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2019 Bill Graveyard

Community Solar - In the 2017 legislative session, Senator Mo Denis sponsored SB 392. This bill would have created a true community solar program, which would have let friends and neighbors join together on a shared solar array to allow all of them to get the majority of their energy from the sun. This policy is a crucial step to extend the benefits of solar to Nevadans that cannot access traditional rooftop solar, including renters, low-income residents and communities of color. Senator Denis and advocates from the conservation community worked throughout that session to overcome objections and adjust the language of the bill to gain support and the bill passed with bipartisan support in both houses. Unfortunately, the bill was ultimately vetoed by then-Governor Brian Sandoval, amid concerns about the pending ballot measure to open Nevada’s energy market.

With a new Governor in 2019 and questions about the energy market having been put to rest, advocates were optimistic that in the 2019 legislative session we would open up access to solar energy to those that couldn’t install traditional rooftop solar, including renters and low-income Nevadans. Unfortunately, those efforts seemed to be dead before we ever had the chance to get started. SB 210, again sponsored by Senator Denis, never received a hearing and died at the first committee deadline, again amid fears of how it would interact with the existing electricity market. This was disappointing news, as the thousands of Nevadans who are not currently able to install rooftop solar watched net-metering be restored in 2017, but then access to solar programs was not extended to them in either 2017 or 2019.

Ultimately, the 2019 Legislature passed AB 465, which creates a limited solar program in which a handful of small projects are built in neighborhoods with workforce training opportunities for those that live in those neighborhoods, but ultimately all owned by NV Energy. The power from these arrays will then be combined with existing large-scale solar resources to create a rate that those that cannot access rooftop solar can opt in to, with a lower rate available for lower-income Nevadans. Implementation will happen at the Public Utilities Commission, and advocates will be engaged to make sure the program is robust as possible. The bill is certainly a step forward for expanding solar in Nevada, but the failure to enact a true community solar program was a missed opportunity for the 2019 Legislature.

Protecting Water Resources - Coming into the 2019 Legislative session, conservationists were concerned about proposals to change Nevada water law to allow for groundwater withdrawals that could have impacts to senior water rights and the environment. Many stakeholders worked in the 2017 session on AB 298, which would have put into statute authorization and standards for so-called 3M plans (monitoring, management & mitigation). Essentially, these plans would guide groundwater usage in cases where there may be significant impacts from the pumping. That bill died in the Senate committee in 2017 as there was too much opposition from a wide variety of interests, conservationists included.

AB 30 of the 2019 session again attempted to set guidelines for the use of 3M plans. Again, we had concerns that the bill was too broad and would allow for groundwater withdrawals that could cause permanent damage to the environment, and we made our concerns known early. Through a long negotiation, the bill was changed to only allow for such withdrawal in cases where conflicts could be avoided, which we felt was acceptable. The bill then passed the Assembly, but there were still concerns from some interests, which came up in the Senate committee hearing. For conservation interests, most of the dispute came down to the issue of mitigation in cases where groundwater pumping does cause impacts to senior water rights or the environment. Mitigation measures such as replacement water or cash payments may work to satisfy the interests of senior water right holders, but these measures can’t keep a spring or a meadow from drying up. As a result, we held firm that mitigation cannot and should not be used to deal with environmental resources.

Ultimately, the bill again died in the Senate as consensus could not be reached on the issue. We expect to spend time in the interim period discussing the issues with interested stakeholders, with the possibility that agreement might be reached for the 2021 Legislative session.