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Climate, Conservation Bills Target Big Changes

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Associated Press

Could the mining industry be facing taxes and regulation changes?

Will people driving old clunkers have to say goodbye to the classic car status that exempts them from smog checks?

And could gas utilities have to change their plans for future development in Nevada?

These are just a few of the questions raised by climate and conservation bills working their way through the Legislature. Groups on both sides of each issue are watching them closely.

DISCUSSION HIGHLIGHTS:

 

30 by 30 Resolution asks for 30 percent of state land to be conserved by 2030

Taylor Patterson, Native Voters Alliance Nevada: 

"Within that resolution, two areas that are mentioned for recommendation for the federal government to protect are Avi Kwa' Ame, a proposed national monument at the very south of Nevada, as well as extra protections for the National Desert Wildlife Refuge. Those are two sacred sites to tribal people of this area."

Patterson explained that the resolution calls on Nevada's congressional delegation to add protections to those lands on the federal level and those two areas are specific areas that Native Americans in the state want to see protected.

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She also said that the resolution asks for all stakeholders to be part of the discussion on which lands should be protected.

Mining Taxes

Patterson: "Really we're looking at taxing the gross instead of the net profits."

Patterson said she is against a plan that would pay mining dividends to Nevada residents, similar to a system in Alaska, where residents receive money from oil and gas companies.  

"I think it makes it hard to hold mining corporations accountable, and it's a very complicated system that I think would lessen the power of the people." 

Tyre Gray, Nevada Mining Association:

"There are actually three joint resolutions that would increase mining taxes. There's AJR 1 and there is SJR 1 and those are the functional equivalent. They would have the impact of raising mining taxes by 400 percent and raising the state contribution of the mining tax by 850 percent."

Gray said it is unusual to tax the gross and not the net profits of a company. He said the mining industry is happy to talk about changing the tax structure in Nevada, but it wants a holistic approach to changing it.

"Mining is not the panacea, and it is not the solution to the state's budget shortfalls," he said, "But it is happy to be at the table. We are happy to be part of the solution but we are not the solution." 

Christi Cabrera, Nevada Conservation League:

"Mining takes our resources from our state, and they don't have to pay very much for that. And when it comes to deductions, they get to deduct the cost of reclamation. They get to deduct the cost of cleaning up the mess they make. I think it is very past time that they pay their fair share."

Bad Actors in Mining Bill - AB 148

Patterson: "We're allowing those bad actors to clean up their mess that they're leaving behind. You can no longer just ruin a piece of land and then take off. The conversation needs to be had and the foundation needs to be laid that all of these things are existing on stolen land. These are stolen resources from the native Indigenous people of this land."

Cabrera: "Pretty much what this bill does is, if a mine operator doesn't clean up their mess after they mine our land. If they don't reclaim it properly, if they leave a huge hole in the ground, if they pollute our water and don't clean it up, they're not welcome back in the state."

Gray: "The Nevada Mining Association 100 percent believes there should be no bad actors operating in Nevada. We self-regulate, and we make sure that we don't have bad actors here, and we make sure that we don't allow people to jump from project to project or from job to job if they're not doing things properly." 

He said the association is working with the bill's sponsor to make sure that 'bad actor' is well defined so responsible mining operators don't get accidentally swept up in the regulation.

Classic Car Loophole

Cabrera: "In 2011, a change in the law created this loophole that if your vehicle is over 20 years old and you claim that you drive less than 5,000 miles a year, you can be categorized as a classic vehicle, and you don't have to get your car smog checked."

She said there is no accountability for the law. Since there is no way to check if people are actually driving their cars fewer than 5,000 miles a year, people are using the loophole to keep old, clunky cars that can't pass a smog check on the road.

"It is really an honor system, and people are abusing this. Looking at when this law changed: We went from having about 5,000 classic vehicles to having more than 25,000. So, this has really skyrocketed."

Cabrera said the bill is not aimed at classic car collectors who take their cars to shows and races, but is instead looking for the 20-year-old minivan owner who is trying to get around air pollution rules. 

Rudy Zamora, Chispa Nevada:

"This is a common-sense bill that reduces the smog pollution that improves public health and cleans up our air. I know that a lot of people are saying this will disproportionately impact underserved communities, but this bill also provides an opportunity for low-income communities of color who suffer most from air pollution some relief."

Zamora also explained that the bill will fund a replace-and-repair account for people who need to repair an older car so it will pass a smog check, or replace it if there is no way to repair it.  

Responsible Energy Planning Bill

Jasmine Vazin, Sierra Club:

"AB 380 in its simplest form is a planning bill. All that it is setting out to do is to ensure that any new proposals for new gas infrastructure are being vetted through the Public Utilities Commission for environmental impacts, the cost-benefit to consumers, but also ... looking at our entire energy generation system as a whole in the state and seeing if it makes sense with where we're at, and it's the same exact process that the state already uses to regulate NV Energy."

She said adding a vetting process by a neutral party will help with the state's transition from using fossil fuels like natural gas to the clean energy of the future. 

"When we're talking about an energy transition at the state level, we need to be taking everything into account. The gas utility isn't going to be aware of our solar generation projects, of our geothermal projects, of what NV Energy is up to, and we need to have a non-biased public commission looking at everything all at once to determine what is the most strategic going forward."

Cabrera: "[The electric utilities] have to plan for the next three years. What is demand going to be? What infrastructure projects do they want to do? This just requires our gas utilities to do that exact same thing."

Energy Efficiency:

Cabrera: "In 2017, the Legislature passed a couple of different bills dealing with energy efficiency: One that created a program and some targets for NV Energy to hit, and one that devoted 5 percent of NV Energy's total energy efficiency budget for programs directed at low-income customers.  

"What this bill does is, it really takes it a step further. It increases our energy efficiency targets to 1.3 percent, which will put us on par with a lot of other western states, such as Colorado and Arizona. 

"The second portion of this bill that I'm particularly excited about doubles the amount of the budget going to low-income customers. So, it goes from 5 percent of NV Energy's total budget all the way up to 10 percent. So, we're really hoping that we can meet the people that need these programs the most." 

Editor's note: KNPR News invited Southwest Gas to be part of the discussion. They did not respond to calls or emails. 

KNPR News also invited some auto-industry groups, but none of them was able to join us for the discussion. 

 

 

  

Guests

Christi Cabrera, Nevada Conservation League; Tyre Gray, Nevada Mining Association; Taylor Patterson, Native Voters Alliance Nevada; Jasmine Vazin, Sierra Club; Rudy Zamora, Chispa Nevada

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