Valley Electric’s board considers changes to net metering policy

Hundreds of Valley Electric Association Inc.'s members that take advantage of the co-op's net metering program could see a change in the current rates that are paid. Valley's board will consider a tiered system at the co-op's next board meeting.

By Jeffrey Meehan ~ Pahrump Valley Times

June 21, 2019 - 7:00 am

Valley Electric Association Inc.’s board of directors is set to mull over potential changes to the co-op’s current net metering policy.

The new policy, set to be taken up at Valley’s June 26 board meeting, would lower the current rate of 100 percent, or 11.9 cents per kilowatt-hour, to a tiered system where those with solar would get 75-95 percent of the current rate, “depending on when the member-generator interconnected with the VEA grid,” according to a news release from Valley.

That comes out to 9 cents a kilowatt hour under the 75 percent bracket, according to Interim Chief Executive of Valley Electric Association Inc. Dick Peck.

According to the co-op, the new policy would mirror Assembly Bill 405 on net metering, which was signed into law in 2017 by then-Gov. Brian Sandoval. Net metering is where those with rooftop solar get a credit for the excess energy they return to the grid.

Valley is exempt from the law but offers the program to local customers wanting to install solar, according to a news release from the co-op.

The co-op currently offers 100 percent, or 11.9 cents per kilowatt-hour for the excess energy it sends back to the grid.

Tiered system

Under the proposed net metering policy, VEA policy No. 136, members of Valley installing solar will follow a tiered system, which will be “tied to the date that a completed application to install a net-metering system was received,” according to Valley’s news release.

According to Valley, the first solar generator interconnected to the co-op in 2006 and has grown into the hundreds since that time.

Overall, the system is set that the earlier an application was put in, the higher the reimbursement rate.

For Tier One, where members who interconnected with Valley prior to the generation amount exceeded 1.25 megawatts, those members will receive 95 percent of the full retail rate of 11.9 cents per kilowatt hour. The 1.25 megawatt threshold was crossed in 2015, according to Valley’s release.

Tier Two includes those members that brought the generation from 1.25 to 2.5 megawatts, which occurred in 2017. Under that tier, members will be paid 88 percent of the full retail rate.

Tier Three will be paid 81 percent of the full retail rate for excess energy. This group brought the generated amount from “2.5-3.75 megawatts” in 2019.

Members falling under Tier Four will be reimbursed 75 percent of Valley’s full retail rate.

“The majority of VEA’s generation of renewable energy by members comes in the form of solar, but some members generate power with wind turbines,” Valley’s release stated. “Since the total number of applications in house would bring the system size to nearly 6 megawatts, virtually all new applications would be reimbursed at 75% of the retail rate.”

“With these revisions, Valley Electric will be in line with state law, which serves to encourage the development of solar generation,” Peck said in a news release. “The wholesale power rate is approximately 4 cents per kilowatt-hour, but we had been paying our member-generators 11.9 cents for their excess power. We have to always remember that members who do not generate renewable energy are subsidizing those who do.”

According to Peck, the number of member-generators has grown significantly in the past couple years, which is prompting the need for revisions to the co-op’s policy.

In a news release, Peck estimated that Valley paid $230,000 for power under its net metering program in 2018.

Valley currently has over 600 generators that participate in Valley’s net metering program, equating to approximately 3 percent of the membership, according to Valley’s release.

The number of generators did not pass 100 until 2014, according to Valley’s release.

The topic will be taken up at Valley’s next board meeting at the co-op’s administrative offices in Pahrump. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. at 800 E. Highway 372.

Source: Valley Electric’s board considers changes to net metering policy


With towns in Northern Nevada growing, the BLM reports more unauthorized uses of federal public land

It’s common to hear about property disputes among neighbors. But what happens when your neighbor is the federal government?

This is a question that occupies an increasing amount of time for Victoria Wilkins, an acting field manager for the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Sierra Front division. From a BLM district office tucked away in Carson City, Wilkins says the agency is seeing more issues in the region — from Reno to Gardnerville — over where the federal domain begins and private land ends.

The BLM is charged with managing vast stretches of public land — about 67 percent of Nevada — for a variety of activities, including grazing, recreation, mining, wild horses and conservation. Although much of the agency’s landholdings are expansive ranges located in faraway valleys, many BLM parcels encircle private land or sit adjacent to it. As towns around the region grow, Wilkins said her office has seen more unauthorized uses of BLM land. The intrusions into the federal domain are often accidental (BLM land is not always marked), but they are still illegal.

