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.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

SNWA Strangles Open Discussion

Oh, those sharpies over at the Southern Nevada Water Authority know that open, honest discussion about their plan to defoliate the Great Basin does not serve the Captains of Industry. So of course, the goal is to muzzle the pesky American Indians, conservationists, ranchers and inhabitants of the entire state of Utah, all of whom have the temerity to question the God Given Right of Las Vegas' developers to continue to build foreclosure magnets.

From the Great Basin Water Network release:

If the Southern Nevada Water Authority gets its way, ranchers, American Indian tribes, conservationists and local governments in two states would be excluded from participating in the public decision-making process for the proposed Las Vegas groundwater development project.

SNWA, Las Vegas’ water wholesaler, hopes to win approval from the Nevada State Engineer to take billions of gallons from the environmentally fragile Snake Valley in rural Nevada and Utah. The State Engineer will review those applications at a pre-hearing conference on July 15 in Carson City, where he will also set the range of evidence to be admitted and the date for the full hearing date to examine the availability of water in Snake Valley, as well as threats the project poses to existing water rights, the fragile desert environment, the economies of rural communities, and air quality all the way to Utah’s Wasatch Front.

Groups and individuals that would be affected by the water-exportation scheme have asked the Nevada State Engineer to be considered “Interested Persons” in the upcoming hearings on the issue. But SNWA has taken legal action in an attempt to bar many of those who would be most affected from participating in the hearing, which will determine how much water, if any, the agency can take from the valley.

The issue of participation is critically important to thousands of people who for various reasons could not formally protest SNWA’s applications to take the water when they were filed nearly two decades ago, but who would be significantly harmed by the water exportation. Fourteen organizations and individuals have sought Interested Party status, including the Salt Lake and Utah County governments, a regional water authority representing eight rural Nevada counties, two Shoshone tribes and the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation (Goshute Tribe).

Those who have expressed concerns about the impacts of the SNWA effort said the move to bar public participation is consistent with the agency’s past practices.

“Once again, SNWA is showing its true colors: anti-tribe, anti-environment, anti-truth and anti-public participation,” said Ed Naranjo, Tribal Administrator of the Goshute Tribe.

Others throughout the Great Basin agreed.

“SNWA loses no opportunity to shut out legitimate protests to their scheme,” said Ken Hill of the North Snake Valley Water Users Association. “We’ve seen it in the pipeline environmental impact study and in the Nevada Engineer’s hearings. The fact they are pushing the State Engineer for rushed hearings in Snake Valley while related negotiations between Utah and Nevada continue shows they are acting in bad faith.”

Steve Erickson, a Utah-based organizer with the Great Basin Water Network, compared the SNWA’s legal action to a cynically calculated “SLAPP” suit designed to quash public participation in a matter of huge importance to millions in Nevada, Utah and the nation.

“SNWA is using a legal tactic familiar to developers, a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation,” he said. “They want to keep the public out of this process as much as possible, as evidenced by their opposition to allowing parties to participate simply because they weren’t around to protest twenty years ago. And this from an agency that is unelected and unaccountable, and whose books are hidden from view. It’s outrageous.”

County governments in Utah argued in their legal response to the SNWA motions that the Las Vegas water agency “has no good reason to keep the Utah counties from telling their side of the story. The Utah counties, with over a million and a half citizens who stand to take the brunt of these air quality impacts, have a compelling reason to be granted interested person status.”

“How can SNWA or anybody else argue with a straight face that [regional air quality impacts caused by the proposed action] does not qualify as a ‘broad public issue’?” the governments argued in their written response.

The counties note that some of the same air-quality concerns arising from increased erosion and dust storms have come up in negotiations between the federal government and SNWA.

“For SNWA to now turn about in the Snake Valley proceedings and dismiss the very same interests and concerns advanced by the Utah counties is hypocritical and simply not technically nor legally well taken.”

UPDATE, 7-10-08

Nevada State Engineer Tracy Taylor barred most of those petitioning to be included as "interested persons" from participating in the hearings. Among those excluded are the Goshute Tribe, the Wells Band of the Shoshone, and Utah and Salt Lake counties in the Beehive State.

