Category Archives: Water

Local Water, the EPA: Beyond Goodsprings

Water Faucet EPA

The Reno Gazette Journal reports that there are 23 local water systems in Nevada which are not in compliance with drinking water standards (there are currently 22, but more on that later).  Three local systems listed in the article have lead contamination levels exceeding the lead standard, 15 ppb (parts per billion) as the “action level.”  The public needs this information. However, the agency responsible for establishing the maximum contaminant level (MCL) standards is the whipping boy of choice for the Republican Party.  In short – it really doesn’t do to get up in arms about water or air pollution levels and then call for the abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The regulatory system isn’t all that complicated. The EPA establishes the standards and then it’s up to the states to devise the implementation.  There’s a reason for this. Setting national standards means that states can’t compete in a ‘race to the bottom’ in which some states seek to attract industry by lowering standards until they are in competition to achieve the status of “Worse Than Any Pig Would Ever Consider in a Sty.”  And, potentially damaging everyone else’s air and water in the process.  However, this hasn’t stopped Over-Hyped Demagogue Donald Trump from calling for handing over environmental regulation to the individual states.  [WaPo]

Nor has this made much of an impression on Seven Mountain Dominionist Ted Cruz; “Cruz has called the EPA a “radical” agency that has imposed “illegal” limits on greenhouse gases from power plants. “I think states should press back using every tool they have available,” the Texas senator has said. “We’ve got to rein in a lawless executive that is abusing its power.” [WaPo]

Ohio Governor John Kasich has been critical of the Michigan attempts to address its man-made, GOP inspired, water quality issues in Flint, MI, but hasn’t been on top of the situation with the Sebring, OH water contamination. [TP]

The 2008 Republican national platform was exceptionally mealy-mouthed about environmental protection:

“Our national progress toward cleaner air and water has been a major accomplishment of the American people. By balancing environmental goals with economic growth and job creation, our diverse economy has made possible the investment needed to safeguard natural resources, protect endangered species, and create healthier living conditions. State and local initiatives to clean up contaminated sites — brownfields — have exceeded efforts directed by Washington. That progress can continue if grounded in sound science, long-term planning, and a multiuse approach to resources.”

It’s not likely that much more will come from a 2016 version.   Nor should we expect much in the way of support for addressing the national problems associated with our drinking water systems.  Remember the ASCE’s Report Card on American Infrastructure (2013)?

“At dawn of the 21st century, much of our drinking water infrastructure is nearing the end of its useful life. There are an estimated 240,000 water main breaks per year in the United States. Assuming every pipe would need to be replaced, the cost over the coming decades could reach more than $1 trillion, according to the American Water Works Association (AWWA). The quality of drinking water in the United States remains universally high, however. Even though pipes and mains are frequently more than 100 years old and in need of replacement, outbreaks of disease attributable to drinking water are rare.”

Not to put too fine a point to it, but as a nation we’re running on a Run-to-Ruin system in which local water distributors are functioning with outdated infrastructure while trying to maintain acceptable levels of quality.  Goodsprings Elementary School offers us an example of what can happen given a 1913 building and 21st century water quality standards. [RGJ]  If Goodsprings was an isolated example, then we could address the aging pipes and move on, but it’s not that isolated, nor that uncommon.  Current EPA estimates indicate we are having to replace between 4,000 and 5,000 miles of drinking water mains in this country on an annual basis, and that the annual replacement rate will peak sometime around 2035 with 16,000 and 20,000 miles of aging pipe needing to be replaced each year. [ASCE]

Putting The Public Back In Public Utility

I am going to start with some basic assumptions. First, that a family or person should be able to move to any part of this great land and expect to find clean water running from the faucet.  Secondly, that it is not a good idea to allow individual states to set drinking water standards, since some might find it inconvenient or inexpedient to set scientifically reliable standards in the interest of “development” or “industrialization.”  Such a piece meal approach would put paid to the first basic assumption.   So, if we’re agreed that any person in this country should have a reasonable expectation of clean drinking water then we need national standards.

Some of the standards are easier than others.  Arsenic contamination levels offer an example of a complex problem with some nuanced related issues.  The MCL (maximum contaminant level) for arsenic was lowered in 2001 from 50 ppb to 10 ppb. Public water systems were to be in compliance by January 23, 2006. [EPA] [More information at FAS pdf] The Reno Gazette Journal reports ten Nevada water systems not in compliance.  One, the McDermitt GID has recently been declared in compliance with a current projected annual running average below 10 ppb after the system put in a new central well.

Arsenic enters the drinking water systems one of two ways, either through industrial activity or as a naturally occurring contaminant.  If the system is west of the Rocky Mountains it’s a reasonably good bet that the arsenic is naturally occurring.  It’s probably not too far off the mark to say that if the standard were set at 15 ppb most Nevada water systems would be in compliance, but the standard is 10 and that’s ultimately what matters.

