Las Vegas Sun

September 15, 2019

Currently: 95° — Complete forecast

Nevada lawmakers tackled multiple environmental issues this year

Lawmakers in Carson City tackled multiple environmental issues and expanded conservation efforts during the just-ended legislative session.

Andy Maggi, executive director of the Nevada Conservation League, said the session resulted in important environmental legislation and touted the league’s efforts to help elect environmentally progressive lawmakers.

“We saw overwhelming and bipartisan support for critical bills that raise our state’s share of clean energy, pave the way for more electric cars to hit the road, invest in our public lands and parks and protect our environment for generations to come,” Maggi said in a statement.

Strengthening renewable energy standards

Nevada’s renewable portfolio standard — the target for the amount of electricity generated by renewable sources — will increase to 50% by 2030.

The bill was sponsored by state Sen. Chris Brooks, D-Las Vegas, a crusader for environmental action and renewable energy. It passed on a bipartisan basis, without any no votes.

“My goal this session (was) to pass a more aggressive and a cleaner and more modern renewable portfolio standard, and I think that we did a great job with that,” he said

Gov. Steve Sisolak signed the bill and presented it as an economic boon for the state.

“Renewable energy is a major cornerstone of my economic development plan, and this bill will put Nevada back on the path toward renewable energy leadership on a nationwide level and continue to bring well-paying jobs to our communities,” Sisolak said in a statement.

Patrick Donnelly, the Nevada state director for the Center for Biological Diversity, said the new standards make Nevada a leader in renewable energy.

“Nevada is back where it should be at the head of the pack on renewable energy deployment,” he said.

The ever-contentious water fight

Water rights and usage are a constant topic for debate in Nevada politics, and lawmakers tackled a number of water issues during the session.

One bill, Assembly Bill 30, would have allowed the state Engineer’s Office to create monitoring, management and mitigation plans to help resolve conflicts between senior water rights holders and applicants in conflict with their rights.

The bill failed to make it before the Senate and died with a little over a week left in the session.

It was protested by water-rights groups, Republican senators and Native American activists as an enabling measure for a north-south water pipeline.

The Nevada Conservation League called the failure of bill one of its legislative wins, saying it “would have threatened existing provisions of law that protect key environmental resources.”

Expansion of the Nevada Test and Training Range

The Air Force has proposed expanding the Nevada Test and Training Range by 300,000 acres, the majority of which would be located in the Desert National Wildlife Refuge.

The Legislature pushed back, passing a joint resolution declaring their opposition.

Maggi said the Conservation League pushed the resolution to protect Nevada public lands.

“We’re excited by the progress made this session and look forward to continue driving a conversation around what it will take to protect the planet and the Nevada we call home,” Maggi said in the statement. “The Silver State needs urgent solutions to act on the climate crisis and protect our precious natural resources, and Nevadans require bold leadership from their lawmakers.”