Taylor suggested that those parties should have realized 20 years ago that the SNWA planned to turn the Great Basin into a lifeless dustbowl, so too bad.

From the Salt Lake Tribune:

Taylor's ruling said the counties should have known they needed to protest when the pipeline permit was submitted in 1989. But Ann Ober, Salt Lake County's Environmental Policy Coordinator, said the counties weren't aware nearly 20 years ago of the air-quality problems they would face today under U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules.

Taylor's decision on interested-person status came down the same day he granted the SNWA about 6 billions gallons of water annually from three valleys in rural Lincoln County, but not before he also required ongoing monitoring of the SNWA's effort to destroy the rural economies and environment. Unfortunately, he also put SNWA in charge of collecting that info, so there is doubt among some quarters (i.e., everyone) on the reliability of the data.

Friday, June 20, 2008

George Knapp on Mulroy's Billions

George Knapp, writing in Las Vegas CityLife, noted that the SNWA has great gobs of money that could be used to balance the increasingly serious Nevada budget crisis. Knapp noted that the Captains of Industry and Government usually just apply Band-Aids to cover our regular crises in fiscal management:

If that's going to be the case once again, can they at least consider a different Band-Aid? What if they were told about a huge pile of public dollars just sitting around waiting to be spent? I'm talking about the overflowing warchest of the Southern Nevada Water Authority. I wrote about this once before and it generated nary a ripple. But now that nitty gritty time is upon us, maybe we can raise the subject one more time.
The water authority has a gigantic amount of money in its bank accounts. I'm sure the water folks will tell me why this ocean of moolah must remain off limits for anything but water projects, but why should this one government entity be the only one to be exempt from the pain everyone else is feeling?

There's some other great stuff in this long post focusing on the Water Grab, including references to the Mike Baughmann study from way back in 1990.

Full story here:

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mulroy: Water Importation Schemes Fuel Unsustainable Growth

At last, Water Czarina Pat Mulroy sees the light! Recently she bragged to a reporter for an architectural journal that she is an environmentalist, redefining the word to refer to those who eagerly lobby for the destruction of thousands of square miles of the Great Basin.

And of course she has recently claimed that defoliating the Great Basin by pumping rural groundwater to Las Vegas has nothing at all to do with growth and satisfying the profit-driven appetites of developers.

But in a letter to a federal agency she seems to suggest that these grand water transfer schemes do, in fact, fuel growth and impact the environment and communities. To wit:

"It should be obvious that there will be significant cumulative impacts associated with the transbasin importation of water. These effects include induced growth and related issues of transportation, energy, and impacts on lands and water resources in and surrounding the areas to be served."

Unfortunately, in this letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on June 3, Mulroy was not referring to Southern Nevada, but to Southern Utah. She hates Utahns for throwing roadblocks into her effort to destroy the Snake Valley and Western Utah's agriculture and natural environment, so she's protesting Utah's plan to bring its allocated water from the Colorado River to growing population centers in the Beehive State's south.

So basically she hates Utah for doing exactly what Mulroy is doing in Nevada.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Another Reason Not to Pave Over the Mojave Desert...

My former colleague Stephanie Buhler has the scoop on important new research that indicates that the desert, far from being the wasteland that some public officials would like to make the entire state, is in fact very important to controlling carbon levels in the atmosphere. You know, the same levels that spell doom if we don't start taking this stuff seriously.

Anyhoo, turns out that the desert aborbs more carbon than parking lots, slot machines and tract housing. This will no doubt cause the Southern Nevada Homebuilders Association d/b/a Southern Nevada Water Authority to radically rethink the commitment to destroying all of the Great Basin and Mojave Desert's natural places.

Here's the killer cut:

Currently, desert ecosystems are largely treated like vast wastelands with no need for protection. They are commonly used for storage of toxic substances, weapons testing and live-fire war games, off-road vehicle recreation, mining, dumps for household waste and, in Southern Nevada, urban and suburban development.
Small groups of environmentalists in the Southwest have for years called on regulators to limit urban expansion into the desert and the disturbance of desert ecosystems to protect endangered animals that inhabit them.
Proof that deserts also significantly offset greenhouse gases could widen support for desert conservation measures and lead to tougher protection for desert lands, Fenstermaker said.

