Nevada Legislature Goes Green in 80th Session
Dozens of bills having to do with renewable energy, water, public lands, wildfire, and outdoor recreation were made law during the legislative session that recently ended.
Was this really the “green legislature,” as some are calling it?
It is not a big surprise that the Legislature tackled a lot of environmental issues because of the Democratic majority but not everyone was sure what Governor Steve Sisolak, a moderate Democratic, would do with the progressive bills that were passed.
“He approved most of the environmental legislation," Rothberg said, "There are still some stuff pending for bill signings and things like that but I think you had a Democratic Legislature and a Democratic governor working together during the process and there wasn’t much conflict in those relationships.”
And while on the national level many Republicans vote against expanded environmental or conservation laws, Rothberg said many of the measures passed in Nevada were bipartisan.
“Republican representatives in the Legislature are often presenting rural interests and there’s a lot of overlap on some issues in interesting and unexpected ways when it comes to the environment,” he said.
Conservationists and ranchers both want to see public lands protected and preserved but for different reasons; however, since the goal is the same wide-ranging coalitions formed to support public land bills.
Rothberg pointed to efforts to stop the military from expanding its use of public lands both in Northern Nevada and Southern Nevada.
But perhaps the biggest overlap of agendas came with the renewable portfolio standard.
“This was sort of the marquee environmental law that passed this session,” Rothberg said.
The bill raises the renewable portfolio standard to 50 percent by 2030, which means Nevada must get 50 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.
A ballot measure overwhelming supported by voters would have done the same thing.
“I think what it means for everyday Nevadans is that there is a clear signal being sent to legislators that there is an interest in using clean energy,” he said.
Rothberg said some people support it as a way to combat climate change and others support it for economic reasons.
Another important bill that passed with broad support creates an office of outdoor recreation. The office will promote the state's outdoor recreation industry, recruit more businesses for that industry and oversee conservation efforts on state and federal land.
“It is interesting to me because I think it is really a signal that Nevada is taking seriously outdoor recreation economy, which I think during the Trump administration is showing increasing muscle and really does have a lot of economic impact, especially in western states,” Rothberg said.
Other bills extended a conservation bonding program that will pay for a whole list of efforts from the Springs Preserve to the Tahoe Bike Trail. But perhaps most importantly, some of the money will be spent to rehabilitate the thousands of acres around the state damaged by wildfires.
And in regards to the state's most precious and most fought over resource - water - lawmakers didn't make any big changes.
A bill that opponents said would have paved the way for the controversial water pipeline from eastern Nevada to Southern Nevada died.
A bill to crack down on water speculation, which is the practice of not using all of your water rights but selling them instead, which is against water law in the West, was passed; along with a bill that aims to conserve more water in certain water basins was also passed.
Daniel Rothberg, environmental reporter, The Nevada Independent