Nevada's environmental advocates were celebrating this week after a flurry of bills intended to protect the state's air, water and energy resources passed the state Legislature.
"I think it's probably one of the best, if not the best, session for the environment, that I've seen since I've been going down there since 1985," said Bob Fulkerson, executive director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, a nonprofit environmental and social advocacy group.
Kyle Davis of the Nevada Conservation League agreed, citing as the biggest legislative victory a bill that requires the state to compile an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions, the prime culprit in global warming.
The bill's sponsor, Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, said that if enacted the measured will make the biggest difference in Nevada's environment.
"In the long run, that will help us to reduce greenhouse emissions, and put caps on the power companies," the Las Vegas Democrat said on Friday.
Among other pro-environment measures approved by the Legislature are plans to monitor mercury emissions, encourage the use of renewable energy and energy conservation, and to give more power to people protesting water rights applications. The water bill was a response to a plan by the Southern Nevada Water Authority to import water from eastern Nevada, which has met fierce opposition from residents and the local government of White Pine County.
Some of the legislation, including the water bill, wasn't passed without a fight, Fulkerson said.
One contentious bill that was defeated was the proposed annexation by the City of Reno of a ranch 25 miles outside the city. The Winnemucca Ranch was to be the site of a 8,700-home development. The Nevada Conservation League called the proposal bad planning and argued it would have created thousands of new, long car trips every day.
The Republican-controlled Senate amended the proposal into an Assembly bill, AB513, and passed it, but the measure died in the Democratic-controlled Assembly. Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, recused himself from that vote because his law firm represented the developers. And at one point, Senate Commerce and Labor Chairman Randolph Townsend, R-Reno shelved an Assembly proposal allowing Washoe County to raise taxes for schools until the ranch proposal moved, a tactic that ultimately failed.
Gibbons' spokesman Brent Boynton on Friday declined to specify which bills the governor would or would not sign. He said the governor will have to review at least 189 bills in detail next week to make sure nothing was changed or amended into them that the governor would oppose.
Other environmental legislation passed by the Legislature include:
SB161: Approved by Gov. Jim Gibbons, the law exempts hybrid electric vehicles that are 5 years old or less from smog check requirements.
SB437: Awaiting signature by the governor, this bill gives incentives for increased energy conservation, and creates programs to encourage wind and solar energy production.
AB178, which allows renewable energy systems that produce up to one megawatt of power to qualify for net metering programs. Net metering is a special billing arrangement that allows customers to pump surplus power into the grid and then draw on that credit later. The bill also will phase in higher efficiency standards for light bulbs sold in Nevada. The bill passed both houses unanimously and awaits a signature by the governor.
AB396, which will prevent Homeowners' Associations from restricting their members' ability to install solar panels and allow condominium owners to install shutters on their homes to increase energy efficiency. The bill is awaiting a signature from the governor.
SB274, which gives the state engineer the ability to impose fines on violators of water law, requires the engineer to republish notices on water leasing applications if a decision is not made in five years, and allows water rights protests to be transferred to successors. The bill is awaiting approval by the governor.
AB115, which requires the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection to hire two people to regulate and control mercury emissions at mines. The bill passed both houses unanimously and awaits a decision by the governor.