My only quibble: We're not that small. I feel like a hobbit.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Out of Staters Fear Mulroy

As we all must someday learn to do.
Andrew Kiraly reports on happenings in the Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada, where allegedly water exists in liquid form without immediately being applied to golf courses. Who knew such a thing was possible?

I used to wonder whether Pat Mulroy, head of a development corporation known as the Southern Nevada Water Authority, ever had plans to look beyond our state’s scraggly little borders for water — you know, long after the authority’s pipeline had turned Lincoln and White Pine counties into wizened, formerly quaint scabs to keep Southern Nevada growing. Nawwww, I thought. I mean, the water czar’s aggressive and forward-thinking — if tragically wrongheaded — and all that, but not that aggressive, forward-thinking and tragically wrongheaded, right?

Find the post here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Keep Yucca Nuke Free!

Come join Nevada leaders and citizens at the Clark County Amphitheater for a rally against the proposed Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Dump. In early June, the Department of Energy plans to submit a license application to begin construction of a nuclear waste dump 90 miles away from Las Vegas. On Tuesday, May 27, we will stand together to send the Federal Government a message that Nevada is not a wasteland.

Tuesday, May 27 at 11 a.m.

Clark County Amphitheater,

500 S. Grand Central Parkway

Las Vegas, NV 89106

Open to: The public and media.

For more information about Yucca Mountain, please visit

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Cecil Garland on the Las Vegas Water Grab

One of my friends up north may be a bit hard of hearing, but his senses are especially acute when it comes to the desire of developers to destroy rural Nevada - and rural Western Utah, which is threatened directly by the loss of precious groundwater and indirectly by the dust storms the Southern Nevada Water Authority wants to send to Utah.
Anyhoo, Cecil Garland used to live and work in Las Vegas but traded it in for a life on the soil. He's a heckuva cowboy poet, by the way, who says his best ideas come when he has his arm up the inside of a cow.
He's written a nice piece for the Canyon Country Zephyr out of Moab. Here's a taste:

Can it ever be justified from any moral concept to allow a precious water resource to be taken by an entity steeped in glitter, glutton, gambling, and girls from a ranching and farming community whose concerns are children, cattle, country, and church? Should the sprawl of endless construction, gaudy hotels, and gaming houses be given priority over the lives and future of we who grow hay and are pastoralists? Sooner or later the citizens of the Southwest must decide.
What will it be? Crops or craps?

Find the full story here:

Oops! Mea culpa!

A couple of weeks ago I posted a blog entry identifying the Las Vegas Valley Water District as the agency responsible for the Las Vegas Valley Water District Water Importation Project Technology Assessment, a 1990 document that essentially predicted doom for rural Nevada and choking growth for Las Vegas if the Las Vegas Water Grab goes forward.
It was amazing because it accurately predicted a number of things that have, in fact, come to pass, including the purchase of White Pine County ranches to send more water from the rural areas to the city. Also, the fact that it would wipe out endangered species, rural economies, etc.
But I erred in attributing the document to the Water District or Southern Nevada Water Authority, which now is working to defoliate rural Nevada. It was, in fact, an independent study done by Mike Baughman and Rachel Finson. Baughman, a Nevada native who remains one of the state's best known environmental analysts, at the time was working on his PhD at a Clark University.
The document remains a great touchstone for all the bad things that will happen if the Water Grab goes forward, and I hope to have an electronic version of the document for everyone (including the Water Authority employees) to reference.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


1. Putting highly toxic radioactive waste in and around volcanoes and earthquake faults is a recipe for A Really Bad Day.

2. The Air Force drops really, really big bombs right next door. Bombs + high level radioactive waste = A Really Bad Day.

3. Nevada is the driest state in the United States, and that means we need water. A lot. And one of the big sources of water just happens to be under Yucca Mountain. Leaching radioactive waste into our pristine aquifers will not improve water quality.

4. Yucca Mountain doesn’t belong to the United States government. By internationally recognized treaty, it belongs to the Western Shoshone Nation. 'Spose the U.S. might start taking those treaty obligations seriously? Sometime soon?