The smaller public water systems have more trouble meeting the standards than the larger ones, as described by the BSDW:  “The smaller systems are the ones that tend to struggle with regaining compliance because they typically have limited financial resources so we have to collectively figure out ways to help that community get back to compliance,” said Jennifer Carr, NDEP deputy administrator. “Larger systems such as TMWA also have more personnel to tackle projects whereas some of our smaller water systems are operated by one person who might be doing another side job.” [RGJ]

And, now we’re down to the gritty part: Where does the money come from to resolve contaminant problems with arsenic? Or, for that matter, other water infrastructure issues?    The State Revolving Fund provides low interest loans for water infrastructure projects in the state; and can in some circumstances offer “forgiven” loans to small public water services.  The “bottom line” is that in 2016 there will be a need for approximately $279 million for arsenic treatment, groundwater treatment, storage tank replacements, metering systems, and distribution lines in Nevada.  And, the worse news, “Not all will be funded.” [KTVN]

The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund was created in 1996 to support water systems and state safe water programs.  “The 51 DWSRF programs function like infrastructure banks by providing low interest loans to eligible recipients for drinking water infrastructure projects. As money is paid back into the state’s revolving loan fund, the state makes new loans to other recipients. These recycled repayments of loan principal and interest earnings allow the state’s DWSRF to “revolve” over time.”  [EPA]   As of 2014 this system had provided $27.9 billion to water suppliers to improve drinking water treatment, improve sources of drinking water, providing safe storage tanks, fixing leaking or aging distribution pipe, and other projects to protect public health. [EPA] The EPA estimates that small public water systems nationwide, those serving populations less than 3,330,  will need approximately $64.5 billion for infrastructure needs. [EPA 5th report pdf]

What was the Republican controlled Congress’s response? They may have avoided a shutdown, but the waters weren’t exactly flowing:

The bill provides $863.2 million for the DWSRF  well below President Obama’s request of $1.186 billion and more than $40 million below the programs FY2015 appropriation.While the figure represents the lowest DWSRF appropriation in several years, it is significantly above the FY16 funding levels originally proposed by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, each of which would have cut DWSRF funding to below $780 million. [UIM]

What have we learned?

  • The Republican candidates for the presidency show little to no enthusiasm for infrastructure investments in general, and beyond bemoaning the state of Flint’s water system which must be someone’s fault “just not ours,” even less enthusiasm for funding local drinking water improvement projects.
  • The Republicans in Congress were only too happy to cut funding for the best source for local public water companies projects, in the name of “fiscal responsibility” – meaning, one could think, that preserving tax cuts for the rich is preferable to providing clean drinking water to everyone.
  • The infrastructure needs in this country are serious and go well beyond fixing bridges and filling pot-holes.  This, and we’ve not yet reached the peak of distribution line replacement needs coming up in the next 20 years.
  • “Austerity” is a lovely buzz word, and “We’d love to do it but we just can’t afford to” is a fine campaign trail stump speech phrase, but these won’t keep the water coming from the tap clean and safe.  We need to stop thinking of our infrastructure as an expense and begin to consider it for what it is – an investment; an investment in the capacity of our cities and towns to provide basic services so that economic activity can take place.
  • And, NO it isn’t a good idea to abolish the EPA.

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Filed under Appropriations, Congress, conservatism, Economy, EPA, Infrastructure, nevada health, Politics, public health, Water

The Worth of Water: Nevada and its State Drought Plans

NV Drought Map Sept 2015 Consider the following information from the Reno Gazette Journal:

“In Nevada, all counties but White Pine and Lincoln are designated as drought disaster areas. Washoe, Storey, Carson City, Douglas, Lyon, Churchill, Esmeralda, Lander, Mineral and Nye counties are all in conditions of extreme or exceptional drought, with Lovelock’s Pershing County among the “hardest hit areas,” according to the Aug. 17 drought statement issued by the National Weather Service.”

And this:

“It’s difficult to overstate the dire impacts, said Benny Hodges, secretary-treasurer of the Pershing County Water Conservation District. As the drought lowered the Humboldt River and levels of Rye Patch Reservoir — now at about 5 percent of capacity — continued to drop, irrigation water for Lovelock area farmers went from scarce to non-existent. Irrigation allocations went from 80 percent of normal in 2012, the first year of the drought, to only 10 percent in 2013. This year is the second in a row that no irrigation water was available at all.”

There are some actions which are the direct result of a drought designation by the US Department of Agriculture: in 17 of Nevada’s governmental entities farmers and ranchers will be eligible for low interest emergency loans to continue operations. [AgWeb]

A reasonable person would think that an arid state would have some plans on file for dealing with drought conditions – other than directing agricultural operations toward emergency loans.  As of December 28, 2014 Nevada really  didn’t. [RGJ]  Although it must be said there was a document in some filing cabinet, which the Governor had received in 2012 concerning drought planning.  Local water districts and companies have drought plans, but as of December 2014 that didn’t necessarily hold true for the state.

It wasn’t until April 8, 2015 (with Nevada now into the fourth year of drought conditions) that the Governor’s office announced the creation of a “forum” to “craft a blueprint on best practices for water users and conservation.” [LVRJ]

What’s interesting about that the announcement at the shrinking lake side was that Governor Sandoval received a “State of Nevada: Drought Response Plan” (pdf) from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the State Climate Office, and the Department of Public Safety, as revised in April 2012.  

“This State Drought Response Plan establishes an administrative coordinating and reporting system between agencies to appropriately respond and provide assistance to address drought and mitigate drought impacts. […] this Plan identifies a system used in monitoring the magnitude, severity and extent of drought within the state on a county by county basis. It establishes a framework of actions based on three states of responding to drought. Drought Watch, Drought Alert, and Drought Emergency.”

Scrolling down through the 2012 executive summary we find, “If a drought reaches Stage #3 (Drought Emergency) upon the decision of the Governor, the Division of Emergency Management may activate the State Emergency Operations Center. This center will be advised by the Drought Response Committee, making drought response policy recommendations as needed, supporting local drought emergency response efforts and carrying out the Governor’s policies.”

