Friday, February 17, 2012

Surprise! California Balks at Trashing Tahoe.

Who could have guessed that last year's "Trash Tahoe Bill" would get such an icy reception across state lines? Who could have guessed? Steve Sebelius noted it yesterday, and The LA Times posted more today on California's response to Nevada's SB 271.

Last year, Nevada state Sen. John Lee [D-North Las Vegas] sponsored a bill that would pave the way for development in the Tahoe basin. Specifically, the legislation calls for loosening the bi-state governing board's voting requirements, effectively making it easier to change environmental standards. Under the law, if the conditions aren't met by late 2015, Nevada will walk.

In a letter to Lee on Wednesday, [California State Senate Leader Darrell] Steinberg [D-Sacramento] called the legislation "both unnecessarily inflammatory and deeply counter-productive."

"One can only imagine how leaders in Nevada would react if California were to take similar action," he wrote. "It is both surprising and disappointing to see a national treasure as important as Lake Tahoe become a political hostage to the agenda of special interest groups who have little interest in the many values the region provides."

The letter comes as the states argue over the density and scale of redevelopment. The bi-state compact was established by federal legislation in 1969 to protect the lake after years of loosely regulated development had paved over parts of the basin and clouded its stunningly clear waters. [...]

In his letter, Steinberg said he had appointed a delegation of lawmakers to work with Nevada on Tahoe issues. "I want to express my openness to new, thoughtful, and creative approaches to addressing the challenges relating to Lake Tahoe," he wrote, "provided they are consistent with the priorities" of the compact.

And frankly, I don't blame Steinberg and his fellow California legislators who are appalled by our legislature sticking them with this reckless action. I guess just because a few well connected lobbyists, along with a certain legislator, own property on Tahoe and want to profit off more development there doesn't mean California's legislators are prepared to trash Tahoe. Thanks to the ridiculously shortsighted SB 271 that passed last year, the entire Lake Tahoe Compact is in danger of falling apart.

So now, Steinberg is offering to send a delegation of California State Senators to negotiate with our state on how to move forward on Tahoe. I hope our legislators take some time to rethink the huge mistake they made in passing SB 271 (especially the ones who held hostage last year's budget over it) as they prepare to meet with the California delegation. So far, California (rightly) wants nothing to do with disemboweling the environmental safeguards necessary to protect Lake Tahoe for future generations, so Nevada needs to drop the hissy fit pushed by big developers and agree to a path forward for Tahoe that will preserve the lake for all Nevadans and Californians.

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