5. The Department of Energy has failed to comply with the technical and legal requirements set for using the mountain as a dump site. The agency bureaucrats’ two favorite words? “Trust Us!”

6. The Department of Energy doesn’t even have a completed design for the site. Their two favorite words again…

7. The Department of Energy does not have a detailed plan in place if something goes wrong because nothing, apparently, could possibly go worng, go worng, go worng... Just in case, though, the general idea for a response involves robots. Seriously.

The Department of Energy has Gov. Schwarzenegger on speed-dial.

8. Shipping the dangerously radioactive waste from throughout the entire United States creates endless opportunities for terrorists or accidents to spill the material in millions of backyards. Such an event would be A Really Bad Day for anyone in the neighborhood.

9. The latest Department of Energy plan is to put metal umbrellas over the canisters holding the toxic radioactive waste to keep water from rusting holes in the cans. But the idea is to wait 100 years before putting the umbrellas up. Seriously. Volunteers to install the umbrellas are being recruited from the High School Class of 2108.

10. The Department of Energy says "not to worry," that as a Highly Responsible Federal Agency, they will come up with a plan to deal with any problems. Just like their friends at FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers came up with a plan to deal with Hurricane Katrina.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Our friends in the Sierra Club have launched a national campaign to wean us off of coal, which as you might have heard isn't good for the people and other living things, and other polluting fossil fuels. The real focus of the campaign is to educate the public that there are choices - choices that we do, in fact, make every day in our energy uses.

Which reminds me: I forget where I heard this first, so apologies to the author, but I've heard that there is no "silver bullet" in terms of replacing fossil fuels and cleaning up our rapidly overheating atmosphere. And that's true. But while there may be no silver bullet, there is silver birdshot. The point being that if we are to lick our addictions to the fuels that are killing us and our planet, we're going to have to employ a number of strategies, at home, on the road, at work and certainly within the domain of public policy discussions.

I like the Sierra Club's approach because it is not a one-size-fits-all strategy to bring to the politicians. The push is to bring millions of petition signitures to the new president, whoever he or she might be. And that's a commitment that just about all of us can make.

To go to the local web page, click here. You can print out copies of the petitions and find the local contact information.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Knapp's CityLife column slams Water Grab

George Knapp is one of a handful of local journalists, and I include Phoebe Sweet with the Las Vegas Sun among that number, to buck the developers and publicly question the assumptions behind the expensive and environmental catastrophic effort to pump billions of water from rural Nevada to sustain out-of-control urban growth.

Here's a snippet from George's latest:

There are nearly 10,000 desalination plants operating in the world at this very moment. The technology is already proven and is getting cheaper by the day. Somehow, other, lesser nations have figured out how to resolve the environmental and cost issues.

Las Vegas can't do it because our public officials decided long ago there is only one option they will pursue ... the pipeline.

It makes you wonder just who's going to get rich off this thing, doesn't it?

George Knapp is a veteran investigative reporter for KLAS-TV Channel 8. You can reach him at

Friday, April 4, 2008

YAY! Another Re-Do!

Because Water Czarina and developer lobbyist Pat Mulroy is such an innocent babe-in-the-petrified-woods when it comes to things like public meetings, they screwed up by failing to announce that, you know, they would be raising the rates at the Feb. 20 meeting of the Las Vegas Valley Water District. Who knew you had to POST things like that?

So anyways because of some stupid "open meetings law" now they have to do a re-do and the new rates will not go into effect until May 1, which will cost the Water District $4 million or so and probs waste a lot more water but that's no biggie since we've got lots and lots of water to spare.

The re-do is scheduled for April 15, a Tuesday, at 9 a.m. at the Clark County Government Center Commission Chambers, 500 Grand Central Parkway. A friend from the Nevada Granola Chewers League wants to get as many people as possible down there, and I agree, so I hope you can make it.

One kinda interesting thing has happened since the Feb. 20 non-meeting-meeting: Coachella, the California farming community down south of Vegas dependent (like us) on the Colorado River, has raised its upper tier to about $7.40. Ours is $4.50. Or would have been if the agencies had bothered to properly inform the public of their plans.