“The more people we get concentrated in an area, the more these issues seem to be surfacing,” Wilkins said during an interview at the Carson City District before Memorial Day weekend.

Three weeks earlier, Wilkins said the district office caught someone blading a road into public land. Wilkins said the office gets a report like that at least once a month. There are other types of realty trespass too. She pointed to cases where landowners have accidentally built parts of their homes or sheds on public land, often because of faulty surveying. Or there are cases where private landowners will use a public road for private access without proper right-of-ways. A more recent form of trespass has been the construction of fuel breaks, areas of land where vegetation has been strategically removed to stunt runaway fires.

The BLM district has also seen an inexplicable uptick in abandoned vehicles. Where the local BLM officers used to see five or 10 abandoned vehicles, they have reported 47 this fiscal year.

“We don’t know [why],” Wilkins said. “We’re trying to figure that out.”

Across the Mountain West, more and more residents are purchasing homes near undeveloped land, especially as cities and even rural towns push the rural interface outward toward wildland. The trend has often placed more pressure on land managed by the agency. And in some cases, the ownership divide is unclear without a survey or map. In other cases, newcomers to the area can be unfamiliar with the rules governing public land, which can vary between regions.

Bret Birdsong, a UNLV law professor and a former deputy solicitor for the Department of Interior, said that the issues are especially prevalent in areas where human development abuts wildland.

“Part of the big picture is there are a lot of border lands where BLM land is bordering private land,” Birdsong said. “And just as with private land, it’s not all that unusual for there to be disputes or encroachments that occur because boundaries are not always clearly marked.”

The BLM deals with a variety of trespass issues that are not limited to land ownership. In fact, the concept of trespassing on public land is at the heart of the agency’s ongoing legal dispute with Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy. After Bundy stopped paying fees to graze his cattle on public land — the BLM requires ranchers to operate under 10-year grazing permits — a court order found that he was trespassing on the federal domain by illegally running his cattle.

Other cases of trespass include the unlawful removal of minerals, which are managed by the BLM. In April, the U.S. Department of Justice reached a settlement with a Colorado oil and gas company over drilling in a railroad right-of-way without permission from the land agency.

Those cases are different. Those trespasses were willful. The trespasses reported to the BLM’s Carson City District, which includes the growing region around Reno, are often accidental.

Boris Poff, an acting assistant field manager in the BLM’s Las Vegas Field Office, said that more people are reporting trespass because more people are using public land. But Poff, who works in the lands division, said he is not sure that’s correlated to an overall increase in trespass.

“[For] most people we deal with,” he said, “it’s an honest mistake.”

Poff said the agency tries to settle many of the land issues amicably. Still, the BLM’s Southern Nevada division opened up 13 trespass cases over the last year and has 21 ongoing cases.

On May 7, the Carson City District Office sent out a news release reminding residents to check land ownership rules before they build a road, fuel break, fence or other structure. But the news release also cautioned that trespassing could come with consequences, including fines. In some cases, such as when part of a house is built on federal land, the agency can require a property owner to pay the fair market value for the land. When a trespass is willful, the penalty can be twice or three times the market value for the land or the charges for using a public road.

One or two land trespasses might seem benign, but they can add up. Birdsong said there are several issues at stake for the BLM, especially if the trespass occurs in sensitive habitat, like riparian areas. He said the agency also has a responsibility to manage the land for the public. And if the agency does not enforce its rules, it could signal to bad actors that it’s open season.

Wilkins said that she suspects that many trespasses result from a lack of understanding around public land, access and right-of-ways. But it’s becoming such a problem that title companies are aware of the issue, she said. And the office is now considering educating real estate agents.

“[One] thing that we’ve been talking about is doing some educational workshops with real estate agents so that they can help their clients identify potential pitfalls,” Wilkins said. “A lot of people want to live next to public lands, but they don’t always think about the things that can happen on the adjacent public lands — dirt biking, hiking, the horse use, vegetation removal projects, fire.”

Source: With towns in Northern Nevada growing, the BLM reports more unauthorized uses of federal public land


See you in court, governor

by Thomas Mitchell

So, the governor is confident that the extension of the modified business tax rate will withstand a legal challenge, according to both the Las Vegas newspaper and the online Nevada Independent.

“We’ve got legal opinion from LCB (Legislative Counsel Bureau) that, you know, a simple majority is what’s needed,” Gov. State Sisolak was quoted as saying Tuesday. “I’ve been in government for 20 some-odd years, and if you don’t trust your attorneys, you’ve got a problem. So I’m confident that the attorneys gave us a good opinion. We’ll move forward from there.”

Be prepared to move back, governor, by nearly $100 million in your budget for the next two years — the budget that promises 5 percent raises for teachers.

Republicans have promised a legal challenge if the business tax was extended without a two-thirds majority of both houses as prescribed by the Constitution. The tax extension passed the Senate on a party line vote of 13-8, one vote shy of two-thirds.

Voters in 1994 and 1996 amended the Nevada Constitution to state “an affirmative vote of not fewer than two-thirds of the members elected to each House is necessary to pass a bill or joint resolution which creates, generates, or increases any public revenue in any form, including but not limited to taxes, fees, assessments and rates, or changes in the computation bases for taxes, fees, assessments and rates.”

The modified business tax passed in 2015 by a two-thirds vote of lawmakers contained specific language saying the rates would be reduced in 2019 if tax revenues exceeded a certain level, which they have.

But the compliant LCB told the majority Democratic lawmakers and the Democratic governor, “It is the opinion of this office that Nevada’s two-thirds majority requirement does not apply to a bill which extends until a later date or revises or eliminates a future decrease in or future expiration of existing state taxes when that future decrease or expiration is not legally operative and binding yet, because such a bill does not change but maintains the existing computation bases currently in effect for the existing state taxes.”

The bill clearly “generates” revenue that two-thirds of the lawmakers in 2015 said would decrease as of July 1, 2019.

The state Constitution is not something to tamper with. Republicans should take it to court and make the Democrats abide by the rules, even if it means a special session would have to called. In fact, the GOP lawmakers should go directly to the state Supreme Court for an opinion that would binding, unlike the LCB opinion “that future decrease or expiration is not legally operative and binding yet …”

Asked nearly the same question in 2011, 2013 and 2015, the LCB said a two-thirds vote was necessary. So, governor, when do you trust your attorneys?

Gov. Steve Sisolak, right, talks to reporters about legislative session. (R-J pix)

Source: See you in court, governor

Group signals recall effort of Gov. Sisolak over gun legislation

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak delivers his first State of the State address from the Assembly Chambers of the Nevada Legislature in Carson City, Nev., Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Tom R. Smedes)
June 3, 2019 – 3:55 pm

A conservative group has formed a recall committee to attempt to kick Gov. Steve Sisolak out of office, a nascent effort largely motivated by fear of losing rights under recent gun control legislation.

Fight for Nevada, based in Elko County, registered with the secretary of state’s office on May 6. The group’s president, Angela Blass, said Monday that the “state will become dangerous” under policies championed by Sisolak, the new governor.

It was “sort of this deep gut feeling that something has to be done,” said Blass, 41, who works as an assistant administrator for a fuel company. “We can’t allow this. And also, it scared the hell out of me.”

On Saturday, a gun control bill that would ban bump stocks and enact stricter gun storage provisions and a “red flag” provision enabling authorities to seize guns from those deemed a threat to themselves or others was sent to Sisolak’s office. The next day, Fight for Nevada held its first major rally in Carson City.

The group is opposed not only to gun control legislation, but to wasteful spending and attempts to make Nevada a sanctuary state, according to its website.

“In the final hours of the legislative session, Governor Sisolak remains focused on his priorities for Nevada families — funding our schools, expanding access to health care, and fighting for a safer Nevada,” Sisolak spokeswoman Helen Kalla said Monday when asked to respond to the group’s effort.

Blass moved from California about two years ago; she said she was not politically involved until now and insisted that her group tries to be bipartisan. But she also said she witnessed the consequences of Democratic leadership in California and lamented that Nevada appears to be heading down a similarly liberal path.

She claimed there are about 8,000 members in the group and said they expect to begin signature-gathering efforts by November. Organizers say they will need 242,950 signatures of registered voters who cast a ballot in the gubernatorial race last fall to launch a recall election.

Source: Group signals recall effort of Gov. Sisolak over gun legislation

https://www.facebook.com/groups/386055352220090/

https://www.facebook.com/recallsisolak/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/ConcernedVotersNorthernNV/


Upcoming Rallies
6/16/2019 Elko Rally

The Elko Rally has been moved to the 16th. There is going be speakers, a raffle and a lot of supporters! Come down and make your voice heard! Sheriff Aitor, Merecedes Mendive and Thelma Homer will be there.

