Faraday Future special session hits hang up
December 17, 2015
Senate Bill 1, the primary piece of legislation to make the Faraday Future deal happen, got hung up in the Senate Thursday night.
Opponents say legislative language made critical changes to long-standing Nevada water law. Republican Sens. Pete Goicoechea, of Eureka, and James Settelmeyer, of Gardnerville, both argued that a two-day special session was not the place to make dramatic changes in water law that is supported by 150 years of legal case law.
That issue, along with provisions essentially allowing Economic Development Director Steve Hill to change the final deal at will, and questions about how to handle building the water infrastructure needed for Faraday stalled the process, resulting in both chambers of the legislature calling it a day before 6 p.m.
Lawmakers will resume the process at 9 a.m. today.
The rural water issue centers on Section 64 of SB1 which green lights approval of applications for water rights needed by a qualified economic development projects across adjacent water basins. The section also limits any challenges to those permits to just those people who hold earlier water rights in the affected basins.
There are five different but adjacent groundwater basins involved in the Faraday water issue.
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Goicoechea presented his objections to Hill during the hearing on the bill. Hill said they were "working on language that's significantly different."
Goicoechea's response was: "It would be fine with me if 64 were removed, thank you."
He and Settelmeyer, both ranchers whose families have multi-generation experience with Nevada water law, said they will be looking carefully at whatever language is proposed to ensure that long-standing water law isn't upended by the legislation to bring the electric car maker to Southern Nevada.
The other issue in the water battle is who should control and manage building the water infrastructure to the Apex industrial site. The argument involves whether North Las Vegas has the capacity and expertise to build that project or if it should be handled by the Southern Nevada Water Authority. The issue then becomes whether SNWA would issue the permits and collect hookup fees for the water service. The idea being discussed in early evening was to have SNWA do the work, issue the initial permits and collect those fees, but then turn it all over to North Las Vegas, which could then collect fees going forward as more businesses come to the Apex site.
The issue had not been resolved and, by 5:30 p.m. some members were saying the water issues should be put in a separate piece of legislation as was originally planned earlier this week.
The final issue in the mix is language giving Hill, as director of the Governor's Office of Economic Development, the power to change nearly anything and everything in the Faraday deal without going through the legislative Interim Finance Committee or anyone else. Senators seemed to agree that, while Hill needs some ability to make changes, those provisions are far too broad.
The Assembly also ran into come problems with amendments to the bill detailing workforce education and support for the Faraday auto plant.
Lawmakers are considering $215 million in incentives for the Chinese-backed automaker that wants to bring a $1 billion plant and 4,500 jobs to North Las Vegas.
Nevada officials also want permission to publicly finance $120 million in water, rail and road improvements at the Apex Industrial Park,an undeveloped industrial center at the edge of North Las Vegas. In addition, it commits the state to build some $120 million in infrastructure improvements needed to make the site viable. That includes a freeway interchange into the site, gas, water and electric utilities. The total state benefit to the plant comes to $335 million.
Faraday Future plans to unveil a concept car ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. It hopes to bring a vehicle to market as early as 2017.