So we have a point to score with in this discussion. Conservationists and other people with a commitment to rational policy agree: Raise the upper rates high for the most wasteful users. Keep rates as low as possible for those who use very low volumes of water.

One of the major concerns, and I’m not making this up, of the Las Vegas Valley Water District/Southern Nevada Water Authority has been that people might reduce their water use too much if rates for high-volume users got too high, thus reducing cash flow to the water agencies that charge by the gallon. Has anyone, oh, I don’t know, taken a look at Lake Mead lately? Cash flow is the least of our concerns.

Poor Pat. I can totally understand how somebody with her limited experience in local government could get tripped up by one of those "laws" that are so darned complicated to understand and comply with, like that pesky open meetings "law".

Pretty soon people will want to know what they heck they're doing with all the billions the
SNWA/LVVWD uses to promote an environmentally catastrophic "public" policy! Psshaw! Like it's anybody's business!

It's a slippery slope, y'all...

P.S. In the last two months, "re-do" has become part of our official governmental and political terminology. I'm not sure that's a good thing for democracy...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Earth, Wind and Fire!

What We Are Trying To Protect

Also, Water!

My friends with the Nevada Desert Experience, a faith-based group that has worked for nearly three decades to stop the destruction of Nevada's beautiful and fragile deserts and mountains, are holding a teach-in on environmental justice.

I wuv these guys! Even the term "teach-in" harkens back to a less cynical, more earnest and fun time when we could all still experiment with psychedelic mushrooms and didn't attend AA regularly...

The event begins Friday and continues through Saturday. In my quest for relentless self-promotion, I have to tell you that I will be doing a workshop Saturday afternoon, but the entire program looks really great. My friend Judy Treichel, who has personally battled the nuclear industry for many years, will be presenting, and Friday evening Gard Jameson, chair of the Interfaith Council of Southern Nevada, will be giving the keynote talk at dinner.

All for $20 - more if you can afford it, less if you can't; no one will be turned away. The program begins Friday at 4 p.m. - Saturday at 9 a.m. and will be at the Christ Church Episcopal at 2000 S. Maryland Parkway. Details here.

And the title to the teach-in - Earth, Wind, Fire and Water - name-checks my favorite funky soul group from the 1970s. Here are some of the lyrics from my favorite song by them, September, which if you look at them in the right way kinda apply to what is happening here and now:

Do you remember the 21st night of September?
Love was changing the minds of pretenders
While chasing the clouds away
Our hearts were ringing
In the key that our souls were singing
As we danced in the night
Remember how the stars stole the night away

From the NDE programme:

When the ancients referred to the basic elements of life, “the stuff of the universe,”they spoke in terms of Earth, Air, Fire & Water. The sun was often worshipped. The clean air blew in their faces and they breathed deeply. Pure water was precious and all land was sacred. Now at the beginning of the 21 century, we cannot help but ask what has happened? The weather has become more violent. The rains have diminished greatly. Our lakes and rivers are disappearing. In many places the water and air are unsafe to drink or breathe and the land itself appears tortured and is dying. What has happened?

The Nevada desert is a land of great beauty and harshness, of gentle delicacies and verysharp and pointed edges. Living here, we know the fire of the summer sun, the importance of life giving water, the winds and the beauty of the land and its mountains. Sadly even with its unique capacity for survival our Nevada desert is now threatened. What can we do?

Since 1982, Nevada Desert Experience has worked for environmental justice focusing on the great injustice of nuclear weapons and the degradation of all of humanity and the earth’s ecological systems, as a direct result of this deadly and poisonous nuclear technology.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Just When You Thought It Couldn't Get Any Worse...

The Gubernator's new press man is the soon-to-be-former flak for Vidler Water, which is the for-profit partner with the Southern Nevada Water Authority in the plot to defoliate East-Central Nevada.