1pm14810 Hwy 227 Spring Creek, NV

Estuary Park

06/22/2019 Winnemucca Rally

 Location: Winnemucca boulevard between McDonald’s and the pig BBQ restaurant on the sidewalk. Parking is available in the lot beside AutoZone. We can gather in the AutoZone parking lot to consolidate before starting the March.   Regroup at pioneer Park at the gazebos near the restrooms at 2:00pm-? for public speakers.   Speakers are: Angela blass: Fight for Nevada Aitor Narvaiza: Elko sheriff Joshua Schmitt: 3% Legion Militia 

12pm1:30pm

Winnemucca boulevard between McDonald’s and the pig BBQ restaurant on the sidewalk.

Center for Self Governance: Who are they?

Who We Are

The Center for Self Governance is a non-profit, non-partisan educational organization dedicated to advancing a stable civil society, balanced human government, and a well-educated populace.

Vision

CSG’s vision is the advancement of the stabilization of civil society.

Mission

CSG partners with you and your community to stabilize civil society and increase your political influence, improve your networking skills, and expand your personal growth and development.

Why the Center for Self Governance made the Governed v Governing series

A philosopher once said, "every member [of society] has an equal right of participation, personally, in the direction of the affairs of the society."

The challenge is convincing 'members of society,' you, that you not only can change the destiny of society - that you have the ability and responsibility to do so. The other challenge is figuring out  what you can do and how you should 'participate' in changing the destiny of society.

It's the sole reason for the Governed V Governing series - to meet you and empower you to change, not only your destiny, but also the destiny, 'the direction', of society.

The key is NO ONE can make you be self-governing. The Governing can make you do what the law says - but they cannot, it is impossible to make you be self-governing, you have to choose to be self-governing.

This same philosopher said "Self-governance in society is not innate, [not in your disposition to do so] it is the result of habit and long-training." We created the GVG series to meet you and, if you are willing, to train you in the 'habit and practice' of self-governance.

Our Applied Civics training is unique, unconventional, and counter-intuitive. It will empower you. It will change your destiny and the 'direction of the society' - if you choose to.

Upcoming Events

June 5th:   Screening @ 6:30 pm
O’Sullivan Grange 1136, 14724 Rd 3 SE, Moses Lake, WA 98837

June 6th:  Screening @ 6 pm
Odd Fellows Hall, 601 N Chelan Ave., Wenatchee WA 98801-2087

June 7th:  Screening @ 7 pm
Spokane Valley Library, 12004 E Main Ave, Spokane Valley, WA 99206

June 8th:  Screening @  11 am
Post Falls Library, 821 N Spokane St., Post Falls, Idaho

June 8th:  Foundational Civics training @ 3 pm
Spokane Valley Library, 12004 E Main Ave, Spokane Valley, WA 99206

June 9th:  Shoshone County, ID (tentative)

June 10th:  Screening @  6:30 pm
CAF Building 64361 Hwy 3 S, Fernwood, ID

June 11th:  Screening @  7:30 pm
Courthouse building, 605 N Capitol, Idaho Falls, ID

June 12th:  Screening @  7 pm
CNCC  (Colorado North Community College) Room 175,  2801 West 9th Street , Craig, CO 81625

June 13th:  Screening  @ 6:30 pm
Agriculture Resource Learning Center, 2011 Fairgrounds Road, Casper, WY
(Please use the “After Hours” door located immediately to the left of the main entrance door)

June 14th:  Foundational Civics training @ 8 am
Ide Residence - 3838 Garden Creek Road, Casper, WY
NOTE: Contact Cathy Ide, (307) 267-7167 or cathyide22@gmail.com for more information

June 15th:  Foundational Civics training @ 9 am
Courthouse building, 605 N Capitol, Idaho Falls, ID

June 19th - 22nd:  Northwest Liberty Acadmey, Boise, ID

June 22nd:  Screening & Fundraiser @ TBA
Caldwell, ID

July 13th:   Screening & Training
Calabassas area, CA

Tentative schedule:
10:30 am -12:00 pm     Lavoy Film/Discussion
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm     Lunch
1:00 pm - 5:00 pm     Foundational Civics Training

July 14th: Screening @ 1:30 pm
Riverside Main Library Community Room, 3581 Mission Inn Avenue, Riverside, CA

July 19th:   Screening @ 7 pm
Conference Room, Temecula Civic Center, 4100 Main St. (at Mercedes) Temecula, CA  92590

Schedule:
Check-in:  6 pm
Program start:  7 pm
Cost:  Members - $20; Non-members - $25; Gold Eagle members - $15; Students under 25 - FREE
Gold Eagle members can invite first time guests for $15
PLEASE RSVP Maria @ 951-551-7626 or email leanza.maria@verizon.net.

