line’s EMF emissions would be well below the standard in any state that has adopted a standard or the recommended standards by professional organizations.

Ultimately, commissioners dismissed the health concerns, but said the thought of 135-foot poles next to 30-foot homes and the impact they would have on residents was just too much to adequately mitigate.

Section 4 resident Bill Wilson, who organized a grassroots effort in the two neighborhoods that packed the commission’s chambers and brought 28 residents to speak against the proposal, celebrated the commission’s decision briefly.

“I think that (turnout) put us over the top,” he said.

Before the chambers were cleared, however, he and his neighbors were already planning for “Round 2” before the City Council.

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