Also, he flakked for juiceman uberlobbyist Harvey Whittemore's project in Reno - the Wingnut Towers, or some such - and the Coalition for Smart Growth in Douglas County, which I'm sure was an honest-to-god bunch of people looking to stop life-destroying out-of-control growth and not a front group for a bunch of soulless developers.
How this fits into an administration led by a governor who was against the Water Grab, then for it, then against, then for it again; and has written odes to the miraculous health qualitities of known-neurotoxin mercury; and opposes heavy handed government regulation that might lead to fewer people dying from routine medical procedures is not immediately clear.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

CityLife Continues Water Grab Scrutiny

By native Las Vegas, growth skeptic, smarty pants and one of my favorite writers, Andrew Kiraly. Like a good stew, the tasty bits (and I'm all deliciously caramelized) are at the bottom:

"These aquifers are all connected, and they're the source for surface water, including rivers that feed Lake Mead, and springs and seeps that are critical habitat for rare plants and animals," says Launce Rake of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, a foe of the rural pipeline plan. "We don't understand what's happening out there. Some scientists are getting a grasp, and the more we know, the more fragile those interconnected environments look."

Even scientists who worked on the study tend to concur.

"One of the big question marks is if you start to pump, are there going to be impacts around the Great Basin into lowering water levels?" says Dan Bright, assistant state director for the USGS's Nevada Water Science Center; he's also an editor on the BARCASS study. "If that's a concern, we need to do little bit more looking at groundwater flow from basin to another. You can't put a well in a basin and say we're just going to look at [the effects on] the basin. We have to look on a regional scale, not just a basin-to-basin scale. There's concern that if you pump from one basin, you may impact another basin. There's concern about how much to pump because the system has never been stressed before, and we don't know how the aquifers will react if you pump it."

As the scientific tools for finding water underground become sharper, it seems the knife can cut both ways.

"I would love to be convinced on the merits of the science that we can go in there and double or quadruple the size of Las Vegas on the back of rural water," says Rake. "If we could do that without threatening the environment and the rural economy, I'd be jumping on board. Unfortunately, there is no free lunch. The more we know, the worse it looks."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

They Wanted Him to OK A Pipeline...

Gubantor sez "no, no, no."
OK, Amy Winehouse references are officially banned on this website, forever and ever, amen. The real news buried behind my clever lead is that Silver State Gov. Jim Gibbons told a Rotary Club somewhere in the frozen tundra up north that the pipeline was a craptastic waste of time. Or something to that effect.
He has made such statements before, but this time, he's not running from them. Over at the Southern Nevada Water Authority's cleverly concealed secret bunker headquarters, officials are wondering whether the governor got the memo that said the future of rural Nevada is irrelevant to the grab and grow schemes of Las Vegas developers.
But go Gibbons! More of that and I'll start voting Republican! It does remind me, however, that one of the strongest voices for moderating the growth fever in Southern Nevada is also a Republican, Clark County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury.
And sincere kudos to Las Vegas Sun intrepid reporter Phoebe Sweet, who actually seemed to read the Lohantan Valley newspaper that originally printed the gubernator's anti-pipeline comments - and understood the importance of the comments. She picked up the story and ran with it. This is one of the reasons why the Sun has become indispensable for its reporting and writing. Find the full story, and find quotes from yours truly, here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

