Wednesday, May 22, 2013

SB 123/NVision Passes Senate, Has 12 Days in Assembly

This spring, we've been tracking the many twists and turns of SB 123 in Carson City. It was originally a bill meant to strengthen Nevada's renewable energy portfolio, then NV Energy snatched it and transformed it into its own profit expanding beast energy plan. But when NV Energy and many legislators (supporting SB 123-cum-NVision) started feeling blowback over the revised bill, NV Energy agreed to further revise the bill to mollify various grassroots environmental activists and consumer advocates worried about the direction SB 123 had taken.

And finally today, the (yet again) revised SB 123 passed the full Senate

Senate Bill 123, one of the most lobbied measures this session, lays out a 10-year plan for NV Energy to acquire and generate more clean energy-- a policy goal that won wide support from a broad coalition of politicians and environmental groups. But the language governing how the utility would replace its coal-fired plants and how much regulatory power the Public Utilities Commission would have over the plan opened rifts among some of the most powerful interests at the Legislature.

The measure also generated an outcry from the Public Utilities Commission, which feared it would shackle their ability to regulate the utility, and the Bureau of Consumer Protection, which argued the bill could lead to higher rate increases than projected by the utility.

But in presenting the bill to his colleagues on the floor, Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, said lawmakers were able to broker a compromise among the various interests lobbying the bill, including scaling back the scope of what NV Energy would be mandated to build and giving the PUC more authority to modify the plan over the course of the next decade.

"This bill puts Nevada at the forefront of energy policy in this country," Atkinson said, arguing it does not "sacrifice regulatory oversight."

Even now, the bill still faces opposition from a coalition spanning the ideological spectrum (from Frankie Sue Del Papa to RAN). But at this point, the SB 123 and NV Energy seem to have enough support spanning the ideological spectrum (from Governor Brian Sandoval & Pete Ernaut to US Senator Harry Reid, Nevada Conservation League, & Nevada AFL-CIO) to pass the Assembly. And of course, Governor Sandoval is very ready to sign it into law.

Over time, this bill and the issues behind it have become quite complicated. We want more renewable energy, but do we also want to open the door to fracking in Nevada? We want to reduce our carbon footprint, but how much of that will this actually accomplish? We don't want consumers stuck footing the bill just so NV Energy can increase profits at our expense, so are we still at risk for that now?

The Assembly has 12 days to sort this all out and render a final verdict on SB 123. Good luck with that.

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