Las Vegas Sun

August 22, 2019

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Guest column:

State can take lead on climate change

Climate change is real. We are living with its current effects and bracing for those to come. Our world needs leaders who will face its challenges head-on and focus on building stronger economies and healthier communities for our children. I’m proud to say that here in Nevada, thanks to strong state leaders, we’re making efforts to lead the way in the fight against climate change.

During the 2017 legislative session, Nevada lawmakers passed 11 bills that will usher in a renewed era of energy development for our state. All but two were signed into law by Gov. Brian Sandoval. These bills ranged in their purpose and intent, but together they will achieve what we have long sought — expanded access to clean energy and its benefits for all Nevadans, a welcome sign for low-income residents and communities of color dedicated to energy conservation and looking for reprieve from high utility costs.

Communities of color across the country are often the most profoundly affected by the costs of climate change. From the chronic respiratory illnesses afflicting our children to the toxins polluting our neighborhoods, families of color understand the link between fossil fuels and environmental degradation because we live it daily. That’s why Nevadans of color overwhelmingly support building a clean-energy economy by more than 80 percent. We know that more clean-energy means more local jobs, cleaner air and water, healthier communities and lower power bills.

The Nevada Legislature clearly understands this, too. By choosing to enact policies that will protect our environment, our health and our futures, our state legislators showed that they were listening to their constituents and groups like League of Conservation Voters’ Chispa Nevada, which rallied support around stronger environmental safeguards and lower energy costs with families across the state.

During the session, Nevada legislators passed bills that will create hundreds if not thousands of clean-energy jobs — jobs that pay well and build careers for skilled workers. Assemblyman Chris Brooks and Assemblyman Justin Watkins, both freshmen, ushered in the bill that will bring back the rooftop solar industry. Already solar companies are flocking to invest in Nevada and hire Nevada workers.

We also had legislators like Sen. Pat Spearman who tackled difficult energy policy changes. Thanks to Sen. Spearman’s leadership, Nevada issued new guidelines for utilities to integrate distributed generation sources like solar, wind and geothermal into their resource plans, and to put cost-effective energy sources first for those who need them the most. Together with Assemblyman William McCurdy III, Sen. Spearman also helped pass legislation that will reduce energy consumption and lower Nevadans’ power bills. They helped our state expand energy efficiency programs and establish financing systems for clean-energy projects. These programs will help low-income Nevadans, as well as renters and small businesses, unlock the benefits of clean and efficient energy.

We are disappointed that Gov. Sandoval vetoed bills that would have raised the state’s renewable energy standard and brought community solar gardens to Nevada. Assemblyman Brooks and Sen. Mo Denis, the bills’ respective sponsors, demonstrated that they were visionaries committed to a clean-energy future for our state, and they deserve credit for their leadership.

By vetoing these bills, Gov. Sandoval missed a major opportunity to ensure those who live in the densest parts of the state — oftentimes Latinos and communities of color — are able to access the rooftop and utility-scale solar projects that are already transforming our state’s energy mix.

Yet the governor’s vetoes do not diminish the tremendous work communities of color did to advocate for their clean-energy priorities at the Legislature. The LCV’s Chispa, along with the Nevada Conservation League, Climate Action Nevada and the Renew NV coalition, worked hard this past session to drive support from communities of color and other important constituencies to the bills that presented smart energy policies. We will ensure that the interim Governor’s Energy Choice Committee establishes the pollution-free energy our communities demand, and we will be back in 2019 to continue the fight at the Nevada Legislature.

We thank our Assembly members and senators for listening to us and promoting a clean-energy future that will protect our families.

Rudy Zamora is the director of Chispa Nevada, which builds the capacity of Latinos and families to influence policymakers and pressure polluters to protect communities’ rights to clean air and water, healthy neighborhoods and a safe climate.

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