Bias in the media? We’re shocked! Shocked we tell you!

Did a political columnist for the morning newspaper just accuse his own publication of political bias?

Columnist Victor Joecks noted that the media jumped all over an obscure Nye County commissioner disendorsing Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt for failing to endorse the Republican primary winner in Assembly District 36, brothel owner Dennis Hof who has been accused of sexual harassment, but totally ignored a press release two weeks ago from Republican Sen. Dean Heller accusing Democratic primary senatorial nominee Jacky Rosen of resume enhancement.

In fact, the same day’s paper carried a lengthy story about the commissioner’s disendorsement of Laxalt along with quotes from Hof about how the move might hurt Laxalt in Nye County and a prepared statement by Laxalt stating, “Adam respects the will of the voters in District 36, however, as a husband and a father of two young daughters, he has stated that he will not be supporting Mr. Hof’s campaign.”

The story also quoted a Democratic Party spokeswoman accusing Laxalt of being two-faced on the topic by being silent about political supporters accused of sexual misdeeds — including a rural sheriff and former casino executive Steve Wynn.

The story did not quote any of the usual university professorial suspects as to whether Laxalt’s stance might help or hurt him or be of no consequence.

Heller’s press release noted that Rosen was quoted by the morning newspaper in 2016 as saying she couldn’t get a degree in computer science from the University of Minnesota because it didn’t exist when she graduated:

She fell in love with the emerging field of computer sciences. The field “just clicked” with her, Rosen said. But back in the 1970s, those degrees weren’t widely available, so she graduated with a degree in psychology while spending most of her free time in the school’s math lab honing her computer skills.

But the Heller press release noted that a story in The Atlantic in January said Rosen had a degree in computer science. The story was corrected online on the same day as Heller’s press release was issued.

Joecks also noted that Rosen told CSPAN3 a year ago she had a degree in computer science. He went on to note that several people’s political ambitions have been crushed when they were caught fudging their resumes.

Joecks concluded:

So why the disparity in coverage between Hof and Rosen? On the merits, it’s baffling. That’s what makes you start thinking about alternative explanations. In a 2013 national survey, just 7 percent of reporters self-identified as Republican. If Heller wins his election, Democrats have no chance of regaining control of the Senate.

Sometimes media bias is blatant. But often, it’s more subtle, like the media passing on telling you about Rosen’s résumé lie that could end her political career.

The owner of the morning newspaper may be a big Republican backer, but what about those in the trenches?

 

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Las Vegas water district making another run at grabbing rural water

Hearings are underway in Carson City to determine how much, if any, groundwater the Las Vegas water district may pump from aquifers in White Pine, Lincoln and Nye counties.

The hearings are being conducted by state engineer Jason King, who previously had granted the Southern Nevada Water District 84,000 acre-feet a year. A state judge sent King back to the drawing board when he ruled plans for monitoring, mitigating and managing the water transfer were “arbitrary and capricious.”

Senior Judge Robert Estes wrote, “There are no objective standards to determine when mitigation will be required and implemented. The Engineer has listed what mitigation efforts can possibly be made, i.e., stop pumping, modifying pumping, change location of pumps, drill new wells … but does not cite objective standards of when mitigation is necessary.”

USGS employee at well near the southern Snake Range, Nev.

Judge Estes concluded that if “it is premature to set triggers and thresholds, it is premature to grant water rights.”

Judge Estes listed, as an example of objective standards, the plan in place for mitigation at Devil’s Hole in Armagosa Valley, home of an endangered minnow. He said mitigation is triggered when the water level falls 2.7 feet below a copper washer. “This is an objective and recognizable standard.”

An attorney representing the water district was quoted as saying Monday, “The state engineer did not err in granting SNWA’s permits. The same quantity of water — and in some cases more water — can be granted.”

That doesn’t jibe with a 2014 study by the U.S. Geological Survey  that found the proposed increases in water withdrawals in and near Snake Valley by the SNWA would likely result in declining groundwater levels and a decrease in natural discharge to springs and streams.

“Because of the magnitude of the proposed development project and the interconnected nature of groundwater basins in the region, there have been concerns that new pumping will disrupt Snake Valley’s groundwater supplies and threaten the wetlands and ranches that rely upon them,” said Melissa Masbruch, USGS scientist and lead author of the new report. “This study can help assess the effects of future groundwater withdrawals on groundwater resources in the Snake Valley area.”

The study calculated all the groundwater recharge for Snake Valley from various sources, including precipitation, unconsumed irrigation and inflow from other aquifers and found that the valley groundwater receives about 175,000 acre-feet. But when all of the outflow is added up — current wells, springs, streams and outflow to other aquifers— it is almost precisely the same amount of water — equilibrium.

This prompted the authors of the study to warn, “Increased well withdrawals within these high transmissivity areas will likely affect a large part of the study area, resulting in declining groundwater levels, as well as leading to a decrease in natural discharge to springs …”

A study for the water authority by Hobbs, Ong & Associates of Las Vegas found the cost to drill wells and build pipelines and pumps to send the groundwater to Las Vegas would be $15 billion or, in some years, $2,000 an acre-foot — while farmers in California and Arizona can buy Colorado River water for $20 an acre-foot. The study said Las Vegas water rates would have to triple to pay for the project.

Bill would revive licensing of Yucca Mountain for nuke waste storage

Former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman threatened to lie down on the tracks to block any rail shipment of nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain. “We’re going to do whatever it takes, even if we have to lie down in front of the tracks,” Goodman said.

We hear the train acomin’.

