Subcommittee of energy task force agrees rooftop solar panel rates should be grandfathered

Perhaps there is hope for rooftop solar panel owners yet to save their investments.

According to an article posted on the Las Vegas Sun’s website Thursday afternoon, but not deemed worthy of being printed today, the Governor’s New Energy Industry Task Force Technical Advisory Committee on Distributed Generation and Storage agreed in principle to allow current residential solar panel owners’ rates to be grandfathered until 2035.

The agenda for the meeting of that panel Thursday included a presentation by solar panel installer SolarCity and discussion of the value of distributed solar generation, as well as a review of alternatives to the net metering rates passed by the Public Utilities Commission at the beginning of the year.

The PUC voted to “transition” to new net metering rates over 12 years and eventually increase the connection fee for solar panel customers from $12.75 to $38.51 a month and cut the credit for power uploaded to the grid from 11 cents per kWh to 2.6 cents — to the point some solar panels owners could be paying more for power than neighbors without solar panels.

The PUC swallowed NV Energy’s bogus argument that it is paying rooftop solar power generators 11 cents per kWh for excess energy, which is more than twice the 4.4 cents per kWh the utility company pays for energy on the open market. But that 4.4 cents is the 24-hour average. Solar panels generate extra power during the peak period when rates can easily exceed 30 cents per kWh.

The Sun article said Thursday’s agreement is a first step toward possible legislation repeal of the PUC action, so any change probably won’t come until June 2017 at the close of the legislative session in Carson City.

SolarCity told the panel that it plans to release a report in the coming weeks showing that solar panel owners are not being subsidized by non-panel owners to the tune of $52 a month, as NV Energy contends, but rather benefit all ratepayers by at least two cents per kWh.

In February, The Alliance for Solar Choice told the PUC that each residential solar panel owner provides a net benefit of $12.08 per month to NV Energy customers.

The technical panel is to continue discussion of the topic at a May 18 meeting.


Newspaper column: A little GOP schooling: Do the math, read the history

Trump and Cruz (Getty Images)

Donald Trump keeps throwing temper tantrums like a spoiled school boy, complaining the system is rigged and crooked and he is being robbed of votes.

“You’re going to have a very, very angry and upset group of people at the convention,” Trump said at an event in Staten Island, N.Y., after Ted Cruz swept the Republican caucuses in Colorado and Wyoming by having the audacity to actually campaign there, unlike Trump. “I hope it doesn’t involve violence, and I’m not suggesting that. I hope it doesn’t involve violence and I don’t think it will. But I will say this: it’s a rigged system, it’s a crooked system, it’s 100 percent crooked.”

After the Colorado outcome was announced a petulant Trump tweeted, “The people of Colorado had their vote taken away from them by the phony politicians. Biggest story in politics. This will not be allowed!”

Want to know what’s rigged? It is the winner-take-all primaries and caucuses.

As of the beginning of this week, Trump had won about 40 percent of the GOP votes cast, but had collected 49 percent of the delegates committed to the top four Republican presidential candidates — Trump, Cruz, John Katich and Marco Rubio.

In New York, Trump got 60 percent of the votes cast, but 94 percent of the delegates.

In Missouri, Trump beat Cruz by just 0.2 percentage points — 40.9 percent to 40.7, — but Trump gets 37 of the delegates to Cruz’s 15.

One person, one vote? But them’s the rules and no one else is mewling like Trump.

After New York, Cruz was mathematically eliminated from having any chance of reaching the 1,237 delegates needed to win on the first ballot at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July. Trump has a chance to reach that number but the odds are long.

As if all his other whining weren’t unseemly enough, Trump is taking umbrage with the party rules that set that magic number of 1,237. He told CNN several weeks ago, “I think we’ll win before getting to the convention, but if we didn’t and we’re 20 votes short, or we’re, you know, a hundred short, and we’re at 1,100 and somebody else is at 500 or 400, ’cause we’re way ahead of everybody, I don’t think you can say we don’t get it automatically. I think you’d have riots.”

 Scottie Nell Hughes, a part of Trump’s campaign, told CNN: “The majority, the plurality, the people, the majority of the population have voted for Mr. Trump. … So you know, riots aren’t necessarily a bad thing if it means we’re fighting the fact that our establishment Republican party has gone corrupt and decided to ignore the voice of the people and ignore the process.”

Oh? If you can’t do the math, can you read the history?

Return with us now to the thrilling days of the second Republican National Convention in Chicago in 1860.

Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” sets the scene: “The convention finally settled down and the balloting began. Two hundred thirty-three votes would decide the Republican presidential nomination. The roll call opened with the New England states, which had been considered solidly for (William) Seward. In fact, a surprising number of votes went for (Abraham) Lincoln, as well as a scattering for (Salmon) Chase.”

At the end of the first ballot, the delegate vote tally stood at Seward 173 1/2; Lincoln 102; Chase 49; Edwin Bates 48.

That meant Seward had almost 47 percent of the delegates to Lincoln’s mere 27 percent and Chase and Bates stood at 13 points each.

As it stood at the beginning of the week for just the four top candidates, Trump has 49 percent of delegates chosen so far to Cruz’s 32 percent, while Rubio has 10 percent and Kasich 9 percent. Cruz had more backers than Lincoln did.

In Chicago in 1860 on the second ballot a number of Chase and Bates supporters switched to Lincoln, but Seward still led by three-and-a-half votes, but still shy of 233. Only on the third ballot did Lincoln muster a majority.

That, according to history, is how a convention works. No riots.

As for the inevitability of Trump, thus far only 6 percent of all the registered voters in the United States have cast a ballot for Trump — hardly a mandate.

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

Update: After five states voting Tuesday Donald Trump has 954 delegates, while everyone else has 959.

Orwell was right: Control the words, control the thoughts

When you control the language, you are closer to controlling the argument.

The press lexicon all across the state of Nevada has settled on calling Republicans who voted in the 2015 legislative session for Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval’s $1.5 billion tax hike — at least it now $1.5 billion instead of $1.1 billion as it was wrongly called for so long — “moderate” and “traditional” Republicans, while those who are challenging them in the GOP primary in June are “conservative” Republicans, which I thought was a redundancy.

What is moderate or traditional about passing the largest tax increase in state history, while doing absolutely nothing to rein in spending, not even repealing the prevailing wage law that jacks up the price of every public works project in the state by as much as 40 percent, as well as no public pension or collective bargaining reforms?

George Orwell wrote in 1946:

A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous …

Sadly, the mislabeling is not the only problem, as one of the “moderate” Republicans notes in today’s newspaper account of this issue, “But when you go knock on doors, few souls even know that there was a tax vote or that taxes had been increased at any level.”

Both sides of the GOP split are predicting primary victories, but the Democrats are claiming they will regain a majority of the Assembly in November, making it all for naught.

Republican Assemblyman Brent Jones, said to be leading a group of primary challenges to Republicans who supported tax hikes. (R-J file photo)

Editorial: Let the political parties choose their candidates without the state’s interference

A change in election law in the 2015 Legislature has some claiming they are being disenfranchised.

Previously, when the state-run Democratic and Republican primaries resulted in only one of the two major parties having contested primaries, the top two vote earners in the contested primary would advance to the November General Election or, if only two candidates sought a seat, there would be no primary and both would be on the November ballot.

But Senate Bill 499 changed the law to now read: “If a major political party has two or more candidates for a particular office, the person who receives the highest number of votes at the primary election must be declared the nominee of that major political party for the office.”

Thus, for example, if there are only Republicans seeking an office, one of them is the party nominee and appears on the ballot in November, leaving Democrats and independents and those of the minor parties in the district little choice save the one Republican Party members handed them.

The bill also moved back the deadline for independent and minor party candidates to qualify for the General Election from June to July, so a Democrat could still file as an independent but not as a nominee of the party.

In one state Senate race and three Assembly races there are candidates on the June 14 primary for only one of the two major political parties, according to press accounts.

The change in law creates some different dynamics.

Take for example Assembly District 19, which includes Mesquite. Incumbent Republican Assemblyman Chris Edwards is being challenged in the primary by Republican Connie Foust. Only 39 percent of the district is Republican.

Edwards has the distinction of voting for most of the $1.4 billion in tax hikes in 2015 before voting against them.

Conceivably Edwards would have a better chance of re-election if he faced Foust in a General Election with Democrats and others also voting rather than in a GOP-only primary.

Foust is thumping on the tax issue in her campaign against Edwards. “The current incumbent broke his promise when he said, ‘Now is not the time to raise taxes’, and then proceeded to vote for tax increases in 26 out of 32 tax bills!” Foust’s campaign website declares.

Similar dynamics could be a factor in other races and alter the outcome of the election.

As originally introduced SB499 was a weird form of open primary. All candidates of all parties would have appeared on a single primary ballot and the top two vote recipients would advance to the general, unless they both were of the same party.

As signed into law by Gov. Brian Sandoval the gutted bill now just changes minor party and independent candidate filing deadlines and allows only one Democrat or one Republican to advance to November.

This is why some are saying they are being disenfranchised by having limited choices.

Frankly, lawmakers are the last people who should be telling the parties how to choose their candidates. The parties are private entities that should choose their candidates in any way they see fit — privately funded caucuses, primaries, smoke-filled backrooms or “American Idol”-style voting via text message or arm-wrestling competition.

The state doesn’t conduct primaries for the Libertarian, American Independent, Green or Communist parties, why do it for just two?

Not only is the U.S. Constitution silent on political parties, our Founders were actually disdainful of political parties.

Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1789, “I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever, in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else, where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent. If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all.”

“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other,” John Adams wrote in 1780. “This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”

Let the parties choose their candidates without lawmakers dabbling in the process.

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.

Nevada primary voting in 2014 (R-J photo)

Newspaper column: Federal judge should disarm the Grouseketeers

In order to meet a judicially imposed deadline, in September Interior Secretary Sally Jewell declared that the greater sage grouse — whose habitat stretches across 23 million acres in 11 Western states, including much of Nevada — would not be listed under the Endangered Species Act, but instead imposed a federal land use plan restricting beneficial economic activity in order to protect the bird.

The Fish and Wildlife Service, a division of the Interior, stated in a 341-page announcement that 10 million acres of public land — nearly a third of that in Nevada — would be taken out of consideration for future mining claims, as well as oil and gas drilling near breeding grounds and there would be additional reviews on grazing permits.

Elko and Eureka counties and two mining companies filed suit in federal court in Reno the next day, calling the plan “arbitrary, capricious and unlawful.”

Greater sage grouse (BLM photo)

Since then the state of Nevada, seven more counties, another mining company and a ranch have joined the litigation in an effort to block implementation of the land use restrictions.

Even though federal Judge Miranda Du has refused to issue an order suspending the land use plan, saying the plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate irreparable harm, Attorney General Adam Laxalt’s office has filed a 50-page motion for summary judgment, saying the federal land agencies were so intent on meeting a deadline and imposing a predetermined political agenda instead of making a scientific analysis that they ignored public input, which violates federal law and should void the action.

Though the objections of Gov. Brian Sandoval and the various counties were entirely ignored, the motion says three top Interior Department officials met privately, after the public comment period was closed, with environmental groups to obtain their “buy-in” on the land use plan.

The motion says the three called themselves the Grouseketeers and identifies them as Secretary Jewell’s top greater sage grouse advisors Deputy Assistant Secretary Jim Lyons, Counselor to the Secretary Sarah Greenberger and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Michael Bean.

Though an Associated Press account suggested the self-anointed Grouseketeers “apparently” based their label on the “Mousketeers” of the 1950s televised “The Mickey Mouse Club,” we doubt they saw their operation as Mickey Mouse, though the plaintiffs might. We suspect they were identifying themselves and their “noble” cause more with the original Alexander Dumas swashbuckling characters who defended the King of France.

“The Grouseketeers facilitated a process that suppressed concerns of their own high-level staff who raised the same issues as Plaintiffs: the need for a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (“SEIS”), lack of scientific data to support new restrictions imposed at the insistence of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”), and the failure to compile or review readily available information about mineral potential and grazing management on the lands at issue,” the attorney general’s motion for summary judgment declares.

The motion repeatedly cites Interior Department internal memos that show science was ignored in deference to a pre-determined political agenda.

“The agencies omitted an entire body of science that demonstrates that properly managed grazing can be beneficial to GSG (greater sage grouse) habitat,” the motion notes. Yet the Bureau of Land Management entered into the record an erroneous statement that there are “no science-based studies” demonstrating that increased livestock grazing on public lands would enhance or restore sage grouse habitat, ignoring the fact that the state and Elko and Eureka counties submitted just such published scientific findings.

The motion says one mine alone that is jeopardized by the land use plan could be worth $3 billion — 1.4 million ounces of gold and 21 million ounces of silver.

Sandoval and other governors have repeatedly accused the federal land agencies of ignoring their input and stonewalling their appeals.

Laxalt’s motion says the land use maps used by Interior are woefully out of date and BLM officials knew but ignored it. “Top Nevada BLM officials knew that roughly 26 percent (723,000 acres) of the 2.8 million acre Nevada SFA (sagebrush focal area) was not priority habitat — it included lower priority habitat and 75,100 acres of non-habitat,” the motion says.

Fish and Wildlife says these restrictions are needed to protect sage grouse, though its own Federal Register filing states “that over the last 15 years the rate of extinction of leks and the probability of recolonization of leks has been remarkably stable.”

The judge could put a stop to this blatant fiasco in which politics trumps science, but will she?

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

 The opening of the latest meeting of the Grouseketeers?

Nevada losing ground compared to rest of nation in reaching Tax Freedom Day


Tax Foundation map showing Tax Freedom Day in each state.

As Andy Koenig, senior policy advisor at Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, recounts today on the editorial page of the morning newspaper, your IRS taxes may be due today but you won’t be free from paying taxes until April 21 in Nevada.

That’s because, as the Tax Foundation calculates, until then, on average, every dime you earn goes to pay federal, state and local taxes.

“In calculating Tax Freedom Day for each state, we look at taxes borne by residents of that state, whether paid to the federal government, their own state or local governments, or governments of other states,” Tax Foundation’s methodology statement reads. “Where possible, we allocate tax burdens to each taxpayer’s state of residence.”

Nationally, tax Freedom Day falls on April 24, a full 15 days later than in 2010.

Nevada’s Tax Freedom Day is a full 19 days later than in 2010 — must have been something our elected officials did. And that doesn’t yet take into account the $1.4 billion Nevada lawmakers jacked up taxes in the 2015 Legislature that are just now taking effect.

Koenig relates the federal bite being taken out of our income:

Tax Freedom Day keeps getting pushed back because the government keeps taking more of our money. This year, Washington, D.C., is expected to rake in a record-breaking $3.36 trillion in tax revenue, $115 billion more than it did last year.

That still won’t be enough to satisfy D.C.’s spending addiction. Washington will once again spend more than it brings in this fiscal year, adding $534 billion to the already massive federal debt. Over the past two decades, both Republicans and Democrats have made countless promises while leaving you and me with the bill. The result has been out-of-control federal spending, which has fueled an unprecedented rise in the national debt from just over $5 trillion in 1996 to nearly $20 trillion today.

The wasteful spending is getting worse, too. Last month, the federal government’s fiscal watchdog — the Congressional Budget Office — estimated that D.C. deficits will grow every year for the foreseeable future. The annual shortfall will surpass $1 trillion within six years.

Tax Foundation calculates we pay more in the taxes than for food, housing and clothing combined.

If you don’t pay your taxes, you will be jailed and provided food, housing and clothing.



Harry is single-handedly blocking a bill to expose waste, fraud and abuse

Obama and Reid at a campaign rally in Las Vegas in 2010. (Getty Images via The Stream)

When a bill has 534-to-1 approval in Congress and is still stalled, you can rest assured who the one is.

The Taxpayers Right-to-Know Act, sponsored by Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford, has unanimous support of the House and every senator  save one, Harry Reid, according to a website called The Stream.

Lankford’s bill would require extensive accounting for every federal program with a budget of more than $1 million. The CBO estimates that implementing the bill would cost $82 million over the 2016-2020 period, but it could expose the waste of many billions in redundancy, waste fraud and abuse — as much as $200 billion a year by some estimates.

It would require:

  • an identification of the program activities that are aggregated, disaggregated, or consolidated as part of identifying programs;
  • the amount of funding for program activities for the current fiscal year and previous two fiscal years;
  • to the maximum extent practicable, the amount of funding for each program using the pro rata share of the program activities that are aggregated, disaggregated, or consolidated as part of identifying programs;
  • an identification of the statutes that authorize the program and any major regulations specific to the program;
  • a description and estimate of the number of individuals served by a program and beneficiaries who received financial assistance under a program;
  • a description of the federal employees who administer the program and other individuals whose salary is paid in part or full by the federal government through a grant, contract, cooperative agreement, or another form of financial award or assistance;
  • links to any evaluation, assessment, or program performance reviews by the agency, an Inspector General, or the Government Accountability Office released during the preceding five years; and
  • financial information for each program required to be reported under the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006.

“This exposes the duplication so everybody can see it. Watchdog groups on the outside can see it, everybody in Congress can see exactly where we have duplicative programs, and how much is spent, and how they are evaluated. …” Lankford told The Stream. “It passed unanimously in the House, and it’s come to the Senate. And it’s currently [backed] 99-1 in the Senate. Harry Reid himself is holding it up, and trying to keep it from moving on to the Senate floor, and is trying to stall it for whatever reason, we don’t know.”

According to both The Stream and an editorial in today’s Las Vegas newspaper, Reid’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment about the hold. The editorial concluded, “This taxpayer-friendly legislation deserves better than to fall victim to Senate politics.”

Though Lankford said he has visited with Reid about the bill, he had no rational explanation for why it is being blocked other than “having the Senate run as slow as possible and get the least amount done.”

Reid also blocked the bill in a previous session of Congress without explanation.

So, remember to thank Reid for looking out for you when you send that check to the IRS tomorrow.