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Will Nevada buck national trends and create laws to protect our air, water, and public lands?
President Donald Trump has pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord and rolled back his predecessor’s clean power plan.
Meanwhile, in Carson City, a coalition of 20 conservation organizations is actively pursuing a clear environmental agenda for the current legislative session.
The group has been together since 2009. Executive director of the Nevada Conservation League, Andy Maggi, told KNPR's State of Nevada why the coalition formed in the first place.
“The idea was we wanted to provide legislators with a clear set of priorities for what was the most important issues to be working on during the legislative session," Maggi said.
Members of the coalition are involved in work on a range of issues from water to wildlife and public land use to climate change, he said.
But they are all united in their shared ideas about the importance of protecting Nevada's natural resources and beauty.
“I think one thing we all recognize is that we have a lot more in common than we do have different. We all care about Nevada’s lands, Nevada’s wildlife, air, water,” he said, “By coming together and working together, we can accomplish a lot more for those things that we care about.”
This year, the group has outlined five priorities for the legislative session. They include two on clean energy and climate change; two on public lands and conservation; and finally one on water.
Maggi said the energy priority has two major parts. The first is expanding the state's renewable portfolio standard to 50 percent by 2030. That's the amount of energy that comes from renewable sources.
Maggi said Nevada is facing the brunt of climate change so the state needs policies to push against that. And he sees economic opportunities in expanding the portfolio.
“Nevada has been a leader in clean energy and so advancing clean energy, continuing on our path in leadership is going to bring significant economic benefits to the state,” he said.
The second part of the priority is expanding clean energy to more people.
“The reality is things like rooftop solar don’t work for everybody,” he said.
If someone is renting a home or apartment, or can't afford solar panels or their home faces the wrong direction, they can't get rooftop solar.
One solution the coalition is pushing for is called solar gardens, formed when a group of neighbors, businesses or even a church come together to purchase or rent solar panels and then allow people in the community to subscribe to the energy produced.
Another priority for the group is the creation of an outdoor recreation office. While Nevada has a reputation of being a state that prefers less government, Maggi believes people will support it because they're the ones enjoying Nevada's natural beauty.
“And I think Nevadans also recognize that outdoor recreation as an industry is creating thousands of jobs," he said.
He thinks the new office will be an easy sell to people.
The fifth and final priority is water. Maggi admits it is a big topic but it is one of incredible importance to the Nevada, which is the driest state in the union.
The group would like the Legislature to take a comprehensive approach to any changes it makes to laws governing water in the state.
"What we’re really focused on is - as water laws are discussed -- things like senior water rights, environmental use for that water, what does wildlife need, what do plants need to maintain ecosystems across the state –- are being part of that conversation,” he said.
The group is confident that many of their priorities will get heard in this Legislature.
“We have a lot of proven champions for conservation who are back in the Legislature,” he said. Besides the lawmakers who have shown they are on the side of conservation in the past, Maggi said there are several new voices in the Legislature who seem committed to clean air and water in the state.
Andy Maggi, executive director, Nevada Conservation League
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