Newspaper swallows power company’s bogus net-metering claims

When they are right, they are right. When they are wrong, they are wrong.

For the second time in a matter of weeks the Las Vegas newspaper used its editorial page to criticize the state for propping up the rooftop solar power industry with tax credits and subsidies and favorable rate structures.

They are right. The rooftop industry would never have gotten off the ground without generous subsidies and tax credits and even then the systems would not have penciled out for homeowners if they were not allowed to deduct from their monthly bills the number of kilowatt-hours uploaded to the grid — which is called net-metering.

It never should have happened but it did.

But they are wrong to swallow NV Energy’s bogus claim that somehow those who do not own rooftop solar are subsidizing those who do. It is also wrong to “take” the property value of those who were persuaded to install rooftop systems with their own money but are now told they can never recoup their investment because the state regulators changed their minds.

“Indeed, NV Energy was paying rooftop solar power generators 11.5 cents per kilowatt hour for excess energy, more than twice as much as the utility company paid for energy on the open market (4.4 cents per kWh),” the Review-Journal editorializes, failing to note that 4.4 cents is the 24-hour average but that solar panels generate extra power during the peak period when rates can easily exceed 30 cents per kWh. Nor do they note that NV Energy has contracts to pay more than 13 cents per kWh for industry scale solar power.

NV Energy has even set up Time of Use (TOU) rate schedules that its customers may choose to opt into. That’s what smart meters are for. Under one payment schedule a residential customer in the summer would pay 36 cents a kWh during peak hours but only 6 cents during off-peak hours. Another schedule with different parameters would charge 50 cents a kWh during summer peak.

Today’s editorial concludes without so much as a blush of self-awareness, “Nevada is well into the race to provide businesses with incentives, chasing and being chased by other states eager to do the same. But the state would better serve its citizens by getting out of economic development altogether and halting the subsidization of private enterprises that will compete against companies that aren’t subsidized.”

I don’t recall the R-J expressing indignation at the handouts for Tesla Motors and Faraday Futures, merely a couple of cautionary notes and calls for vigilance and transparency.

I do seem to recall a recent editorial praising the use of public money to build a stadium backed by the paper’s new owner Sheldon Adelson. There is a story in today’s edition stressing that the funding model isn’t final, though it still lists the public funding as covering 65 percent of cost.

There also is a story about the state doling out grants to build recharging stations for electric cars, for which the power would be free for five years. The state just can’t stop.

Today’s editorial is based on the NV Energy calculation that solar panel owners have been avoiding paying their fair share of infrastructure costs — to the tune of about $52 a month.

The Public Utilities Commission answer to this specious claim was to triple connection fees for those on net-metering and slash to less than 3 cents the compensation for uploading a kWh of electricity. They are now contemplating grandfathering existing net-metering customers for 20 years, as the R-J reports today. California recently grandfathered existing solar customers, as have other states. Of course, this will do nothing to renew the rooftop solar installation companies who have laid off workers and stopped doing business in Nevada.

But The Alliance for Solar Choice begs to differ. In a PUC filing, the group claims NV Energy failed to adequately take into account the value of exported energy during peak hours, which reduces the need for additional power generation and capital costs.

TASC calculates that each residential solar panel owner provides a net benefit of $12.08 per month to NV Energy and does not require a subsidy of $52 a month. (TASC subsidy filing)

File photo accompanying today’s R-J editorial online.

 

 

Who in the GOP field of candidates will survive the wilds of New Hampshire?

On Tuesday New Hampshire voters go to the polls to nominate candidates for the two major political parties for the presidency.

After the smoke clears there will be casualties in the Republican field, just as after Iowa, meaning choices should be fewer by the time Nevadans and South Carolinians head to the polls, starting Feb. 20 and beyond. (Nevada Dems caucus Feb. 20 and GOP on Feb. 23. S.C.’s GOP primary is Feb. 20, while Dems primary is Feb. 27.)

After Iowa, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum bailed.

In New Hampshire, Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are leading in that order, according to Real Clear Politics, though John Kasich is a close fourth.

Since New Hampshire is a primary state — unlike Iowa which held caucuses in which people actually got to talk to each other perhaps changing minds, possibly resulting in the polls being wrong about Trump winning — the polls might be more reflective of the outcome in N.H. without the arm twisting.

The odds are that the odd men and women out after N.H. will be Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie and/or Carly Fiorina.

Obviously, though Bernie Sanders handily leads Hillary Clinton in N.H. and virtually tied in Iowa, there is no chance of either exiting early.

All the polls were conducted prior to Saturday’s GOP debate and the Sunday talking head shows, so those events may cause some movement of choices.

Another factor is that 40 percent of the voters in N.H. are independents, but the state allows them to vote in either primary. That could throw a wrench into cogs if there is a — pardon the oxymoron — organized chaos effort, reminiscent of Rush Limbaugh’s Operation Chaos.

The pundits say second-place runner Rubio got beat up pretty good in the debate and Trump got hit pretty hard by Bush on the issue of eminent domain, while Kasich tried to appeal to moderates and Cruz stuck to his standard topics. Fiorina did not even get on the stage.

Trump stole the headlines on Monday by going on TV and upping the ante on his waterboarding braggadocio from the debate in which he said, “I would bring back waterboarding. And I would bring back a hell of a lot worse.”

On TV, Trump said, “I had in mind going worse than waterboarding. It’s enough. We have right now a country that’s under siege. It’s under siege from a people, from — we’re like living in medieval times. If I have it to do and if it’s up to me, I would absolutely bring back waterboarding. And if it’s going to be tougher than waterboarding, I would bring that back, too.”

George Stephanopoulos later asked, “Do we win by being more like them?”

To which Trump replied, “Yes. I’m sorry. You have to do it that way. And I’m not sure everybody agrees with me. I guess a lot of people don’t. We are living in a time that’s as evil as any time that there has ever been. You know, when I was a young man, I studied medieval times. That’s what they did, they chopped off heads. So we’re going …” not quite saying out loud that he would authorize beheadings when Stephanopoulos interrupted.

How will that sit with N.H. voters?

Meanwhile, here are the latest polling numbers from Real Clear Politics:

Nevada GOP

NV GOP

Nevada Dem

NV Dem jpg

N.H. GOP

GOP NH jpg

N.H. Dem

RCP NH Demjpg

S.C. GOP

SC GOPjpg

S.C. Dem

SC Demjpg

 

 

 

 

 

Who, oh who will the UAW back for president?

The Daily Caller reports that the United Auto Workers union is surveying membership as to which Democratic presidential candidate to endorse, but there reportedly is considerable indecision.

UAW President Dennis Williams told the Detroit Free Press. “I think right now, people are conflicted. I think right now people are watching with interest what the candidates are saying,”

Should they back progressive Hillary are socialist Bernie?

Perhaps they should consider the guy who has been lambasting and boycotting the Oreos cookie maker for expanding its bakeries in Mexico — none other than Donald Trump.

Ford has decided to build a new assembly plant in Mexico, according to The Wall Street Journal today, increasing its Mexico production of vehicles and investing and additional $1 billion there.

It seems the decision comes hard on the heels of a new contract with the UAW that increases wages. The newspaper says salaries in Mexico are one-fifth of those in the U.S. UAW wages are expected to reach nearly $30 an hour in the next few, with wages for some newer employees increasing by $10 an hour.

Assembly line in Mexico (Bloomberg photo via WSJ)

 

 

Editorial: Where the presidential candidates stand on public land issues

Basin and Range National Monument (R-J photo)

With the Nevada presidential caucuses just weeks away we are offering readers a glimpse into the stances of the candidates on a key issue — federal public lands control.

For the Democrats there is not much choice.

Bernie Sanders has not taken a stance on letting states and counties have a greater say in public land use, but he has called for raising grazing fees and prohibiting logging and oil drilling on public land.

Hillary Clinton during a press conference in Las Vegas a couple of months ago said the country should preserve federal public lands and add even more.

“We certainly should not be giving in to this ideological argument from the right that we need to put more public lands into private hands,” she exclaimed. “I don’t agree with that.”

On the Republican side, most have called for some level of privatization of federal lands.

The exception is Donald Trump, who was asked at a gun show in Las Vegas recently about whether he would support relinquishing federal land control to states.

“I don’t like the idea because I want to keep the lands great, and you don’t know what the state is going to do,” he replied. “I mean, are they going to sell if they get into a little bit of trouble? And I don’t think it’s something that should be sold.”

While John Kasich has been silent on the topic all the other Republican candidates have expressed some degree of favor for transferring control to states and/or privatizing.

As a senator from Texas Ted Cruz voted in favor of an amendment to facilitate the transfer of public lands to the states. In 2014 he also offered an amendment to a bill that would have prohibited the federal government from owning more than 50 percent of the land in any state.

Rand Paul has also said federal lands should be transferred to the states. He has met with Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy and expressed sympathy for his plight.

“You run into problems now with the federal government being, you know, this bully — this big huge government bully,” Paul has said. As a Kentucky senator he introduced a bill to give states more power under the Endangered Species Act. It failed.

Like both Cruz and Paul, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio supported an amendment to facilitate the transfer and sale of public lands.

He also backed transferring control of federal energy resources to the states. “This common sense bill will empower states to develop our domestic energy resources responsibly and effectively,” Rubio said. “Ensuring states have more authority in our nation’s energy development will help keep energy costs low, create jobs and grow our economy.”

