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: