Sun file photo
Friday, Feb. 24, 2017 | 2 a.m.
How the Environmental Protection Agency under Scott Pruitt will affect Nevada’s clean energy future was the topic of a roundtable made up of Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., and members of local organizations on Thursday.
They aired their concerns about Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general who has a record of working against environmental causes.
“I was attorney general for eight years and was re-elected in 2010 when Pruitt was elected … I not only worked with him for the last four years, I watched what he was doing,” Cortez Masto said. “He (Pruitt) started down the path taking on the EPA, suing the EPA … Now we know why because the release of the emails — he was in the pocket of big oil.”
Several emails recently released displayed a relationship between Pruitt and his top aides and Devon Energy and other oil and gas industry representatives when he was Oklahoma’s attorney general.
Representatives from Chispa Nevada, a program of the League of Conservation Voters for Latinos against climate change and for clean energy, the Clean Energy Project and the Nevada Conservation League joined Cortez Masto.
Pruitt sued the EPA 14 times in “repeated efforts to undermine the agency’s legal authority and dismantle public health protections,” Chispa said in a prepared statement at the roundtable.
With the Trump administration already working to roll back some of former President Barack Obama’s energy and water initiatives, Cortez Masto expressed concern about where the future of clean energy and climate-related issues is headed.
“I believe the science that’s happening, and we have to do a better job in protecting our environment for our kids and their future,” she said. “It starts with the data and talking about the truth — the true data and not brushing it away, calling it ‘fake news.’ It’s about making sure that not just me, but everybody, is using the same information.”
Pruitt and others who have similar views about climate change could be swayed if a collective effort offering opposing views comes together to fight, Cortez Masto said.
“We’re going to have to push back and use all voices,” she said. “All the advocacy groups, everybody who cares about protecting our water, our land and our air. You cannot rely on us in Congress to be the backstop — we have to do this together.”
A recent study showed that Nevada was No. 4 in the nation for clean energy jobs, and Cortez Masto pointed out the economic benefits of such a workforce.
“In Nevada, we are prime to go down the path of investing in a clean, green economy,” Cortez Masto said. “We have geothermal, we have wind, we have solar … Our clean energy economy generates about $6 billion.”
Cortez Masto highlighted the approximately 20,000 clean energy jobs in the state — 6,000 in solar — with room to grow.
“We can do more to go down that path to investing in clean energy. We know that it not only creates jobs and promotes the economy, it’s good for the environment, it’s good for families and it addresses climate change,” Cortez Masto said.
Jack Clark, program and outreach director for the Clean Energy Project, agreed with Cortez Masto, stating Nevada is ripe to grow its clean energy industry.
Clark said that most people are under the impression that Nevada gets most of its energy from the Hoover Dam, or solar, because the abundance of sun in the state, which is incorrect. About 80 percent comes from natural gas and coal, which he said is money leaving the state, because Nevada does not produce those things.
“Nevada has such an opportunity when it comes to economics of renewable energy that most states don’t,” he said. “We have a huge opportunity to get the policies right. At the federal level things may be slow-going with people like Scott Pruitt, but right now we have an opportunity to let states lead on this issue and by getting the policies right. We’ll be able to create jobs and keep a lot of that money and investment here in Nevada and develop clean energy.”
Cortez Masto also addressed the continuing fight against Yucca Mountain. With Energy Secretary Rick Perry not ruling out the possibility of using the site to store nuclear waste, the talks will linger on for the foreseeable future.
“Yucca Mountain is a hole in the ground. It is not prepped or primed to receive any kind of waste,” Cortez Masto said. “The federal government doesn't own the water or land rights, and yet there’s still federal litigation ongoing … to protect Yucca Mountain. This thought that they were somehow going to put the dollars back into it and we’re going to flip the switch and have it come here, they’re mistaken.”