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Solar panels seen at the Copper Mountain Solar 3 facility near Boulder City on Monday, April 22, 2019. (Jeff Scheid-Nevada Independent)

Eleven days left.

On Wednesday, Gov. Steve Sisolak signed Senate Bill 329, legislation requiring electric utilities to submit a natural disaster protection plan. This is an interesting bill. Starting next year, utilities must outline how they will minimize wildfire risk, and it comes as two big California utilities face liabilities after their wires were found to have sparked wildfires. As fire managers told Sisolak on Tuesday, human activity was responsible for igniting 56 percent of the state’s fires last year.

On deck today: Assembly Ways and Means is considering funding for a state office of outdoor recreation, a big priority for conservation groups and outdoor businesses. In the West, Nevada is late to the game. Six states already have offices to promote an often-forgotten industry that has increasingly flexed its muscle to fight for conservation funding and public land protections.

Several climate-related bills remain on the docket.

The big moment in the session came on Earth Day when Sisolak, flanked by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, signed Senate Bill 358, which doubled the state’s renewable standard for utilities to 50 percent by 2030. But lawmakers have still yet to act on several clean energy and climate bills. The main takeaway: As carbon emissions decrease from the electric sector, groups are increasingly focusing their efforts on emissions from the more dispersed transportation sector.

Here’s a roundup of a few of the pending bills:

  • SCR3: Creates an interim study to look at transportation funding, including “the benefits of electric vehicles and the costs of transportation-related pollution.” (In Assembly)
  • SB 254: Requires the state to develop a report that includes an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions and projections into the future. (Work Session Friday in Senate Finance)
  • AB 483: Creates a pilot program requiring the Department of Motor Vehicles to collect mileage data to consider future highway funding. (Not scheduled for hearing)
  • AB 465: Requires utilities, through the Public Utilities Commission, to develop plans for expanding access to solar energy for low-income ratepayers. (In Senate)

Then there is the headache-inducing water bill (see below).

We’ll be tracking these bills and more as the week progresses. Until then…

Merely avoiding: The big water debate is starting to feel like covering energy (a little bit) for the Las Vegas Sun during the rooftop solarcoaster. Mudslinging. Everyone fairly skeptical of a bill’s intent. A Legislature that might defer to a regulatory agency. And a moderate governor stuck in the middle. There are some differences, for sure. For one, there no longer appears to be any appetite for compromise with litigation pending on the Las Vegas pipeline. But it’s starting to feel like this is another issue too fraught and technical to get settled in the short legislative window.

At a meeting on Wednesday, the governor’s staff impressed upon environmental groups and municipal water users that one of Sisolak’s priorities was to improve water law. Yet that meeting resulted in no path forward on Assembly Bill 30, which would set guidelines for how mitigation plans can be used to settle water conflicts, a question the Supreme Court has not fully vetted.

Environmentalists and priority water users believe the plans, if implemented haphazardly, could drawdown springs and damage ecosystems. State regulators argue the plans, if implemented thoughtfully, are necessary tools to settle conflicts among water users in the driest state.

At times, the meeting became an “airing of grievances.” Little has changed since my story last week, except there is now some consideration of deferring to an interim study. In a conceptual amendment last week, the state also floated the idea of tackling the issue through regulations.

There is a lot more to unpack, but I’ll save that for a future story.

Done is done is “but our work is not done.” At the Hoover Dam on Monday, Colorado River negotiators officially signed a final short-term drought plan after years of talks. Brenda Burman, the Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the river’s dams, applauded the agreement, but added that “our work is not done,” according to a comprehensive report in the Arizona Republic. As the article notes, climate change loomed and another tough challenge: Next year, the states will begin the tough job of renegotiating new guidelines for using the river.

It will never stop snowing: Last week in Elko, I stumbled upon a meme that I tweeted. It was a photo of Dr. Suess with the quip: “Will it rain? Will it snow? I live in Nevada. I do not know.” One week later, it’s still true. Storms this week in Northern Nevada have not only added to this year’s ample snowpack, but they have also delayed streamflow, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which monitors the state’s water supply. It reported that most basins in Northern Nevada are above the average May total, with some receiving more than 5 inches.

If you really want a deep dive: I hadn’t checked the snowpack for a few weeks. When I first did, I turned to a snowpack map that looks at the “percent of normal” and got some wild numbers. So I asked Twitter and got some good replies and a helpful tutorial from the Water Center at CMU.

The SNPLMA deal: On Wednesday, the Department of Interior announced more than $106.8 million in funds for public lands across the state and in Lake Tahoe via the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act. Under the legendary 1998 public lands law, the proceeds of federal land sales in Clark County, go back to conservation, the state’s education fund and the Southern Nevada Water Authority. As my colleague Humberto Sanchez reports in a story about Rep. Dina Titus’ response to the decision, the status of those funds had been in question.

Clips from the news:

  • In an important House committee vote, Rep. Mark Amodei broke with Republican colleagues to oppose funding the Yucca Mountain licensing process. (The Indy)
  • Sen. Kamala Harris will host the Tahoe Summit this summer. (Twitter)

Nevada Independent intern and reporter Taylor Avery contributed to this report.

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