The leadership of the Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee listened politely as Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, argued it was not in the public’s interest to let NV Energy out from under the Public Utility Commission’s thumb in developing renewable power.
Then they ignored his proposed amendment, taking a motion to Do Pass SB123.
“It is important to remember the public policy we’re trying to achieve and that is the retirement of coal assets,” said Chairman David Bobzien, D-Reno.
Hansen said he had no problem with that.
“The bigger concern was between NV Energy and the ratepayer, really the only protection for rank and file people who pay the bills is the PUC,” said Hansen.
He said the purpose of his amendment is “keeping the PUC in the regulatory position they need to be in and have the authority to protect ratepayers as we move forward.”
SB123 would require NV Energy to shutter its two coal-fired generating plants by 2019 and replace them with 350 megawatts of renewable energy and up to 550 megawatts of other generation — probably natural gas.
Hansen said that shouldn’t be directed by the Legislature but, instead, determined and regulated by the PUC.
Consumer Advocate Dan Jacobson said the proposed amendment “kind of goes all the way to ensure the commission has the flexibility to decide what is needed to replace coal.” He said a more consistent approach would be to have the utility go through the normal approval process.
Supporters of the plan have argued the PUC consistently rejects allowing NV Energy to build more generating plants, instead asking the utility to buy cheaper power such as hydro-electric from the northwest, out of state.
Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, said she believes the bill still gives the state enough oversight to protect constituents.
But Hansen’s plan had little chance from the beginning since the legislation is backed not only by environmental groups that want the coal plants shut down but U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.
It was passed out of the committee on a party line vote, headed for final action on the Assembly floor.