RJ on Water Rate Issue

The RJ on Clark County Commission discussion, including quotes from yours truly,

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Water Rate Decision

The Clark County Commission today tackled the thorny issue of water rates and came back with an increase for Las Vegas users that wasn’t everything it could be, but kicked up the rates for the heaviest volume users by more than 32 percent. I served on the advisory committee and worked to increase the rates for high-volume users as much as possible to encourage conservation.
The down side is that the commission, acting as the board of the Las Vegas Valley Water District, also increased rates for minimal users – those who really can’t do much to cut back any more than they already have – by more than 10 percent. Increasing the rates for minimal users just reduced the pressure on high volume users as the water district worked to increase revenue by 23 percent overall.
I took the opportunity to praise the idea that conservation is a good idea, and noted more must be done, but I also scolded the commission for not dealing with the bottom line: Growth. I pointed out what conservationists throughout the Colorado River Basin States and water customers from all over the Las Vegas Valley know: Every drop we save in Las Vegas through conservation will go to new development.
And since we are using price as a mechanism to conserve, growth is directly impacting the pocketbooks of every residential and business customer of Las Vegas. We are subsidizing the growth machine, “feeding the beast.”
I encouraged the commission to start an open, honest discussion about growth. Commissioner Tom Collins argued that growth is paying for growth and the county’s “growth task force” several years back proved it and so there is endless room for more tract houses and non-union neighborhood casinos and growth is good so there.
Commissioners Chris Giunchigliani – who deserves a medal or something for standing up to the growth industry – pointed out that more could be done. She particularly spotlighted the golf course industry. (If her car blows up like Lefty’s in the movie Casino, look for golf tees scattered around the scene of the crime.)
Giunchiliani, who valiantly worked to eliminate service-fee increases for minimal users, was the only “no” vote on the final package.
Commission Chairman Rory Reid deserves a nod, however, for granting the conservation community what may be the most important win of the day: Simply keeping the conversation open. He joined Chris G. and Susan Brager in requesting that the water district staff come back with info on the effectiveness of the conservation pricing and for discussion of changes to pricing to commercial customers – including, significantly, multi-family housing.
PLAN joins other conservationists and the business community – an uncommon pairing – in concern about the impact the new rates will have on some institutional users. Right now, apartment complexes and similar multi-family units are charged at the highest (fourth tier) rate, even though on a per person basis, the residents of those communities are among the thriftiest water consumers in Las Vegas or, for that matter, in the country. So PLAN plans to submit suggestions in the near future for easing the impact on those folks as part of the ongoing discussion on water, growth and conservation issues.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Water Hearings

The Nevada State Engineer opened the floodgates today to public comment on the SNWA's reckless and environmentally catastrophic plan to defoliate rural Nevada. Comment came in from Caliente, Ely, Carson City and Las Vegas. Most of the comment was in opposition to the Water Grab. The usual gang of do-gooder conservationists, ranchers whose families have lived in rural Nevada for generations, American Indians who value the land, and others who for some reason don't understand why tract housing and neighborhood casinos down here are more important than the environment and livelihoods up yonder.

The exception was in Las Vegas, where the Chamber of Commerce, the Southern Nevada Home Builders Association, the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties, Associated General Contractors and numerous (non-union) developers joined trade unions in arguing that rural Nevada has to die so that Vegas can continue growing and wasting water. Anything else would jeopardize the profits down hereabouts and so, you know, screw the environment, Native Americans, agriculture, science and law.

It was actually pretty impressive, if lining up every profit-motivated interest in the service of dumping science and law counts as "impressive." But hey, you can't stop progress, right?

Go, George!

Once again, George Knapp has skewered the bad science and self-serving platitudes of the Southern Nevada Water Authority with a sharp column in CityLife. He deserves to be credited as a journalist who not only is reporting what needs to be reported, but is providing a road map for other Las Vegas media outlets - not to mention national bretheren - on covering what might be one of the most important environmental stories emerging in this country.

The water stuff is sandwiched between tasty bits about a political opportunist gone belly-up in Vegas and a note on the continued non-viability of the Las Vegas Monorail, or as I like to view it, the model for the SNWA's Water Grab.

Attaboy, George!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Another Great Vegas Review

OK, a little harsh perhaps... Wonkette slags on Las Vegas.

"Horrible smog. Chewed-up desert. Wind storms. Endless vistas of foreclosed stucco boxes. For Sale signs and Payday Loan joints. Crushing unemployment. No water. Rampant crime, prostitution, drug addiction, gambling addiction — all squirming around the edges of a never-finished vulgar theme park that should be blown up and reassembled in Dubai, where it belongs.
Nevada is the bold new America...
Las Vegas is an ugly sprawl of bland beige shacks, strip malls, giant neon-bright animated billboards, navel-pierced dull-eyed strippers, brain-damaged bums, and scientifically-designed soul-killing casinos..."

And then it gets mean. Still, you know, those hordes of visiting media folks, even the pajama-clad class of "new media" types, would be well advised to take a walk around Red Rock Canyon or the Valley of Fire. It's not all strip malls and tract housing. Or strip bars and slot machines.

More on how we look to the rest of the world:

National Group Swats Nuke Plants, Yucca Mountain

Friends of the Earth Action caught my eye with an ad on the Yahoo mail website on the idiotic effort to dump 80,000 tons (maybe lots more!) of high-level radioactive waste about 90 miles outside Las Vegas. The ad is very effective little animated doo-dad that spotlights the fact that more nuke plants would mean more waste, and more pressure to open Yucca Mountain. Quite a few folks, including some of Nevada's own congressional delegation, have failed to make the connection between more nuke plants and our own glow-in-the-dark prospects.
Anyhoo, here's the link:

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Politics Trumps Science Once Again

So if a bevy of federal agencies sign off on the Southern Nevada Water Authority's efforts to defoliate East-Central Nevada to fuel growth in Las Vegas, that must mean it's A-OK, right?

Well, not really. In what looks like yet another shameful abrogation of responsibilities by the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Land Management and other public agencies, federal officials are ignoring their own science.

Dr. Timothy Mayer, a Fish and Wildlife consultant, wrote in a November report that the SNWA's demand for 35,000 acre-feet of water from Northern Lincoln County would lead to springs and wells drying up throughout hundreds of square miles of rural Nevada, including some National Wildlife Refuges. He was very clear in his report, which you can find online at :

In his analysis, Mayer stated that “…the system is completely appropriated and the State Engineer should deny all water right applications in the Dry Lake and Delamar Valleys.”

The Nevada State Engineer is going to consider this latest round of the water grab in early February, but he and his staff may not hear the science. The feds, who face enormous political pressure to support the water grab, withdrew their protests after getting a promise from SNWA that if SNWA notices any adverse impacts the agency might, you know, cut back a little. Whew. I'm sure the endangered species, migratory birds and the people whose wells are going to die feel better now.

With the feds running away scared, they take their evidence with them.

“We cannot claim that we weren’t warned. We can only say that the economic and political pressures were considered more important than the scientific analysis,” said my friend, Sierra Club activist Dennis Ghiglieri, in a press release. “Does the federal government believe the State Engineer will make a fully informed decision when one of the most significantly affected parties opts out of the hearing?”

Sadly, this is far from the first time in recent memory that federal officials have ignored or buried their own science in the name of political expediency. Anybody remember Hurricane Katrina? The Challenger disaster? NASA's work on the global climate crisis?

Water Rate Vote Scheduled

Pat Mulroy has scheduled discussion on Las Vegas cheap, cheap water rates for Feb. 19. As you may have heard, Water Czarina Mulroy has publicly criticized the idea that water rate increases for high-volume users would lead to water conservation - despite the fact that her agencies have said that it would have exactly that effect, it has been the primary tool that other (far more efficient) municipal water agencies throughout the world have used to encourage efficiency and conservation, and the whole extended conversation on water rates was predicated on the idea that those changes would help Las Vegas' awful record of water waste.
I served on the committee that looked at the water rates in Las Vegas, and I pushed the idea that low-volume water users, which would include folks with small amounts of turf and smaller homes, shouldn't be punished for the water waste of high-volume-using millionaires. (Folks like, for example, Mrs. Mulroy, the highest paid public official in the state of Nevada.)
Mulroy recently opined that increasing the cost of water would no more lead to greater efficiency than increasing the cost of gas has led to gasoline conservation, a point that maybe would be lost on the thousands of new Prius owners... Of course, she also said that conservation groups such as the one I work for wanted to eliminate every blade of grass in Southern Nevada, another statement that joined Mulroy's Hall of Shame of patently false, self-serving and misleading claims.
(Strangely enough, the one person on the water rate advisory committee that wanted a flat-rate and high increases even among the most minimal users represented the home builders. Not that Mulroy kowtows to the developers or anything. After all, despite her record of enthusiastically endorsing spiralling, out-of-control growth at any cost, she insists that she's just an innocent public employee without any personal stake in the growth issue.)
So anyhoo it will likely be a spirited conversation and anybody who a) is a little alarmed at the impending environmental destruction of rural Nevada or b) thinks that endless growth is just peachy down hereabouts might want to come on down to the Clark County Commission meeting Feb. 19.
More info from the Water District here:
For more on PLAN's perspective on the issue, go to Page 38 of the Water Rate Committee report here: