Thursday, March 10, 2016 | 2 a.m.
Two things should be crystal clear to Nevada policymakers this year: climate change is real, and climate change represents the single best economic development opportunity for Nevada since we legalized gambling in 1931.
That’s why I was so disappointed to see the Nevada attorney general, Adam Laxalt, involve our state in a poorly conceived lawsuit that could slow down our transition to a clean-energy future. Just as Gov. Brian Sandoval and legislative leaders are taking meaningful, bipartisan steps to continue to position Nevada as a national and regional clean-energy leader, the attorney general is trying to block important clean-power standards that will help grow Nevada’s economy and create good-paying middle-class jobs.
Scientists have been clear about the environmental costs of ignoring climate disruption, many of which are already familiar to people living in Western states: extreme drought conditions, severe storms and raging wildfires, to name just a few.
But even those who ignore the agreement among 97 percent of climate scientists that climate change is real cannot ignore the undeniable economic value of developing and investing in clean energy. Clean-energy technology is a source of reliable power for our residents, provides numerous environmental and public-health benefits, and creates good jobs that will never be exported.
That’s why Nevada has set a bipartisan goal of diversifying our energy economy, and the Clean Power Plan, which established national standards to limit carbon pollution from power plants, presents an opportunity to further expand Nevada’s clean-energy sector. In addition to the estimated $54 billion in health and climate benefits nationally — such as better air quality and improved public health — this plan will help speed up our transition to cleaner fuel sources that are available in abundance across Nevada.
With our rich solar, wind and geothermal resources, we have the potential not only to supply our own population with low-carbon energy, but to create a welcoming environment for cutting-edge technology companies. We can also become an energy exporter by selling surplus clean energy to other states in the West. The more we do to encourage this kind of innovation and economic growth, the better positioned we will be to sell energy to our neighbors.
Clean energy is already paying off for Nevada. Our $500 million investment in tax incentives for clean-energy development has benefited our state economy 10 times over. Since 2010, these incentives have attracted more than $5.5 billion in capital investment in clean-energy infrastructure to the state, creating high-paying jobs for Nevada workers.
What is particularly concerning about the attorney general’s move is that the office’s own court filing admits that Nevada will have no trouble hitting emissions targets outlined by the Environmental Protection Agency. Considering 70 percent of Nevada voters support the Clean Power Plan and there is no evidence that it will harm the state, why are we being inserted into this lawsuit? At a time when Nevada is already losing some clean-energy jobs, it is difficult to fathom why we would risk further harming this critically important sector of our state’s economy.
I commend Sandoval for his bipartisan work with community leaders, legislators and governors from across the country on a path forward that positions Nevada to make the most of our clean-energy resources and preserves our leadership in this important industry. I strongly urge the attorney general to withdraw his ideological opposition to the Clean Power Plan and work with state leaders to expand Nevada’s clean-energy future.
Pat Spearman is a Democratic state senator representing North Las Vegas and a member of the governor’s New Energy Industry Task Force.