One of the distinguishing characteristics of the 2012 document is the insertion of diagrams designating the process for informing the Governor, sorting the activities of various authorities, and assisting the Governor in the setting of “the state’s priorities, drought mitigation, response and recovery policy and resource allocation direction based on information and recommendations given to the Governor by the Drought Response Committee and the needs of affected local jurisdictions, county or tribe.”

Another element in the 2012 document of interest is the insertion of some very tepid language about drought designations and their associated impact on other economic activities. “Formal designation may not substantially reduce economic impacts in drought affected areas but may cause serious economic impacts on tourism, agriculture, finance and other industries within the state. Unless a drought situation is expected to be of extreme magnitude, the safest approach is to aid county and local governments in determining their own situations.”

And with that the 2012 State of Nevada Drought Response Plan dumps the problems back onto the counties, local water suppliers, and tribes.  Thus, it isn’t easy to get an “emergency” drought designation in the first place, and when the designation or announcement is made the plans submitted by the various entities which deliver water within the state are supposed to kick in.

NRS 540 codifies this system.  Water suppliers are defined (NRS 540.121), water conservation plans, which are to be updated every five years, are required (NRS 540. 131) and are to be published “to the extent practicable” for public inspection on websites (NRS 540.141).  Water supplies are to provide incentives for water conservation. (NRS 540.151).

It’s easy to see why initial reports said there really wasn’t a statewide water conservation/drought plan – the plan appears to be that the state will require individual entities to have approved plans, and that the state will announce when the drought emergency elements of those various plans will be implemented – bearing in mind that given the soft language in the 2012 Drought Response document it’s probably going to be difficult to get the state to make that initial emergency announcement.

We return now to Sandoval’s Executive Order 2015-03, April 8, 2015.  After the preliminary “whereas’s” in which it’s admitted that Nevada has a water problem, and that the Nevada Drought Response Committee authorized by the 2012 document has been “continuously monitoring” the drought conditions,  the Governor has decided we need another report, from another layer of administration.

Sandoval established the Nevada Drought Forum in order to: (1) build on the activities of the existing Nevada Drought Response Committee; (2) evaluate key findings and next steps identified in the Western Governors’ Drought Forum Final Report (latest available is the Special Report, June 2015) as they relate to Nevada; (3) meet with relevant stakeholders; and (4) determine, with input from stakeholders and the public, the elements of a final report to the Governor.

As part of the bullet points in the executive order, there will be a Governor’s Drought Summit on September 21-23.  Unless some highly specific topics are generated in periods for “Showcases: Conservation Success Stories in Nevada,” or from the sessions on municipal, resort and recreation, industry and development, and agricultural water conservation – there doesn’t seem to be much emphasis on the development of a state PLAN for dealing with drought conditions.

To add more opacity to the issue, that Western Governors’ Drought Forum Report concluded:

“(1) Drought’s consequences ripple across western economies, communities, and environments. Preventing or halting drought is impossible, but there are useful strategies for enhancing resilience to its effects.  WGA will continue to work on drought by enhancing its Drought Forum online resource library, hosting webinars and workshops and briefing state and federal policymakers. (2)  WGA will perform additional outreach to drought task forces in the western states to identify data gaps that need to be addressed. (3) WGA will also compare  and contrast the approaches of these state task forces in order to identify additional best practices. (4)  In response to one of the key themes identified during the Drought Forum,  WGA will work with state and federal partners to support robust data collection and enhanced analyses and tools for drought management. Furthermore, the governors will consider the policy recommendations that emerged from the first year of Drought Forum as they work to improve the regional response to drought and to influence national decisions affecting water supply and resource management.”  (numeration added) (Special Report June 2015)

There’s good and bad news herein.  In item (1) there’s no indication that the western Governors are aware that one of the ways to mitigate drought is to acknowledge that climate change is a modern reality.  Indeed, there’s no small amount of fatalism – droughts might just be the new reality.  “Prevention is impossible,” is about as fatalistic as it gets. (2) is just about as safe a proposal as one can make – there’s always a need for more and better data collection. However, there’s nothing in this conclusion that insures there will be money in state budgets for such data collection and analysis.  (3) Best practices are also a safe bet.  However, it will require some legislative and executive will power to enact best practices into law, and to administer the statutes with an emphasis on conservation.  (4)  We’re back to data collection and sharing – a fine thing – but someone needs to pay for the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data.  Executive orders are usually good, but appropriations are nearly always better.

Color me a bit cynical, however a look at the sponsors of the WGA Drought Forum leaves some questions about the level of intensity with which they will address governmental actions necessary to address drought in western states.  NOAA and the Walton Family Foundation are “workshop partners,” the State of Oklahoma is a “regional forum sponsor,” “project sponsors” include the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Coeur Mining, Water Asset Management LLC, and Layne Inc.  “Report sponsors” include HDR, NHA, Nevada Mining Association, Dairy Farmers of America, Barrick, SRP, Southern Nevada Water Authority, Parjana, Pepsico, and Chevron.  “Communication sponsors” are ASI, Resolution Copper Mining, CAP, ECOS, National Groundwater Association, the Geological Society of America, Paramount Farming, and Irrigational & Electrical Districts Assn of Arizona.

And so, the Nevada Drought Forum has a nice shiny website, with updated information on monthly situations reports (the last up was for June 2015) – in which a person could find out if he or she was experiencing emergency, extreme, or exceptional drought conditions.  Or, discover that there have been three monthly meetings since June 2015, and a fourth scheduled for September 28, 2015.   Since minutes are not yet available online for the August meeting, we’ll not know if concerns expressed in a previous meeting about the lack of representation from wildlife advocates and rural areas were addressed in that session.


