When Gov. Brian Sandoval signed his first executive order after taking office — one freezing proposed regulations as a means to foster economic growth — he should have gone one step further. He should have given Nevada’s myriad boards, commissions, committee and sundry satraps the power of summary judgment, the power to stamp out a regulatory scheme in its nascency.
That would have prevented an hour-long hearing in front of dozens of appointed commissioners, paid staffers, assorted lobbyists and a handful of ordinary citizens, if any. Atop that it would have saved countless man-hours of legal and technical research in preparation for the hearing by highly compensated state employees.
On Thursday the State Environmental Commission addressed item No. 5 on its lengthy agenda, a petition from a group called Kids vs. Global Warming, an organization started by a 15-year-old high school sophomore in Ventura, Calif. The petition asked the SEC to enact rules “to limit fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions and to establish an emissions reduction strategy that would achieve atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide no greater than 350 parts per million by the year 2100.” The current level is said to be 390 ppm.
It was a 50-page document replete with hundreds of footnotes, charts, graphs, photographs and authorities. It projected doom, gloom and the catastrophic end of civilization as we know it. The petition called for, starting in January 2013, statewide fossil fuel reductions of 6 percent per year. This would, of course, require annual reports and tracking and a huge bureaucracy capable of fining or shutting down violators.
The case for this massive absurdity was presented by Dan Galpern, attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center who said he was representing Kids vs. Global Warming and Our Children’s Trust.
“Failure to act with speed and intelligence will result in catastrophe, including excelerated global heating, increasing drought, increasing extreme weather events driven by increased atmospheric moisture content, sea level rise unsurpassed in the last 800,000 years and widespread agricultural failures,” Galpern predicted.
He offered the legal argument — called the public trust doctrine — that failure to act would amount to “unjust usurpation of our children’s right to a habitable environment.” (Maybe they should apply that legal argument to the national debt.)
After that came the parade of lobbyists.
There was Peter Krueger, representing petroleum marketers, who said there are so many unknowns on the topic of greenhouse gas emissions that for Nevada to act alone would contribute nothing to the reduction of GHG.
Then came Doug Busselman, representing Nevada Farmers, who questioned the “science” of global warming and called the state-by-state regulatory scheme a publicity stunt and said it would lead to destruction of our economic viability — whatever is left of that, my words, not his.
Representing Nevada miners was Allen Biaggi, who called the public trust doctrine obscure and relatively undefined common law. He further noted there was no indication how much such a regulation would cost, which is required of any such petition. Biaggi also noted that Gov. Jim Gibbons appointed an environmental impact committee in 2007. The committee and its subcommittees held 28 meetings. The committee, he said, found that an environmental initiative must be balanced against social and economic cost.
Next came Thomas Woodworth on behalf of NV Energy as its environmental counsel. He argued that the SEC lacks legal authority to act on the petition.
Woodworth pointed out NV Energy has contracted to buy wind power from a project in Spring Valley, on which ground was broken that same day. He did not point out the contracted price for that wind power is more than double what the company would pay for power from a natural gas-fired generator — speaking of balancing economic cost.
Ray Bacon stood up for the state manufacturers. He noted the petition makes no mention of water vapor, which is a byproduct of fossil fuel combustion and should be taken into consideration. He drew a laugh and an endorsement from someone in the room when he suggested we should start by experimenting with a carbon-free zone for five years inside the Beltway in Washington, D.C.
A deputy attorney general, Rose Marie Reynolds, told the SEC panel they could not merely accept or deny the petition but had to express a reason for doing so.
After one commissioner pointed out a lack of specificity on costs and another questioned the science, Commission Chairman Jim Gans added that acting on the petition would fly in the face of the governor’s aforementioned executive order.
With that the commission voted unanimously to deny the Kids vs. Global Warming petition. So much carbon dioxide exhaled, so many tax dollars squandered, so little accomplished.
And we still don’t yet know how many pin-headed environmentalists can dance atop a specious legal argument.