Nevada lawmakers did well overall on conservation votes | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada lawmakers did well overall on conservation votes

Nevada lawmakers performed well overall in a review of their 2007 session votes by the Nevada Conservation League.

But the score was higher for Democrats than Republicans and higher in the Assembly than the Senate.

Overall, the Assembly average overall score on environmental bills including expansion of renewable energy programs and water conservation was 97 percent with Democrats at 100 percent and Republicans 92 percent.

The Senate’s average overall score was 79 percent with Democrats at 83 percent and Republicans 75 percent.

Scott Rutledge, the league’s executive director, said conservationists “scored big” as far-reaching bills dealing with renewable energy, energy and water conservation and mercury pollution were passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Jim Gibbons.

“On the important issues highlighted in these votes, it is clear that the environment won in 2007,” Rutledge added.

Among leadership, Speaker Barbara Buckley and Majority Leader John Oceguera, both Las Vegas Democrats, had perfect scores. Republicans Minority Leader Garn Mabey, of Las Vegas, and Assistant Minority Leader Heidi Gansert, of Reno, scored 92 percent each.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, had an 80 percent score while Assistant Majority Leader Dennis Nolan, of Las Vegas, was at 75 percent.

Democrat Minority Leader Dina Titus, of Las Vegas, scored 94 percent and won praise for her efforts to deal with greenhouse gases and to protect the state’s natural treasurers. Assistant Minority Leader Bernice Mathews, of Reno, was at 75 percent.

But the league had some criticism for several members, including Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, who they said held the mercury pollution bill hostage “to get his way on unrelated legislation.”

The bill eventually passed unanimously through both houses.

And they criticized Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, who they said refused to even hear a bill which would have adopted auto emission standards that would substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Both houses voted overwhelmingly to reverse a 2005 law which unintentionally blocked the public from participating in administrative hearings unless they had a financial interest in the issue. Many environmental groups found themselves on the outside of hearings involving land and water issues. No one in either house voted against the reversal.

Also unanimous was the vote to expand renewable energy and expand net metering, raise efficiency standards for light bulbs and create a pilot program to recycle waste into usable fuel, as was the vote to expand the period for protesting water applications. The group praised Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, who leads Commerce and Labor, for shepherding that project.

The league praised lawmakers for those actions as well as for killing a bill the league says could have allowed utilities owned by co-ops and nonprofits to escape state review of plans to build power plants or transmission lines.

But the league also pointed out the Senate failure to pass stronger requirements for new landfills in the state.

Altogether, the league tracked legislative votes on 16 different bills which were introduced in the 2007 session.

Kyle Davis, league policy director, said the 2007 session was strong for Nevadans who are concerned about clean air, water and energy policies. But he urged them not to become complacent in 2009, saying there is still much work to do on behalf of Nevada’s environment.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750. The Associated Press contributed to this report.