  1. If the drought in Nevada is particularly extreme in rural areas like Pershing County, why were there no representatives on the Governor’s list of appointments to the Drought Forum from rural agricultural interests? Has this since been rectified?
  2. If we are aware of the effects of drought conditions on wildlife – why no initial representation for those interests? Has this been rectified?
  3. If we know that extreme weather conditions are associated climate change, and with droughts such as the one Nevada is experiencing now, then what elements of climate change science will be incorporated into the state’s planning for drought mitigation efforts?
  4. If the Nevada Drought Forum is directed to present its report to the Governor on November 1, 2015, then what actions has the Governor’s office taken to facilitate the enactment of legislation to implement the report findings in advance of the release?  The WGA Special Report (June 2015) emphasizes data collection.  If the report meshes with the WGA efforts,  do the various departments and divisions have the necessary funding to collect and analyze the data? 
  5. The Governor’s executive order doesn’t indicate any change in the status of the 2012 State of Nevada Drought Response plan, if the November report suggests changes in the SNDR then are the departments capable of implementing those changes?

So we resume our quotidian activities – further illustrating the truth of the old quote: “We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.”  (Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia  1732.

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Filed under Nevada economy, Nevada politics, Sandoval, Water

Yes, It’s a Drought

Drought Map JuneNevada is an arid state, but there’s arid and then there’s drought.  The Reno Gazette Journal provides a good summary of what northern Nevadans can expect from the current drought conditions.

Nevada has a “Drought Response Committee” and the water conservation plan, adopted in 2012 is available (pdf) online.  As of now Churchill, Lander, Mineral, Pershing, Clark, Lyon, Nye, Washoe,and Humboldt counties have been officially designated as “primary natural disaster areas.” [unce]

For those wishing not to make a bad situation worse in northern Nevada, the Truckee Meadows Water Authority has a simple check list of things ordinary citizens can do to mitigate water shortages.  For example, have you checked the toilet for leaks?  If not, the household could be wasting (and paying for) up to 100 gallons of water per day.  Multiply that by 365 days and the wastage is almost alarming, especially considering how much the water costs in the first place.  Have you installed a water saving shower head? In reality all that’s really needed for a nice shower is about 2 1/2 gallons per minute.  In short, if you’d like to save water, and thereby save on your water bill — check for leaks — faucets, toilets, shower heads — and find the savings on your monthly bill.

The EPA also provides water conservation tip sheets, such as the one for residents and homeowners.  There are other helpful fact sheets, like the one from WaterSense.

The forecasting isn’t all that comforting for anyone who’d like to blithely ignore the warning signs from the March 2014 state publication on water resources. (pdf)

And, there are now some 2,700,553 persons in the state of Nevada directly affected by the current drought.  It’s obviously time to pay attention.


Filed under ecology, Economy, Water

Dogs and Water in the Government Affairs Committee

WiemaranerThe Nevada state senate committee on Government Affairs has a interesting agenda for April Fool’s Day.  First up, at 1:30 pm in room 2135, there’s S.B. 225, a bill to designate the Blue Wiemaraner as the official state dog.  The bill’s sponsors are Senators Kieckhefer and Kirner.  Not to disparage the efforts of a 9 year old Reno youngster, who suggested the designation, [RGJ] but his classroom would be well advised to heed the Senator’s caution that the bill might not pass.   The next bill, S.B. 232, treads in more controversial territory: Utility rates, and which agencies may raise them.

Municipalities which operate sewer and water systems are currently exempted from the rate overviews of the Public Utility Commission.  S.B. 232 would eliminate this exemption for municipal utilities in counties of more than 700,000.  (Read: Clark County)   Section 10 of the bill is the part freighted with more issues.   “Section 10 requires the governing body of each local government within the service territory of a municipal utility to approve any proposed increased rates before the Commission …”

The Southern Nevada Water Authority is an association of seven subdivisions: Las Vegas, Henderson, North Las Vegas, Las Vegas Valley, Boulder City, Clark County Water Reclamation, and Big Bend (Laughlin).  Thus we’d assume that any proposed rate increases would be approved by those entities.  Now we come to the approval process which is a bit more complex. For example, the Las Vegas Valley Water District is governed by a board composed of members of the Clark County Commission, as is the Big Bend Water District, however in 2008 the Big Bend District authorized the Las Vegas Valley District to act as its agent.   Boulder City has its own utilities department, under the jurisdiction of the auspices of the City Council.   Therefore, it seems logical to assume that any petition for an increase in rates would already have the imprimatur of the Clark County Commission, but would it also need to be approved by the local governing bodies of Las Vegas,  North Las Vegas? Laughlin? The City of Henderson? Boulder City?  As I read Section 10 of S.B. 232 the answer would appear to be yes.

So, a proposed rate increase would need the approval of the SWNA Board, composed of representatives from the associated utility districts, plus individual approval from the local governments of the areas represented by those who serve on the SWNA Board.   If this sounds a bit redundant, it’s probably because in some respects it is.  If this sounds like it could be an invitation to turn proposed rate increases into political footballs (of the bouncing soccer variety) in local government meetings — it’s probably because it could be.

Not that I’m any great fan of the SNWA, and its continual green eyed glances at sources of rural water, I’m not.   However, what is arguably a well intentioned attempt at generating more popular input into proposed water and utility rate increases could make arguing about the Official State Dog look like look like a romp in the park with Fido.

Meanwhile, my nominee for the State Dog is the Blue Heeler.  I do so because I once had one, (Who owned whom is still a matter of opinion.) and her ego was certainly expansive enough to fill an entire state of some 110,567 square miles.

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Filed under Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, Water

Coffee and the Papers

** Winners (casinos, golf courses) Losers (small business owners, residential customers) in the latest round of Nevada Water Games. [TheNVView] And, the “other” potential loser, of course — rural Nevada, because there’s still that Gorilla sitting in the back of the room: The Pipeline. [8News]

** The continuing Soap Opera (aka Nevada GOP chairmanship) continues; for more information see this article in the Las Vegas Sun.  It is enough to make one wonder that if a major qualification for office is “He’s not been indicted for anything” — if that isn’t faint praise?

** The NPRI has its talking points ready in a pre-digested format for the 2013 term. [NNB] “Solutions 2013” (pdf) Its 88 pages of the same old stuff.  Witness. Among the recommendations is the time tested (and failed) TASC, ostensibly to “protect” taxpayers — which was unceremoniously dumped in Colorado.  Then there’s Performance based budgeting — which sounds remarkably like the ALEC recommendation for “Performance Assessment and Management” in their “Tool Kit.” (pdf) Same old. Same old.

** NV Energy is looking at cuts to programs to assist energy efficiency efforts (weatherization, Energy Star lighting, Solar Water Installation, 2nd refrigerator recycling).  [Reno Gz/Jr]

** Be careful what you wish for, you might get it? The Senate is poised to vote on the Blunt Amendment (anti-contraception) [TPM] Message: This controversy isn’t about “religious liberty,” it’s about the license given to one religious faction to dictate to other believers in different factions. It’s also about allowing health insurance corporations to offer employers plans which do NOT include basic preventative health care options like vaccinations, contraception, or any other coverage the employer would like to exclude from basic coverage.

Sam Fullwood III addresses the religious issues succinctly:

Our nation doesn’t lack religious faith. What we lack is uniformity of religious expression. There are black Mormons, Latino evangelicals, Asian Protestants, and Muslims of all hues and races. Religion thrives in the fertile diversity of American culture. This is a good thing.

Unfortunately, some political and religious leaders fail to understand or appreciate the value in the blooming of faith traditions within a secular government. For them, religion is a one-size-fits-all edict, or a blunt weapon used to bludgeon anyone who disagrees with their narrow and exclusive views.

** The STOCK Act is limping toward passage, but only after House Republicans stripped out provisions regulating “intelligence consultants” who pick up and then disseminate economic tid-bits to those who pay for the information. [Politico] And they wonder why they have low approval ratings?

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Filed under Water, water rights, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

Monday Morning Roundup: Bits and Pieces

** There’s no small amount of irony in the fact that Wall Street Warrior Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) is assuming the role of The Little Guy in his Underdog Campaign to secure his Senate seat in 2012.  [Ralston LVSun] This, from the candidate who has secured $76,650 from from the Securities and Investment community, and another $43,000 from commercial banks. [OpenSecrets] And, yes, we know we’ll hear about Hobos again during this campaign season.  [Sebelius]

** The Nevada Progressive notes the Charade Parade is coming to an end as the Super-Committee winds down into a political puddle.   Contrary to the GOP cry that they “offered to close tax loopholes,” their proposals are another bucket of water carried for the wealthiest 1% in the U.S. (chart above)The changes proposed constitute yet another shift of the tax burden from the 1% onto the Middle Class.   The GOP’s last best offer was to call for $181 in cuts for every 1$ in revenue increases. [CBPP]

** ICYMI: The Sin City Siren has a helpful list of worthy charities that should get some attention during this Season of Giving. PLAN reminds us that the Silver State isn’t exactly generous when it come to taxing ourselves to provide mutually beneficial services: “Nevada is 49th on the Tax Foundation’s 2009 rankings of state and local tax burdens. There is no corporate income tax and no personal income tax (banned by the state constitution).    There is also a constitutional limitation on mining industry taxes, which allows the industry to pay less than 1% of its gross in mining taxes to the state general fund.”

** Speaking of uncharitable: NyeGateway spotlights GOP candidate Romney’s proposal that Nevadans going through the foreclosure process should ‘hit bottom.’

** The LDS Church is on record against the Water Grab from White Pine County. [LVSun] The Nevada GOP, which is against almost everything, has endorsed the candidacy of Barbara Cegavske for Congress. [NVAppeal subscription required] Nevada News Bureau has more on the new District 4 race.

** Ouch! Group says that those brand name prescription coupon could increase costs by $253 million in Nevada over the next ten years. [Nevada News Bureau]

** Nothing like putting the fox in charge of the hen house!  The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has appointed a partner in “a foreclosure fraud factory” to review 4.5 million foreclosure cases. [ForeclosureFraud] Can we say “captured agency?”

** Angry Bear posts an interesting piece on functioning in the Kafka-esque world that is Bank of America.  Calculated Risk gives us good news and bad. The good news is that the supply of surplus housing is declining, the bad is that it’s not declining fast enough for relief in the construct industry to come before about 2015 at this rate.  The former CEO of the now defunct AIG is suing the government for $25 billion [Clusterstock] and I think the word I want here is “chutzpah.”

** Those who would like some serious wonkishness are invited to see “The Complete and Annotated Guide to the European Bank Run (or the Final Phase of Goldman’s World Domination Plan)” in the EconMonitor.

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Filed under 2012 election, Economy, Heller, income tax, Nevada politics, Romney, tax revenue, Taxation, Water, water rights

Coffee and the Papers: Grab The Water, Let Her Die

## Actually, I like Las Vegas.  If there were ever a place that is unpretentiously pretentious it’s Vegas, neon, glitter, and all.  That said, “Get Your Own Water!” [LVSun] The call goes for Reno, too.  If you want to develop real estate — fine, but make certain you have the water to do so without having to drain the rural counties.  The urban water grabs echo the claims made on Native American lands in ages past, “Gee, they aren’t using them right now, so let’s appropriate them.”  Let’s not.  Your lack of urban planning is not our problem.   Senator Heller dodged the issue with the “it’s a state problem” line.  Not. So. Fast. The management of Colorado River water is very much a federal issue.  Hmm, must be an election year?

##  Evidently, Representatives Heck (R-NV3) and Amodei (R-NV2) believe that there are jobs to be found by further restricting access to abortion procedures?  Both voted in favor of H.R. 358 which

“…revives the earlier failed Stupak amendment, which would force health plans to drop comprehensive coverage in state health insurance exchanges, cutting off millions of women from the benefits they receive today and prevent women from paying for health insurance with abortion coverage with their own money.”

It permits states to enact sweeping refusal laws that would allow health plans to refuse to cover women’s preventive services, including birth control, without cost-sharing — undoing a new protection under health reform supported by 66 percent of Americans.  It also codifies and significantly expands an already expansive refusal clause (also known as the Weldon amendment) without any regard for patient rights or protections.

And, the bill overturns statutes which require emergency room physicians to stabilize a patient with a life threatening pregnancy.  H.R. 358 is, indeed, the “let her die” bill. [More at NVRDC]  The White House promises a veto.  Interesting isn’t it, in times past House Republicans argued that some bills ought not be passed because they would face a certain veto from the Bush White House.  How this bill fits into the “We Are Focused On Jobs” theme from House Republicans is a mystery.  It sounds more like the old 1984 GOP campaign theme “God, Guns, and Gays.”  Representative Shelley Berkley (D-NV1) had the good sense and compassion to vote against the radical bill.  Thus much for Amodei and Heller campaigning as “thoughtful moderates.”

## While the Republicans were busy playing Big Brother with a woman’s right to seek personal medical treatment, House Democrats were asking for an investigation into possible collusion among banks to tack on more fees on their customers.  [RGJ] Consumers Union has similar questions about the practice:  “Bank of America’s decision to charge a monthly fee for debit card transactions is ill-timed and unwise. The bank continues to struggle financially. Yet it now appears ready to drive away customers with the promise of more excessive fees,” said Pamela Banks, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union. “Consumers cannot afford and should not be required to pay a costly fee that appears to be arbitrary and designed to generate income for the bank rather than covering the costs of providing debit card services.”

## Why aren’t people taking the Republican “Jobs Plan” seriously?  [Benen] “The House Republican leadership put together a 10-page document ostensibly explaining how the GOP intends to address the unemployment crisis, and they could barely put together 2,000 words.”

## Recommended Reading:  Perrspectives “Republicans Getting Buffetted by Taxes.  Content oriented, and fact filled piece.  I always like posts with a bit of literary references, and Hullabaloo has one today [Digby].

## Too important to miss, too short for a whole post:  Tapped analysis of Cain’s tenuous grasp on statistics.   What “failed stimulus?”  CBPP points out that the ARRA was better at preventing poverty than we thought.   If you haven’t yet read Felix Salmon’s post on Occupy Wall Street, please consider it highly recommended reading!

##  Scroll down Robert Reich’s post to find the Seven Biggest Economic Lies.  Since the interior link isn’t working, here’s the list:

1. Tax cuts for the rich trickle down to everyone else. Baloney. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush both sliced taxes on the rich and what happened? Most Americans’ wages (measured by the real median wage) began flattening under Reagan and have dropped since George W. Bush. Trickle-down economics is a cruel joke.

2. Higher taxes on the rich would hurt the economy and slow job growth. False. From the end of World War II until 1981, the richest Americans faced a top marginal tax rate of 70 percent or above. Under Dwight Eisenhower it was 91 percent. Even after all deductions and credits, the top taxes on the very rich were far higher than they’ve been since. Yet the economy grew faster during those years than it has since. (Don’t believe small businesses would be hurt by a higher marginal tax; fewer than 2 percent of small business owners are in the highest tax bracket.)

3. Shrinking government generates more jobs. Wrong again. It means fewer government workers – everyone from teachers, fire fighters, police officers, and social workers at the state and local levels to safety inspectors and military personnel at the federal. And fewer government contractors, who would employ fewer private-sector workers. According to Moody’s economist Mark Zandi (a campaign advisor to John McCain), the $61 billion in spending cuts proposed by the House GOP will cost the economy 700,000 jobs this year and next.

4. Cutting the budget deficit now is more important than boosting the economy. Untrue. With so many Americans out of work, budget cuts now will shrink the economy. They’ll increase unemployment and reduce tax revenues. That will worsen the ratio of the debt to the total economy. The first priority must be getting jobs and growth back by boosting the economy. Only then, when jobs and growth are returning vigorously, should we turn to cutting the deficit.