July 20th: Level 3 - Structure of Human Government (tentative)
Riverside County, CA
If you have ALL 7 exercises complete for the Foundational Civics program and would like to take Level 3 online, please contact Pam at pleslie@tncsg.org.

July 21st: Foundational Civics Training @ 12 pm - 5 pm
CARSTAR Auto Body Repair, 522 Railroad Street, Corona, CA 92882

July 26th-28th:  Challis, ID
Idaho Liberty Summit


Upcoming Online Training - Foundational Civics (4 hrs)

October 1st & 3rd, 2019

NOW $50 FOR NEW STUDENTS
For more information on our training go to https://www.centerforselfgovernance.com/

Tuition Price Changes

Foundational Civics (formerly Level 1 and 2 combined): 
New student:  $100 NOW $50      Child (Age 17 and under):  $30 NOW $40

Applied Civics (Level 3 - 5):
Prices unchanged
Couples discount no longer available

Find CSG Online
https://centerforselfgovernance.com

Nevada AB291 – Rules Suspended, Bill Completely Changed and Passed by The Senate.

AB291 was sent to the Governor late Friday, May 31st, 2019.  The bills final Senate version looks very little like what was passed out of the assembly earlier this month. After suspending the rules, the Senate amended the bill and added the verbiage from two other bills that never made it out of committee, giving them a life they were not supposed to have.  Red Flag and Gun Storage Laws were added to replace all of the Preemptive State Gun Law that was removed.

May 20, 2019 by associated press  CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety says it supported a proposal at the Nevada Legislature that would have allowed counties to pre-empt state gun laws and pass stricter firearm regulations but it became clear that the measure could not pass this year in the face of opposition.

The proposal was part of a broader gun bill moving through the statehouse but the bill's sponsor, Democratic Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui, released a statement Friday saying she was removing the provision at the request of Everytown and other groups. The provision is expected to be replaced with language creating a so-called "red flag" law allowing police or family members to seek an order to seize guns from people who appear violent or may post a danger. 

Everytown deputy press secretary Zoe Sheppard says "there is a real path" to pass a red flag law in Nevada "that can save lives right away. She says Everytown will try again in the future to pass legislation allowing counties to set their own gun control regulations.

[pdf-embedder url="https://birdpuk.com/wp-content/uploads/securepdfs/2019/06/Unknown.pdf"]

Saturday, June 1st, Second Amendment supporters rallied with members of the Nevada Republican Assembly Caucus in Carson City as well as Las Vegas.


Briefing in Pahrump water order appeal filings complete

The briefing in the appeal case regarding Nevada State Engineer Order #1293(A) has reached its conclusion.

The documents for all parties involved are now undergoing the process of screening by the Nevada Supreme Court, which will decide whether or not to move the case forward and hold a hearing to allow for oral arguments.

In addition to the Nevada State Engineer’s Office, which is the appellant, and Pahrump Fair Water, the respondent, a third party has joined the battle as well. The Nevada Groundwater Association requested leave to file an amicus brief, taking the side of Pahrump Fair Water in the argument, and the Nevada Supreme Court has granted that request.

The water order has been the source of much contention since it was originally issued in December 2017.

The order restricts the drilling of new domestic wells in the Pahrump Valley unless two acre-feet of water rights have been relinquished in support of the well. For some Pahrump property owners, water rights were already relinquished when their parcels were initially created. However, for many others, this is not the case and the order requires these property owners to first purchase water rights and relinquish them back to the state before they can drill a domestic well on their land.

Pahrump Fair Water, an organization composed of local property owners, well drillers and real estate agents, filed suit to put a stop to the water order. After several months of legal maneuvering, a judge with the Fifth Judicial District Court rendered a ruling in November 2018 in favor of Pahrump Fair Water and overturned the water order.

That was far from the end of the matter, however, as the Nevada State Engineer’s Office took its opportunity to file an appeal, which is the case now before the Nevada Supreme Court. While the case is being considered, the Supreme Court has issued a stay on the ruling that overturned the water order, meaning at the moment, the order is still in effect.

The basic argument between the engineer’s office and Pahrump Fair Water stems from the question of just how far the state engineer’s authority extends when it comes to domestic wells.

Pahrump Fair Water asserts that the engineer does not have the power to regulate domestic wells except in very specific circumstances, which the organization argues do not exist in the given situation. The state engineer, conversely, proclaims that the engineer’s office can, in fact, restrict domestic wells and withdrawals from such if the engineer finds that it would be in the best interest of the health of the overall water basin to do so.

There are several other points argued by both sides in the briefs filed in the case, including those regarding due process requirements and whether potential new domestic wells constitute a vested property right or protectable interest.

Now the case has reached a “wait and see” point, as there is no definite schedule for when the Nevada Supreme Court might decide to hold a hearing in the matter.

“There is really no way to tell,” David Rigdon of Taggart and Taggart, LTD, the law firm representing Pahrump Fair Water, stated when asked about a possible time line for the case. “I’ve seen the screening process take as few as 45 days and as long as seven to eight months. It all depends on their workload. In the order approving the stay, the court stated that they wanted expedited briefing… However it’s not clear whether the court will expedite its screening and review.”

The appeal is filed under Case No. 77722. All associated documents can be reviewed online at www.nvcourts.gov

 

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

Call to action on AB 95

The Nevada Legislative Session is has just three weeks remaining until it comes to a close and the fate of hundreds of bills depends upon the decisions made in these final days.

In a email sent out May 14 to area residents with a deep interest in local water resources, Nevada Assemblyman Greg Hafen II urged the community to reach out to Nevada Senators and ask them to vote “no” on one particular bill, Assembly Bill 95.

The bill calls for changes to Nevada water law that many have been pushing back against. It would require the Nevada State Engineer, “…to continue to allow withdrawals of groundwater from domestic wells under certain circumstances in groundwater basins where withdrawals have been restricted to conform to priority rights,” according to the bill language.

The bill dictates that domestic wells would be allowed to continue pumping half an acre foot of water it times of curtailment but only if the owner installs a water meter. The idea of water meters is something Pahrump residents have been extremely resistant to for years. Many have also argued that the state engineer does not have the authority to curtail domestic wells at all, a belief that is current under debate in a lawsuit between the engineer’s office and Pahrump Fair Water.

A bill very similar to Assembly Bill 95 was before the Nevada Legislature in 2017 and after the public outcry, it ultimately failed to pass.

“I rise today in opposition to Assembly Bill 95. Assembly Bill 95 tramples over 100 years of Nevada water laws to the detriment of all water users,” Hafen stated from the Assembly Floor on May 14. “We heard from many Nevadans during the bill’s hearing about the negative effects of the bill. There was not one person or organization in support.”

“Currently, domestic wells in my district are already only using an average of half an acre foot per year,” Hafen continued. “Conservation is the key to solving Nevada’s water issues and this bill does nothing to promote conservation, but does have a financial burden to well owners by requiring them install a meter. I urge my colleagues to vote ‘no’ on Assembly Bill 95.”

Details on the bill and a list of all Nevada Legislators along with their contact information can be found online at www.leg.state.nv.us

— Robin Hebrock, Pahrump Valley Times

Source: Briefing in Pahrump water order appeal complete


VICTOR JOECKS: Controversial gun control measure could pass without a hearing

The Legislature could pass a controversial gun control measure without ever holding a public hearing.

At issue is a red flag law, which allows courts to order the confiscation of weapons from people who pose a threat to themselves or others.

Narrowly tailored, these laws can be beneficial. For instance, the Parkland, Florida, school shooter had a history of disturbing and dangerous behavior. Police went to his house 39 times in seven years. It could have prevented a mass murder had a court taken away his weapons.

In the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, some prominent conservatives, such as David French with National Review, came out in support of red flag laws. But getting the details wrong can turn a good idea into a bad law. It’s a tough balancing act to design a statute that allows government to seize someone’s weapons while respecting an individual’s right to due process.

Finding that balance requires discussion and compromise. That could have happened. Early in the session, state Sen. Julia Ratti, D-Sparks, proposed a very broad red flag bill, Senate Bill 120. For instance, included in the definition of high-risk behavior was the act of acquiring a firearm within six months of displaying a firearm.

A judge who determined someone engaged in those behaviors and posed a risk could order that individual to turn over his or her firearms to law enforcement. The bill also required only “clear and convincing” evidence, a lower standard than beyond a reasonable doubt. Under the proposal, a judge could have ordered an individual’s firearms be confiscated without the subject knowing he’d been accused of threatening behavior.

If the court issued such an order — potentially without the person’s knowledge — the information would have been sent to the Nevada Records of Criminal History. Subjects would thus be prevented from passing a background check if they tried to legally buy a firearm. That makes sense. No point in taking someone’s firearms away if they’re allowed to just buy another one. What doesn’t make sense is that if the information doesn’t get removed automatically from the database if the court removes the protection order. The individual must petition a court to remove it.

This means the government could take your guns without you even knowing you’d been accused. And if you cleared your name, you’d have to return to court to restore your ability to purchase firearms. So much for innocent until proven guilty and due process.

Public and behind-the-scenes input would have improved this bill. But SB120 died in mid-April without a hearing.

That should have been the end of it. But Democrats are now considering amending a red flag law into Assembly Bill 291, which bans bump stocks.

If that happens, there won’t be a public hearing and gun owners may not even find out what’s in the bill until after it has passed.

That would be a mistake. A conversation about a red flag law is worth having, but getting the details right won’t happen if Democrats rush it through.

VICTOR JOECKS: Controversial gun control measure could pass without a hearing

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen to him discuss his columns each Monday at 10 a.m. with Kevin Wall on 790 Talk Now. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

Source: VICTOR JOECKS: Controversial gun control measure could pass without a hearing


Interior secretary releases disputed Nevada public land funds

WASHINGTON — Interior Secretary David Bernhardt reversed Trump administration efforts to slash a Nevada public lands program Wednesday and released nearly $106 million for recreation and wildfire programs in the state.

Forty-seven new projects will be funded as a result through the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act, established by former Sens. Richard Bryan and Harry Reid, both Nevada Democrats, and then-Rep. John Ensign, R-Nev., in 1998.

The funding comes from the sale of public lands in the Las Vegas Valley, with the proceeds earmarked for improvement and conservation programs in the state and in the Lake Tahoe Basin of California.

“This program is a concrete example of the department’s continued commitment to being a good neighbor through increased recreation opportunities and access,” Bernhardt said in a statement.

Program targeted for years

The Trump administration and former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke tried to slash the program in past years.

Trump’s first two budget blueprints called for cuts to the program. The administration then sought to take the funds, but that move was blocked by Congress.

Bernhardt’s announcement that funds would be released to Nevada entities or U.S. agencies to spend on projects in the state marks a significant turnabout for the administration, said Rep. Dina Titus, the dean of the state’s congressional delegation.

Titus had demanded that Zinke and Bernhardt release the funds collected under the program, which is administered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

She called Bernhardt’s announcement “good news.”

“I fought the Trump administration for two years to give us this money that is rightfully ours,” Titus said.

Titus said she would continue to defend the program for Southern Nevada “residents and visitors who chose to hike, swim and play in our parks and open spaces.”

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., hailed the decision. “I’m glad these long-overdue funds are finally being returned to the state and invested in projects that will make Nevada healthier and more sustainable,” she said.

Bernhardt called the announcement an example of the Interior Department “creating a legacy of conservation stewardship.”

The funds from land sales in the Las Vegas Valley will be used for a variety of programs and projects that include trail and habitat restoration, conservation, capital improvements and the purchase of environmentally sensitive lands.

Where the money will go

Entities that will receive money for projects include Clark County, the cities of Henderson, Las Vegas and North Las Vegas; Lincoln County, White Pine County, the Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service.

The Interior Department noted that BLM will use $4.45 million of the funds to buy 419 acres of agriculture conservation easement on the historic Van Sickle Station Ranch near Genoa in Douglas County.

The purchase will protect local wildlife, migratory bird habitat, groundwater recharge and open space. In addition, the owner will donate two multi-use trail easements to provide the public with additional recreation opportunities, according to the Interior Department.

The BLM also will use $1.45 million in program funds to build between 40 and 65 miles of multi-use trails, trail heads, parking and campgrounds and camping areas in the Highland Range area of Lincoln County.

Lincoln County, the city of Caliente, the Nevada Division of State Parks, the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, the Back Country Horsemen of America and the Wilderness Society and regional and local proprietors are part of the collaborative project.

Since the Act passed in 1998, the program has generated $3.6 billion for projects in the state that include the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area visitor center, renovation of Lorenzi Park in Las Vegas, public areas at Lake Mead National Recreation Area and landscape restoration in Eastern Nevada.

By law, the state of Nevada General Education Fund gets 5 percent of proceeds and the Southern Nevada Water Authority receives 10 percent, according to BLM.

Breakdown of the funding
The Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act has provided $3.6 billion in project funds in the state of Nevada since 1998, according to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt announced and additional $106 million in projects.
• Parks, trails, and natural areas, $26.7 million.
• Capital improvements, $27.7 million.
• Conservation initiatives, $13.2 million.
• Environmentally sensitive land acquisitions, $21.6 million.
• Hazardous fuels reduction and wildfire prevention, $5 million.
• Eastern Nevada landscape restoration project, $6. 1 million.
• Special account reserve, $5 million.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Land Management

 

Source: Interior secretary releases disputed Nevada public land funds


WESTERN WATER: Judge on landowners’ plight: ‘I won’t say the word “screwed”‘

Ellen M. Gilmer, E&E News reporter

There, government lawyers urged the U.S. Court of Federal Claims to toss a lawsuit from Nevada landowners who say a federal restoration project stole their water and flooded their land.

At issue is Patch of Heaven, a Christian camp on private land nestled within the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge.

The Nevada church Ministerio Roca Solida bought the 40-acre site in 2006 for $500,000. At the time, a stream called the Carson Slough flowed across the property, feeding plants and a small pond and sometimes serving as a site for baptisms.

In 2010, the Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages all of the surrounding land, rerouted the channel in a restoration project to help the Ash Meadows speckled dace, an endangered fish that lives in the area’s warm springs.

Annette and Victor Fuentes, who own Ministerio Roca Solida, say the government owes them compensation for eliminating the stream from their property — except for a trickle of water the site claimed through a state permit — and rerouting it in a way that causes repeated flooding on another part of the parcel.

The couple teamed up with the conservative Mountain States Legal Foundation and attracted the support of Westerners opposed to federal land management, including the Bundy ranching family infamous for its conflicts with government agencies.

Speaking at a boisterous rally at Patch of Heaven last year, Ryan Bundy offered to demolish the FWS project himself (Greenwire, April 23, 2018).

The mood was decidedly tamer during yesterday’s hearing, where just five spectators — including one reporter and one court employee — listened to more than two hours of technical arguments involving property rights, water law and hydrology.

Judge Elaine Kaplan must decide whether to grant the government’s motion for summary judgment rather than allowing the case to proceed to trial.

The church’s claims are twofold: that the government’s elimination of streamflow on the land without payment amounted to an unconstitutional taking of vested water rights, and that the diversion project’s contribution to flooding was also a taking.

Justice Department lawyers yesterday disputed both claims. The government contends the landowners are not entitled to the water rights they claim, and, in any case, that issue should be adjudicated by the state of Nevada, not the Federal Claims court.

The two lawyers from DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division also attempted to poke holes in the Fuenteses’ flooding claims, dismissing the plaintiffs’ expert testimony as unsubstantiated and noting that the broader area is prone to flooding.

“Plaintiffs would like this court to believe … that there was never flooding on that part of the property,” DOJ attorney Davené Walker said, adding that the area is part of a flood zone and has a well-documented history of such events.

Walker explained that to win a takings claim against the government for flooding, the plaintiff must show that FWS caused the flooding and intended or expected it to happen. Ministerio Roca Solida has offered no evidence to support either prong, she said.

Mountain States Legal Foundation lawyer Zhonette Brown, in turn, questioned the evidence presented by the government.

Kaplan, an Obama appointee, agreed with the government that Ministerio Roca Solida’s expert testimony appeared “a little thin,” but she questioned whether it would be appropriate to resolve the case in favor of the United States at this stage, without allowing the church to make its case at trial.

She also empathized with the Fuenteses on their loss of the stream, regardless of whether FWS’s project was lawful.

“I won’t say the word ‘screwed,'” she said of the landowners, eventually landing on the word “injured.”

The judge added that she’s never heard a water rights case or a flooding case before and will need some time to consider the competing evidence.

“Your Honor’s more than welcome to come out to the property,” Brown said, “so you can make your own conclusion.”

Dried-up baptimisal pool. Photo credit: Jennifer Yachnin/E&E News
The former baptismal pool at the Patch of Heaven camp in Amargosa Valley, Nev. A “legal evidence” sign refers to the camp’s owners’ lawsuit with the Fish and Wildlife Service over diverted streams and flooding. Jennifer Yachnin/E&E News

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