Nevada Supreme Court holds hearing on Pahrump water order appeal | Pahrump Valley Times

A decision on water law and the extent of the Nevada State Engineer’s authority over domestic wells is one step closer to reality, with the Nevada Supreme Court recently holding a hearing to take oral arguments from both parties in the appeal lawsuit filed by the engineer’s office over water Order #1293(A).

A decision on water law and the extent of the Nevada State Engineer’s authority over domestic wells is one step closer to reality, with the Nevada Supreme Court recently holding a hearing to take oral arguments from both parties in the appeal lawsuit filed by the engineer’s office over water Order #1293(A).

The water order was issued in Dec. 2017 as a method of curbing the drilling of new domestic wells in Pahrump’s Basin #162. The order created a new requirement for property owners to purchase two-acre feet of water rights and relinquish them back to the state prior to drilling a new domestic well, unless water rights had already been relinquished or dedicated to the property for that purpose.

This prompted immediate resistance from local property owners, real estate agents and well-drilling companies. Together, those opposing the order formed Pahrump Fair Water LLC and filed a lawsuit with a Nevada district court to halt the order. That court decision late last year to overturn the water order, leading to the state engineer’s appeal of that decision.

The matter has been with the Nevada Supreme Court since early this year, with a stay on the lower court’s decision issued, keeping the order in effect until such time as the Supreme Court renders a decision. The case, #77722, has now been submitted for a final ruling.

Due to the significance of the subject at hand and the wide-ranging impact a decision on the case could have, the decision has been placed in the hands of the “en banc” court rather than a smaller panel. In typical cases, a panel of only three Nevada Supreme Court justices is used to make rulings but for the appeal on Order #1293(A) the entire court of all seven justices is being utilized.

Attorney David Rigdon of Taggart and Taggart, LTD, the law firm representing Pahrump Fair Water, explained that the hearing held on Nov. 5 focused primarily on two central arguments, whether the state engineer needed to provide notice and hold a hearing before issuing the order, and whether or not the state engineer had the authority to regulate domestic wells in this manner in the first place.

“Both sides had what we call in the business a ‘hot bench’ with judges regularly interrupting the presentation to ask questions,” Rigdon detailed when asked to provide a brief overview of what occurred at the hearing on Nov. 5. “Most of the questions about the notice were directed at the state engineer’s attorney, while most of the questions about legal authority were directed at us.”

The Nevada Attorney General’s Office, which is representing the state engineer’s office, declined to provide an overview of the Nov. 5 hearing.

However, Rigdon said he felt both sides had made good presentations but there was no way of telling which direction the justices would ultimately turn. He, Pahrump Fair Water and the state engineer’s office, as well as the many local property owners and other stakeholders involved, will simply have to wait to see how the Nevada Supreme Court rules.

For those who would like to listen to the oral arguments made during the Nevada Supreme Court hearing visit bit.ly/2QAokKH

Docket Number(s): 77722
Date: 11/05/2019 Time: 10:00 a.m. Location: Carson City
Before the En Banc Court
Appearances:
James N. Bolotin
Paul G. Taggart

Start Time Speaker Notes
10:03:42 AM Chief Justice Gibbons Voluntary Disclosure
10:05:11 AM Chief Justice Gibbons Case Called
10:05:44 AM James N. Bolotin As counsel for the Appellant
10:23:57 AM Paul G. Taggart As counsel for the Respondents
10:43:17 AM James N. Bolotin As counsel for the Appellant
10:48:49 AM Chief Justice Gibbons End Argument, Case Submitted

Source: Nevada Supreme Court holds hearing on Pahrump water order appeal | Pahrump Valley Times

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


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


Household hazardous waste disposal event set for May 18 in Pahrump

May 8, 2019 - 7:00 am ~ Pahrump Valley Times

Nye County and U.S. Ecology are teaming up for the county’s very first Household Hazardous Waste Collection event, and residents will want to mark May 18 on their calendars.

Members of the Pahrump community and the surrounding area will be able to pack up all of the household waste that they cannot dispose of for curbside trash pickup and haul it to the Pahrump landfill to have it properly disposed of by U.S. Ecology.

Old paint is just one of the many items that will be accepted at the Household Hazardous Waste Collection event set for May 18.

“The Hazardous Household Waste Collection event is something that has been talked about for years but never executed,” Nye County Public Information Officer Arnold Knightly said of the effort.

“U.S. Ecology does these events with its community partners around the country. This event came out of a site tour of their facility last year. Nye County Manager Tim Sutton placed the event as a priority, and Nye County Public Works Director Tim Dahl has been in close contact with U.S. Ecology representatives, who live here in Pahrump, in organizing the event.”

Knightly said events of this type are important to communities as they provide a safe, proper method of disposal for all sorts of products used in the home, ensuring they do not harm the environment.

Electronics, including computers and cell phones, can be taken to Nye County's upcoming household hazardous waste event so it can be properly disposed of by U.S. Ecology.

“There is always a concern that hazardous household waste will end up in our beautiful desert through illegal dumping and will damage the ecosystem. Whether it is animals digesting items, killing or slowing the growth of plants, or waste that ends up in the groundwater, this event is to give an outlet to people to get rid of those items in their garage they don’t know how to get rid of,” Knightly detailed.

U.S. Ecology will have large trucks on site which will run continually throughout the day, with all hazardous waste bound for disposal at the U.S. Ecology site just south of Beatty.

Acceptable waste

Many of the items commonly found stockpiled around homes, awaiting disposal, will be collected as part of the household hazardous waste event.

One of the most common household products and something that generally should not be thrown in the regular trash is batteries. Those made from lead-acid, nickel-cadmium, lithium metal, lithium ions, mercury, and alkaline will be gathered and disposed of properly.

Hazardous liquids will be taken as part of the event as well, including used oil, antifreeze and paint-related materials, such as latex or water-based paints, oil-based paints, lacquers and thinners, and lead-based paints.

Pool chemicals can also be disposed of, so long as they are in their manufacturer’s original packaging and contain a legible label.

Aerosols, both flammable and non-flammable, will be taken, along with electronic waste such as televisions, computers, printers and cell phones.

Mercury and sodium bulbs will also be accepted, as will equipment containing mercury, such as thermometers and thermostats.

Unacceptable waste

There are a variety of items that cannot be accepted at the upcoming disposal event.

Propane cylinders, fire extinguishers and smoke detectors will not be collected, and residents may not dispose of fireworks, flares or flammable liquids. Household cleaners are also on the unacceptable list, along with acids, bases, oxidizers, pesticides or herbicides.

Medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, are unacceptable waste products, as are illicit drugs. Epoxies and resins, appliances, home furnishings, and explosives will not be accepted either.

The Household Hazardous Waste Collection event will take place from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 18 at the Nye County Landfill, 1631 E. Mesquite Ave. in Pahrump.

Source: Household hazardous waste disposal event set for May 18 in Pahrump