5. Medicare and Medicaid are the major drivers of budget deficits. Wrong. Medicare and Medicaid spending is rising quickly, to be sure. But that’s because the nation’s health-care costs are rising so fast. One of the best ways of slowing these costs is to use Medicare and Medicaid’s bargaining power over drug companies and hospitals to reduce costs, and to move from a fee-for-service system to a fee-for-healthy outcomes system. And since Medicare has far lower administrative costs than private health insurers, we should make Medicare available to everyone.

6. Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. Don’t believe it. Social Security is solvent for the next 26 years. It could be solvent for the next century if we raised the ceiling on income subject to the Social Security payroll tax. That ceiling is now $106,800.

7. It’s unfair that lower-income Americans don’t pay income tax. Wrong. There’s nothing unfair about it. Lower-income Americans pay out a larger share of their paychecks in payroll taxes, sales taxes, user fees, and tolls than everyone else.


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Filed under abortion, Berkley, conservatism, Economy, Heller, Nevada, Nevada politics, Water

>Stimulating A Conversation: ARRA projects in Nevada

>Republicans are having a tough time explaining their positions on the funding of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (AKA Stimulus), especially when speaking of the funds in Nevada as (1) totally ineffectual and “not creating a single job,” or (2) merely “money for Democrats to spend.” The arguments are mutually exclusive. Since the first argument can be dispensed with quickly, [Rec.Gov] let’s proceed to the second.

As of June 30, 2010 Nevada political subdivisions received 854 stimulus fund grants, 278 contracts, and 7 loans. Who spent, or is spending the money? [Rec.Gov] Here are a few selected examples:

$$$ Funding was awarded to the City of West Wendover (Elko County) for the design and construction of an upgrade to the West Wendover Water Reclamation Facility. The upgrade is in the design and approval phases, but seems to have considerable support in the community, if the minutes of the city’s February 2nd council meeting are to be accepted: “Chris Melville explained that this was the change order that would be submitted to NDEP for Phase I of the waste water project. The project total is $634,593.00 with the contribution from the City of $10,000.00. Council Member Gorum made the motion to approve change order #1 with regard to the Water Reclamation Facility Expansion Upgrade, Phase I Headworks. The motion was seconded by Council Member Carter and passed unanimously. […]Chris Melville explained that the only change to the agreement was with the dispute resolution section. Chris stated that USDA has accepted the language from the City Attorney regarding dispute resolution. Council Member Blake made the motion to approve the Waste Water Phase 2 Engineering Services Agreement with Aqua Engineering, Inc. including the City Attorneys language for dispute resolution. The motion was seconded by Council Member Gorum and passed unanimously.” [West Wendover City Council 2/210 minutes]

The money may be allocated by Congress, but it’s being spent by the City of West Wendover, NV, and they are paying attention to the details.

$$$ Went to Boulder City, NV for the rehabilitation of the city’s airport primary runway. To date the project work is almost complete, and minor “punch list” items appear to be the sole leftovers of this Department of Transportation project funded by the Stimulus Bill. [ProRpt]

OK, “Fly Boulder City” isn’t exactly a site to draw those looking for exotic vacations, but it does illustrate a small community proud of its efforts to make general aviation a safe experience, and to highlight improvements it’s trying to make with a $1.25 million award from Stimulus funds. And, about the fencing around the airport? Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) “led the charge in Congress to secure the funding for this project, which otherwise would not have been funded by the FAA. The project includes upgrading substandard fencing along Airport road, installation of missing fencing along the common boundary with the Boulder Creek Golf Course, and repair or replace the southern boundary fence.”

Once more, it’s not generalized ‘Democrats’ who are actually spending the money, in this case it’s the Boulder City Municipal Airport through its governing body.

$$$ Funding for the Carson Water Subconservancy District involved more than a single water project or rehabilitating a municipal airport. “This project is enhancing and protecting the Carson River system, reducing hazardous fuels and providing work opportunities for currently unemployed individuals by: Employing two teams of at least 10 individuals each to conduct the following activities: Map, eradiate and monitor noxious weed infestations. Treatments will include chemical, and biological methods; Re-vegetate areas recovering from recent fires and following weed treatments, where appropriate; Provide fuels reduction where necessary; Conduct river restoration utilizing bio engineering techniques at determined locations; and Plant desirable riparian vegetation for streambank stabilization, decrease noxious weeds and provide shading to aid with water quality challenges.” [ProRpt] There’s a little something for everyone in this stimulus project.

Those in agri-business should be pleased with the noxious weed infestation work. Granted that the control of noxious weeds is the landowner’s responsibility, but public and private land obviously share boundaries — and weeds aren’t known to come to a halt at fence lines. Re-vegetation is a good idea, and we’re reminded of that every fire season. River restoration benefits farmers, ranchers, and sport fishermen alike.

Here again, the Stimulus funds aren’t going to some hypothetical “Democratic” party project, these funds went to the Nevada Department of Agriculture; under the direction of Republican Governor Jim Gibbons.

$$$ Here’s the problem for Republican opponents and naysayers in regard to the Stimulus funds in Nevada: It’s very easy to pontificate about “guv’mint spending” and generalize about “waste and abuse.” It’s much more difficult to tell the people in West Wendover that their water reclamation project is a worthless boondoggle of no benefit to anyone. It’s much more difficult to tell the residents of Boulder City they should stop whining about the big cracks in the asphalt on their primary municipal airport runway, and just expect a few bounces on take off and landing. It’s much more difficult to tell farmers and ranchers that if they have problems with Cheat Grass they are on their own; to tell local fire agencies that they ought to do their own fuel reduction projects; and, to tell sport fishermen that stream stabilization isn’t important — just take your tourist dollars elsewhere.