Businesswoman Carly Fiorina in a recent newspaper interview said, “The federal government does a lousy job of managing forests. The private sector does a much better job of managing forests. The federal government controls too much land in this country.”

Retired surgeon Ben Carson also has expressed the need to allow more local control of the lands. “We the people of the United States are the only ones capable of preventing uncontrolled government expansion and abuse,” Carson wrote in a column in the conservative National Review. “Like the ranchers in Nevada, Americans must find the courage and determination to maintain a free and vibrant nation.”

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, during a speech in Nevada, said he favored more development of oil and gas exploration on federal lands. “One of the real challenges in the western states is that energy in those areas is often not able to be explored,” he said.

Huckabee also said something is wrong when the federal government can put “a gun in a citizen’s face and threaten to shoot him” over a cow eating grass.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has called for moving the headquarters of the Interior Department to the West.

“I think these lands have to be managed in a true partnership,” Bush said during a speech in Reno in October, noting that public lands “should be viewed as something that creates economic activity, can create cultural values, create wins for citizens and residents of the West.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, while not addressing directly privatization of federal land, has been a strong advocate of privatizing public services such as parks in his state.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has supported transferring or privatizing public lands. “We need to get it back into the hands of the states and even to the private sector,” Santorum told an Idaho newspaper. “And we can make money doing it.”

A version of this editorial appeared this past week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record. It ran as a column in the Elko Daily Free Press.

Strange day at a strange place

New editor of R-J, J. Keith Moyer, with interim editor Glenn Cook looking on.

May you work at an interesting place. A curse? Or a blessing?

At noon Friday the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported online that the new publisher had named a new editor. This was an hour after two of the paper’s reporters had tweeted the news with photos of the new editor in the courtyard introducing himself and six minutes after the “competition” Las Vegas Sun posted the news online.

A half hour later, the R-J posted online an editorial endorsement of Marco Rubio for the Republican nomination for the presidency. This included a rather odd disclaimer:

The RJ met with Sen. Rubio on Oct. 9, two months before the announcement of the newspaper’s sale to the family of Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. The Adelsons have detached themselves from our endorsement process, and our endorsement of Sen. Rubio does not represent the support of the family.

Since when has anyone known Adelson to detach himself from anything?

Though the endorsement is online, it has not been published in print, which will probably come in the more widely circulated Sunday edition. Why it was published before the new editor could shake the Minnesota snowflakes from his hair is another oddity.

On Oct. 12 Politico published a story about Rubio courting Adelson for his support, phoning him several times a month to update him on his campaign. Rubio met with Adelson during that Las Vegas visit and Politico described Adelson as “leaning increasingly toward supporting Marco Rubio …”

It also stated, “Adelson, seated at the head of his conference table, heaped praise on Rubio’s performance while he discussed the dynamics of the 2016 race. Those briefed on the meeting described it as short but said it had an air of importance …”

On Jan. 10 The Hill reported, “Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson has joked privately that he belongs to a divided household: He likes Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and his wife Miriam likes Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.”

The story reports that Adelson and his wife spent nearly $100 million supporting Republicans in 2012, a chunk of it going to Newt Gingrich.

Despite the claim of detachment, most of the headlines about the endorsement of Rubio made note of the fact Adelson owns the newspaper.

As for the new editor, J. Keith Moyer — senior fellow in the University of Minnesota’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication for the past five years and president and publisher of the Minneapolis Star Tribune from 2001 to 2007 and editor for Gannett and McClatchy — there is a surprisingly small online footprint.

A search for “by J. Keith Moyer” turns up a laudatory review of a book by former Star Tribune editor Tim McGuire, who I know from American Society of Newspaper Editors conventions, and a recommendation for cocktail onions.

There is a rather disquieting report online by a former desk editor who worked with Moyer in Fresno and claims Moyer killed stories about the troubled Fresno State basketball team coached by Jerry Tarkanian and expressed a willingness to bury ledes to curry favor with local government.

Here’s to interesting times at an interesting place to work.

 

 

Krauthammer sums up the incoherent barstool eruptions of Trump

You can probably wait and read it Sunday in the Las Vegas newspaper, but why wait?

Charles Krauthammer’s column in today’s Investor’s Business Daily offers his take on the three-way race for the GOP coming out of the Iowa caucus.

Though the theme of the column is bemoaning the media’s obsession with whether the various candidates are establishment or anti-establishment, his best lines describe the clueless meanderings of Donald Trump:

(Ted) Cruz may be anti-establishment but he’s a principled conservative, while Trump has no coherent political philosophy, no core beliefs, at all. Trump offers barstool eruptions and whatever contradictory “idea” pops into his head at the time, such as “humane” mass deportation, followed by mass amnesty when the immigrants are returned to the United States.

That’s the reason his harebrained ideas — barring all Muslims from entering the country, a 45% tariff on Chinese goods, government-provided universal health care through “a deal with existing hospitals to take care of people” (why didn’t I think of that?) — have received such relatively little scrutiny. No one takes them seriously. His actual platform is all persona — the wonders that will emanate from his own self-proclaimed strength, toughness, brilliance, money, his very yugeness.

I have no idea what yugeness is either but an online search turns up a number of references to the term describing Trump or his crowds of glazed-eyed followers.

Krauthammer concludes that, despite the “establishment” wrangling and mangling, Republicans are picking conservatism over Trump’s brand of populism by 2 to 1 — when you add Marco Rubio and Cruz’s vote tally of 51 percent and compare that to Trump’s 24 percent — which he says bodes well for the GOP’s chances of survival as the party of Reagan

Ben Carson, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz at a recent debate. (Polaris/Newscom photo via IBD)

Newspaper column: Governor offers a way to save sage grouse and mining

Gov. Brian Sandoval is imploring the Interior Department to accept a state-created alternative to its proposed draconian plan to remove millions of acres of federal public land from productive use — specifically mining — as a way of paying lip service to saving greater sage grouse habitat.

In September the federal agency declined to list the bird under the Endangered Species Act and instead issued land use plans that bar mineral exploration and development on nearly 3 million acres within Nevada and restricts grazing and public access on a total of 16 million acres in the state.

Greater sage grouse (Rawlins Daily Times via AP)

On Jan. 15, Sandoval sent a letter to Neil Kornze, director of the Bureau of Land Management, which is a division of Interior and the agency overseeing the bulk of federal public lands in the state, asking him to accept a state proposal that would essentially swap parcels of land to be protected. Instead of restricting mining on 555,000 acres as the federal land use plan outlines, the state plan would restrict mining on 394,000 acres, but the swap would protect an additional 44 active sage grouse leks, as breeding grounds are called. The swap also could free up as many as 3,700 existing mining claims.

The governor warned in a press release this past week that failure to negotiate in good faith would result in his administration pursuing legal options.

Such a legal option is already being pursued, though the governor has insisted it is premature. The state, nine counties, three mining companies and a ranch have filed suit in federal court to block the land use plan.

A Reno federal judge refused to grant an injunction but a trail could take place this summer.

In his letter, Sandoval argues that the grouse protection restrictions would have serious economic impact on the Nevada economy and jobs.

A single lithium mining project in Humboldt County is estimated to have a direct economic impact of $2.5 billion over the life of the project and indirect impact of $3.4 billion, while creating 9,000 person-years of employment and half a billion dollars in salaries. State and local tax revenues are expected to exceed $100 million.

Lithium is used to make lithium-ion batteries used in electric and hybrid cars. The Tesla Motors/Panasonic battery manufacturing plant near Sparks is expected to consume a huge amount of lithium.

“I believe the proposed land withdrawal will not be able to show any measurable results except for the demise of the mineral exploration industry in Nevada,” Sandoval pointedly states. “The urgency to implement the withdrawal proposal prior to conducting the proper analysis needed to evaluate the efficacy of the action and socio-economic impact of the action is unclear,” adding that the agencies involved have “provided no science or analysis at any level to support the rationale” for excluding mining operations.

As for the threats to sage grouse habitat, Sandoval notes, as he has repeatedly in the past, that wild horse overpopulation, invasive species and huge wildfires that consume hundreds of thousands of acres at a time pose a far more significant danger to the grouse than mining, but little, if anything, is being done about those threats.

Additionally, there is relatively little reliable information on just how threatened the grouse population really is. Sandoval’s letter notes one major grouse habitat region nearly doubled in population during a recent three-year period.

Though Interior Secretary Sally Jewell stated that valid existing mining claims are exempt from any withdrawals, the governor points out that the definition of such valid claims cannot be found in the Federal Register. There is a question as to whether unpatented mining claims — on which millions of dollars in annual fees have been paid but the claims are not yet worked — will be classified as valid existing claims. Sandoval said this needs to be clarified.

In a press release this past week, Sandoval described his proposal as a win-win. “The proposal detailed in the state’s response delivers a ‘win-win’ solution in an effort to achieve the mutual goals of preserving our thriving mining industry, protecting the sage-grouse and enhancing its habitat and maintaining our state’s vast potential for future economic development opportunities. With the correct plan and management Nevada’s mining industry, the sage-grouse, and future economic development can all coexist and flourish in the Silver State,” he wrote.

BLM Nevada spokesman Stephen Clutter told The Associated Press, “We will certainly give serious consideration to these ideas as well as the other scoping comments we have received.”

That would be a change from past behavior.

A version of this column appears this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel, the Lincoln County Record and the Sparks Tribune — and the Elko Daily Free Press.