Wednesday, December 3, 2008

GET-OFF-BUTT-ALERT: Yucca Mountain hearing - and protest - tomorrow, Dec. 4

Nevadans on Thursdayt have a rare opportunity to comment on the proposal to dump 77,000 tons of high-level radioactive waste at Yucca Mountain, an hour’s drive northwest of Las Vegas. A federal agency is holding a public hearing on parts of the plan on Thursday, Dec. 4 in Las Vegas.

Conservation groups, business leaders, and many others are concerned about the potential for disaster in Nevada or along the thousands of miles of proposed transportation routes for the deadly byproduct of the nuclear industry. Those groups are urging the public to attend a rally in support of a clean energy future – a future where a specialized railroad through Lincoln and Nye counties for shipments of high-level nuclear waste would be totally unnecessary. The rally is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. outside the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Las Vegas Hearing Facility at 3250 Pepper Lane, off Pecos Road.

The federal Surface Transportation Board at 9 a.m. will conduct a hearing on the proposed 319-mile “Caliente rail line” that would serve – along with ­existing highways and railroads that go through Las Vegas – as routes for the shipments of toxic radioactive waste. Numerous elected leaders from Nevada, representatives from nonprofit groups, community leaders as well as advocates for the nuclear industry are scheduled to speak.

“It is very important that we take the opportunity to show the federal government and the entire country that Nevada is united in opposition to this dangerous threat to our community, our businesses and our environment,” said Launce Rake of PLAN.

Jane Feldman, conservation chair of the Nevada group of the Sierra Club went on to say, “The future of Nevada – of the country – lies with wind, solar and geothermal energy – a future where Nevada should be leading the country.”

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fact or Fiction?


The Southern Nevada Home Builders Association, d/b/a the Southern Nevada Water Authority, used public money to advertise the agency's deceptive arguments justifying its attempt to defoliate rural Nevada in a full-page ad in Sunday's Review-Journal.

These ads go for about $50K, which might seem like a lot of money but is really peanuts compared to the millions the SNWA spends to prop up its environmentally destructive and myopic policies. Anyhoo, the ad, titled "FACT or fiction?" argues:

“Rural communities, ranchers and wildlife are protected by Nevada water law and federal environmental law. (1) In an effort to reduce our community’s 90 percent dependence on the drought-plagued Colorado River, the SNWA will draw upon unused groundwater supplies within Nevada.(2) The SNWA is proposing to access water that is naturally replenished each year – just as farmers and eastern Nevada residents do.(3) The SNWA will install a system of wells to sustainably manage the withdrawal of available, unused groundwater, and the project will be overseen by federal agencies including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Nevada State Engineer.(4) The bottom line is that the SNWA is committed to responsible groundwater management – and the law demands it.”(5)

To address these points in order: (1) Conservationists have had to sue the federal government to protect species that are on the brink of extinction, and even when facing court orders, the feds are loathe to act when they go up against powerful commercial interests such as the SNWA. (2) By "unused water," the SNWA is relying on Nevada state law that defines the resource as that which is not making people any money. That includes the water that is going to support the trees and plants and critters in rural Nevada, including such unusable resources as the Great Basin National Park. (3) Show me a farmer that wants to take 65 billion gallons out of rural Nevada and Utah annually. (4) Of course, the SNWA will be responsible for the monitoring of the water drawdown. I'm sure we can trust their figures. (5) Complete horseshit.

The fact, er, "FACT" is that the Water Grab depends on taking the water that now goes to support native foliage through "evaporative transpiration." Eliminating that foliage consigns the region to a dust bowl. The SNWA and its corporate clients are counting on being able to fool the public and prevent governmental oversight just long enough to build the pipeline and drain the aquifers - by which time it will be too late to stop them.

For more on the science, see the Las Vegas Sun here.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Utah Gov Throws Down the Gauntlet

Apologies, my fellow prisoners, for failing to update this blog as frequently as I'd like. Something about an election has taken up a wee bit of time around the PLAN offices that I call my second home...
Anyhoos, there's still lots happening around the water, Yucca Mountain and alternative energy fronts - and I mean LOTS. Friends of the Earth, PLAN and Sierra Club are working on a coordinated media campaign on Yucca Mountain - details to come.
Faculty at the College of Southern Nevada are working to fund a training program for folks to work with and install clean alternative energy systems in homes and business - the kind of thing that could help fulfill the promise of this state as a leader in renewable energy nationwide.
And Gov. Jon Hunstman of Utah has thrown down the gauntlet on the our friendly local developer's drive (beneath the mask of the SNWA) to defoliate rural Nevada and Utah. Huntsman is braving inclusion on the SNWA enemies list in this recent speech in Utah:

"Now I have told Nevada in no uncertain terms that we are not going to budge an inch in terms of giving up our water to their casinos in Clark County which is exactly what they want it for. I don’t care if there are 10, 200, or 2,000, people living in the West Desert (of Utah); if it in any way impacts their way of life for their viability in the West Desert we want nothing to do with it.
"So we are simply asking for science to determine when it begins to affect these straws that they are pumping on, on the Nevada side of the border, and taking water when does it actually affect our water table?
"We want to know the science; we want to know exactly the implications of what Nevada is doing before we agree to anything. Now I know we are going to be up against tremendous pressure, I feel it coming, I was in Nevada yesterday with Senator Reid speaking at a conference on clean energy. It’s a very real issue.
"Now I haven’t said publicly that we are about ready to commit troops to the Utah Nevada border, but we are coming darn close."

Of course, for years the response from the SNWA has been "science, schmience, slot machines and tract houses make more money than farms, endangered species and people. So get out of the way."
Shout out to Terry Marasco for the feed on Huntsman's talk, btw.

Here's the link to Huntsman's website, with edited comments.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Wonketteer Ken Layne...

On the rapidly vanishing desert tortoise that is such an inconvenience for the home builders and their enablers in Clark County government and the federal Interior Department. This story, like real life, does not have a happy ending. At least not yet. And especially not if Clark County actually builds the unnecessary, expensive and environmentally disastrous Ivanpah Airport 40 miles south of the city and ground zero for land set-aside for tortoise preservation.

"What I need to see is a desert tortoise, in the wild. I started coming out here in the 1980s and I’ve never come across one of the Living Fossils. I must see tortoises, while we still have some. They used to be so common in springtime that campers would fill their pockets with the babies and imprison the gentle critters as backyard pets."

Layne's regular column in LA CityBeat can be found here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mulroy Has Seen the Future of Las Vegas...And It Looks Like This:

Oh, look at what Pat Mulroy sees as our future!

The Southern Nevada Water Authority, the Bush administration's horribly disemboweled Environmental Protection Agency (you know, the guys that want to get rid of that pesky Endangered Species Act) and the National Association of Home Builders (always on the front lines of conservation) are looking for folks to attend yet another conference trumpeting "water smart" technology, this one a three-day affair in October.
The guest of honor will be His Royal Highness Prince Feisal Ibn Al-Hussein of Jordan brother of King Abdullah II. The cost to hear the Prince's keynote speech and learn how to conserve water is a mere $390 - an amount that should serve to keep the riff-raff out of the SouthPoint casino for the duration.
Bringing in yet another royal to lord over the commoners is of course fully in line with Las Vegas tradition, being that the Southern Nevada Water Authority and, by executive fiat, all of Nevada, is ruled by Czarina Patricia Mulroy. But does Prince Feisal know that he will have to bow before Her Royal Highness? Czarina totally outranks "prince."
The funny thing, of course, in turning to the Jordanians for advice about water conservation is perhaps a bit misplaced. (Although turning to SNWA for such advice is even more misplaced, in that the average Las Vegas uses about 3-5 times the amount of water as the average Jordanian and more than any other desert city in the Southwest.)
But an interesting factoid: Groundwater basins in Jordan are being over-pumped by as much as 319 percent of the recharge. A 2005 report from the Jordanian government found that groundwater is over-appropriated by more than 33 percent. Farmers, conservationists and residents of rural Nevada and Utah will recognize that these are exactly the policies favored by SNWA's demands on the regional groundwater resources: Use it up and turn the areas into economically destroyed deserts, all the better to concentrate political and economic power in Las Vegas.

So this "water smart" conference is yet another reminder what Mrs. Mulroy (sorry, Czarina Mulroy) has planned for us: Defoliated, dessicated desert in what was once a fertile crescent.
Another fun fact: Along with the homebuilders, a major sponsor of the conference to be held Oct. 8 - 10 is Black and Veatch, a huge multinational industrial contractor that knows both Southern Nevada and the Middle East because the company is a) building the SNWA pipeline and b) a major partner in the Bush administration's endless occupation of Iraq. Isn't it good when there is such ... synergy ...between the bullies of the world?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Nuke Waste OK for Nevada, Not for Arizona

Or so sez the Senior Senator from Arizona and presumptive Republican candidate for President, John McCain. In fact, he's an enthusiastic backer of nukes and nuke waste everywhere - but not for his home state of Arizona.
Doesn't that qualify him for NIMBY of the Year? Decade? Century?
McCain, as the Sierra Club is pointing out today, wants to truck high-level radioactive waste through 44 states on the way to dumping in Nevada. Somehow, though, he's not going to allow that waste anywhere near his home state, no way, no sir, no how.
Just for the record, the nuclear industry is not an alternative to oil. It is an incredibly expensive, dangerous and inefficient energy source that relies, as a matter of policy, on turning Nevada into a radioactive graveyard, poisoning our land and water essentially for eternity.
Check out McCain's disgraceful NIMBYism here:

MGM Mirage Cancels Dumb Project

Our friends over at MGM Mirage, who are hell-bent on cannibalizing the existing customer base to support their eleventy-jillion-dollar CityCenter, also had ambitions to be the next Harvey Whittemore by building thousands of home 40 miles from Las Vegas to choke I-15 with commuting workers and air pollution every day.
But the Captains of Industry did not apparently count on gasoline being $4 a gallon. Which, like Whittemore's project 60 miles north of Las Vegas, has doomed this sterling example of idiotic sprawl.
Cancelling the project is one more indication that we must rethink the design fundamentals of dumb, energy-wasteful ex-urbs.
Satellite communities miles from urban centers waste land, energy and air quality. No amount of offshore drilling or tax breaks for the petrochemical industry can overcome the fact that oil and its products will become ever more expensive; long commutes didn't make sense three years ago, and they really, really don't make sense today. Such misguided development efforts are particularly silly when you look around Las Vegas' urban center and see huge tracts of land begging for infill development.