Senate Republicans have been quite vocal about wanting to divert ARRA funds to any additional projects and purposes suggested. The problem is simple, and is illustrated by these three examples — West Wendover is barely getting started on their water upgrade project (if their ARRA funds are diverted they are left holding empty promises), Boulder City is well on the way to getting its airport repaired (diverting funds would mean the project wouldn’t get completed), and the Carson Water Subconservancy District has an ongoing project which would have to come to a halt were its funds diverted. These aren’t hypothetical or theoretical projects — they are very real, very important to local communities, and very much under the direction of the people who are actually spending the money — the local and state governments.

Next time a politician offers that “We ought to just shut down the Stimulus projects!” refer to the list of Nevada programs and projects and ask, “Which ones, exactly, would you like to shut down, and why?”


Filed under ARRA, Invasive Species, Water

>Great Basin Water Network Wins One Round: SNWA’s Rural Water Grab

>The Great Basin Water Network issued this press release today, reprinted here in its entirety:

“The Nevada Supreme Court today issued an opinion striking a serious blow to the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s planned rural Nevada water grab, effectively sending the pipeline project back to the beginning of the State Engineer’s hearing process.

Dozens of rural Nevada landowners joined nonprofit groups, including the Great Basin Water Network and Defenders of Wildlife, in arguing before the Court that they were unfairly excluded from being able to protest the original groundwater applications filed by the Las Vegas water agency in 1989. SNWA, Las Vegas’ water provider, and the Nevada Water Engineer then waited more than fifteen years before taking the applications up for consideration, despite Nevada state law’s requirement that applications must be decided within one year.

By that time, many of the original Protestors had died or moved away from the area, and many others who would be affected by the decision had moved into rural Nevada.

The Court’s decision sends the case back to state District Court, to make a determination as to whether SNWA must re-file its 1989 applications for hundreds of wells throughout rural Nevada, or whether the State Engineer must re-notice the applications, opening the process up to new protests and new rounds of hearings on SNWA’s old groundwater applications.

“This is a very important decision, and a home run for the public,” said Nevada conservationist and Great Basin Water Network coordinator Rose Strickland. “The Supreme Court followed Nevada water law. If we follow the law and the science, there will be no misguided pipeline threatening the environment and economies of rural Nevada and Utah.”

Simeon Herskovits of Advocates for Community and Environment, lead attorney for the diverse coalition that brought this case, said the decision shows that everyone and even powerful municipal agencies have to follow the law.

“This unanimous decision from the Nevada Supreme Court strikes a blow in favor of clear, evenhanded application of Nevada law across the board,” Herskovits said. “The Court’s ruling clearly and forcefully affirms that powerful agencies like SNWA are not above the law that binds the rest of the citizenry, and that the State Engineer cannot arbitrarily give such agencies a pass on the law’s requirements.” Officials and residents of rural Nevada also hailed the decision.

“Not only ranchers and farmers, but all Nevada water rights owners and citizens should celebrate this ruling,” said White Pine County rancher Dean Baker, “because it upholds the right of ordinary citizens – and not just the power brokers – to participate meaningfully in important water rights decisions and reaffirms the duty of government to provide ordinary citizens with a fair opportunity to participate in those public decision-making processes.”

Gary Perea, a White Pine County commissioner, urged the Nevada State Engineer to withdraw his now-suspect earlier decisions on the SNWA applications and begin the process anew. Further, he said the federal environmental review process, which is ongoing, should be halted given that the Supreme Court’s ruling places water availability into question.

“This underscores so many of the procedural problems and inadequacies of SNWA’s process,” Perea said Thursday. “The agency either needs to go back to the beginning and do this right, with consideration of those who would be affected by the pipeline, or simply abandon the scheme and work to make Las Vegas sustainable with existing water sources and greater conservation.”

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>Nevada Gains Law Enforcement Personnel from COPS Bill, Research Assistance From Water Legislation


The passage of H.R. 1139 (COPS Improvements Act of 2009) authorized $1.8 billion for community oriented policing services over the next five years, and according to Representative Shelley Berkley (D-NV1) will have an impact on law enforcement jobs in southern Nevada. The COPS grants for Nevada will help fund up to 187 new police officers for Las Vegas and other Nevada cities “at a time with budgets are extremely tight and some types of crime are on the rise.” The bill also reinstitutes the Troops to Cops program that was allowed to lapse in 2005. Technology grants will also be available to allow local police agencies to purchase equipment such as lap top computers for patrol cars, crime mapping software, and inter-operable communications equipment. (Berkley Press Release 4/24/09)

Water, Water….” Representative Dina Titus (D-NV3) comments on the House floor:

My language in this Manager’s amendment directs the interagency committee established in the bill to work to improve water prediction models and their applications, including analysis of variations in natural supply, watershed hydrology, human and ecological demand, and infrastructure. “As we celebrate Earth Day this week, it’s important that we recognize that water has become, and will continue to be, a significant limiting resource for the western United States. It is vital that we fully understand the current distribution of this resource while also being able to accurately predict the impacts of future conditions like growth and climate change on its availability. Accurate predictions about the availability of water resources will help our communities as they work to ensure businesses and families have access to a clean, safe, and adequate water supply. Our drinking and wastewater utilities are required to plan for a number of long-term uncertainties. In order to successfully plan and adapt to change, much more focused, applied research must be done.” And not a moment too soon as the Las Vegas Sun reports Lake Mead could hit its lowest levels since 1965.

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Filed under Berkley, Titus, Water