This morning four of Nevada’s Washington delegation members testified during an hours-long hearing on draft legislation that would restart the Yucca Mountain licensing for storage spent nuclear fuel. They all testified against it.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on the environment took no vote on the draft Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017, but a number of subcommittee members from states with nuclear power plants seemed more than willing to ship nuke waste to Nevada.

Yucca Mountain entrance (AP pix)

Sen. Dean Heller testified, “Rather than attempting to force this project on the people of Nevada – a state that currently does not have any nuclear power plants of its own – it is clear taxpayers’ dollars would be better spent identifying viable alternatives for the long-term storage of nuclear waste in areas that are willing to house it.”

Rep. Ruben Kihuen — who presents Nye County, where Yucca Mountain is located — called the project a threat to Las Vegas tourism, even though the bill says every effort would be made to avoid shipping the waste through Las Vegas. He added, “Many of you may not know it, but the area around Yucca Mountain is seismically active, and an aquifer runs beneath the proposed repository site. Additionally, placing a large amount of nuclear waste in an unsuitable site like Yucca Mountain could lead to numerous potential health issues. Substandard care or the mere passage of time could lead to leaking and leaching of nuclear material into the aquifer.”

Las Vegas Reps. Dina Titus and Jackie Rosen also testified against the bill.

Despite concerns about shipping, one of the expert witnesses said there have been 5,000 nuke waste shipments without a single incident.

A Texas representative said the amount waste — 70,000 metric tons — is not so large, just the size of a football field stacked 10 feet high or enough to fill two congressional hearing rooms.

But the Nye County Commission had entered into the record a letter supporting Yucca Mountain:

The legislation, which would strengthen the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, addresses many of the concerns brought forth by the state and Nevada’s federal lawmakers, including a provision that specifically says that the waste shall avoid moving through Las Vegas.

Another change for Nevada is the acceptance of benefits, including funding and participation in mitigation discussions, shall not be considered consent and the State can get benefits tied to hosting the nuclear repository. Under the existing law, when the State vetoed the repository it gave up its right to benefits.

The bill also allows Nevada to be the site of an interim storage facility, a change from the original Act.

Yucca Mountain, which is located in Nye County, was designated as the permanent nuclear waste disposal site by the Nuclear Waste Policy Act in 1982. Nuclear waste continues to be stored temporarily at various locations around the country while the promise of Yucca Mountain has been delayed too long by political science. To date, $15 billion has been spent to prepare the site to accept nuclear waste.

The Yucca Mountain nuclear repository would bring federal dollars to Nevada, create well-paying science and construction jobs, and improve the state’s infrastructure. The project would also strengthen national security, a role Nye County and Nevada has always taken the lead in through the past eight decades.

The bill includes a “benefits section” envisioning dollars that could flow to the state and the local communities, but the dollar amounts are left blank in the draft. “The acceptance or use of any of the benefits provided under a benefits agreement under this section by the State of Nevada shall not be considered to be an expression of consent, express or implied, to the siting of a repository in such State,” the draft states.

One states’ rights concern is that it removes Nevada’s right to deny water for the project.

But Nevadans should remember that lying down in front of a train greatly increases the chances of getting run over. The bill appears to open paths for negotiation of benefits the state and Nye County.

 

 

 

Harry acts single-handedly to shut off 800,000 acres of Nevada from productive use

Oh, Harry, you’ve done it again.

Sen. Harry Reid has once again given the middle finger salute to his constituents, introducing a bill to close off from productive use 805,100 acres of federal land he is calling the “Garden Valley Withdrawal Area” with Senate Bill 2820.

It has no co-sponsors and has in the past been opposed by local officials.

Ed Higbee, chairman of the Lincoln County Commission, told the Las Vegas newspaper it’s hard to swallow restricting development on so much county land. “That’s a huge view-shed,” Higbee said. “We don’t want that to become a national conservation area.”

Reid made a similar proposal in 2010, and that too was met with opposition.

Michael Heizer (NYT photo)

Nye County Commissioner Lorinda Wichman, whose vast district includes the Garden Valley area, told the paper she said she would want to hear from neighboring residents before taking a position on the bill.

Though Reid’s brief bill draft makes no mention of it, nestled in the middle of this vast swath of barren land is “artist” Michael Heizer’s 30-acre earthen and concrete project called “City,” started in 1970 and was scheduled for completion in 2010, according to the artist’s website. The project is expected to cost $25 million.

“Citing safety and artistic reasons, Heizer has disallowed all visitation of the work in progress,” the website says. “Heizer owns all of the property around the work and has marked the access to the site with a sign that prohibits trespassing. The Dia Foundation has indicated that once the work is completed, it will be open it to the public.”

It is unclear what impact withdrawal of the surrounding land from development might have on access to the “art” project.

Artist Heizer told The New York Times in 2005, “You just don’t get it, do you? This is a czarist nation, a fascist state. They control everything. They tap my phone. They’ll do anything to stop me. We’re the front lines, man, fleas fighting a giant.”

This was the same article in which Heizer railed against the invasion of the area by railroads, wells electric power lines while ”sniveling toady” politicians do nothing.

The Review-Journal story says land use “restrictions would not affect current valid land use such as grazing, but it would forbid the Bureau of Land Management from selling any land or granting permits for oil or mineral prospecting. Activities for new geothermal, solar or wind energy development also would be restricted.” The bill draft specifies geothermal, but makes no mention of solar or wind, which are among Reid’s favorite toys to fund with your money.

At one time, the Department of Energy proposed building a railroad line across the area to haul nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain, a project opposed by Reid.

 

City, an art project near the Lincoln and Nye counties border. (NYT photo)

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