Las Vegas Sun

December 9, 2018

Currently: 56° — Complete forecast

Sun editorial:

Trump’s addiction to coal hurting Nevada

The damaging effects of the Trump administration’s war on President Barack Obama’s legacy are beginning to hit home in Las Vegas.

In the past few days, the administration hit Southern Nevada with two gut-punches in the form of a proposed 65 percent reduction in federal funding for renewable energy research and development, and closure of the Las Vegas EPA research laboratory.

The laboratory decision is the most hurtful, and the most heartbreaking. It leaves 50 employees with a terrible decision — move across the country to another lab or leave the EPA by Sept. 30, when the lab will be shut down.

The EPA cited cost reductions as the reason to close the local lab. The agency is consolidating services into facilities in Ohio and North Carolina.

The effects of the closure will ripple well beyond the lab employees and their families. The facility is housed at UNLV, which had hoped to relocate it to the university’s Harry Reid Research and Technology Park to help draw other labs to the park.

In April, Gerry Bomotti, UNLV’s vice president for finance and business, told the Sun that the EPA lab had benefited the university by creating research opportunities for graduate students and by providing adjunct professors. The Las Vegas lab examines the effects of pollution and toxic chemicals, and develops methods to monitor and measure those hazards.

That asset will soon be lost. The closure follows a similar move in 2015, when the EPA moved a mobile radiation lab from Las Vegas to Alabama, despite concerns from Gov. Brian Sandoval and the state’s congressional delegation.

The reduction in energy R&D also would have an effect on Southern Nevada, in a variety of forms.

One, it threatens to curtail operations in the National Clean Energy Laboratory and similar labs operated in states, which provide reliable research to policymakers and the industry. Two, it will result in budget losses at institutions like UNLV that receive federal grants for clean energy research.

For Nevada, where renewable energy is a job creator and a key leg of the state’s efforts to diversify its economy beyond tourism and mining, the cuts will do nothing but hurt.

With Republican majorities in the House and Senate, Trump is facing little resistance to his campaign to boost the fossil fuel industry and starve development of renewable technology.

Congress should make sure full funding for renewables is retained. But either way, Nevada voters should — and will — remember what Trump is doing when they go to the polls in November and help decide whether Republicans should maintain their majorities.