Aug 08

BLM – Planning 2.0

Planning 2.0

In 2014 BLM began an initiative known as “Planning 2.0” to update its resource management planning process. In introducing a draft regulation, BLM stated that Planning 2.0 is intended to increase opportunities for public involvement, to account for landscape-level management rather than the traditional, targeted approach on a field office level, and to respond to “environmental, economic, and social changes” on an ongoing basis.

The draft regulation does indeed provide for landscape-level management and ongoing evaluation of environmental, economic, and social changes; however, it appears that the new process would actually limit public involvement in some instances. The proposed rule would also shift responsibility for resource management planning to the national level, thus decreasing the responsibilities of state and field offices and raising serious federalism questions. Furthermore, the proposed changes would redefine the concept of multiple use in violation of FLPMA, prioritize conservation over sustained yield of natural resources, and cause even longer delays for permitting on BLM lands.

Given the number of troubling provisions in the proposed rule, BLM should reconsider the proposed Planning 2.0 process.

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May 07

NREA representatives strengthen relationships on Capitol Hill

Former NRECA General Manager Clyde T. Ellis put it best, electric cooperative officials said at the kickoff of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s (NRECA) 2016 Legislative Conference: “We support our friends and stand by them. If they’re not our friends, we will make them our friends.”

That was the message delivered to 1,500 co-op directors, managers and staffers at the annual NRECA Legislative Conference—use your roles as community leaders to sway support for co-op priorities on Capitol Hill.

“Time, money and gridlock are all working overtime against us,” said NRECA interim CEO Jeffrey Connor, who referred to Ellis during his May 2 remarks. “What cuts through the noise is what you have—influence, involvement, engagement and trust.”

Nevada Rural Electric Association (NREA) representatives were able to accomplish just that during the three-day conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., this week by having face-to-face meetings with federal agencies and the staff members of Nevada’s senators and congressmen.

The meetings provided NREA representatives the opportunity to sit down with officials from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), United States Forest Service, United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the Rural Utilities Service to raise concerns over issues impacting Nevada’s rural power consumers, including right of way maintenance and access, raven population control, the BLM’s Planning 2.0 proposed rule changes, as well as sage grouse and land use regulations.

“We understand the value of protecting the environment, and have a stellar record of effective land stewardship,” NREA Deputy Director Hank James said. “These were productive meetings that continued important dialogues with our Congressional Delegation and federal agency leaders.

The 114th Congress was not in session during this year’s conference but NREA members met with key staff from all of Nevada senators and representatives as well as those from Utah, who share many common environmental regulation concerns.

The meetings provided an opportunity to discuss concerns and provide updated information forlegislators, several of whom have actively supported Nevada rural power on the federal level in the past.

“Whether we were meeting with old friends or building new relationships, these opportunities are very important”, James said.  “Legislation and regulation can affect our ability to provide safe,reliable, cost-based electricity. It’s essential we stay engaged with our legislative representatives.

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Apr 01

NREA Legislative Conference creates dialogue between public power, representatives

Nevada’s public power representatives gathered in Carson City on Thursday to engage in open discussion with representatives from several parts of government during the 2016 Nevada Rural Electric Association (NREA) Legislative Conference.
Popular discussion topics included renewable energy and energy efficiency, public land use, fire management and sage grouse regulation. NREA members also received updates on government programs and where federal legislators are focused heading into this fall’s elections.
“Building and strengthening relationships with government agencies and representatives is one of the most important things we do,” said NREA Deputy Director Hank James. “The annual Legislative Conference has been a valuable tool that creates dialogue between public power and various parts of government. The wonderful discussions we had this year were no different.”
Speakers included Angela Dykema, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Energy; Ashley Jonkey and Jeremy Harrell from Sen. Dean Heller’s office; Tom Polakalis, the Nevada representative for the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project; Tom Turk, safety and training program manager for the Nevada Division of Forestry; and Alexandra Smith and Nadia Vasheko from the Nevada Department of Taxation.
Thursday provided a forum for general managers, employees and board members from public power companies to ask questions and voice concerns about issues that impact rural Nevadans.
“The NREA has a great track record for forming positive relationships on the legislative and regulatory levels,” James said. “It’s always a good feeling to interact with people who share the obligation we feel to best serve our consumers.”
The NREA represents nine public power utilities in the state of Nevada, which include six electric cooperatives, two power districts and one municipality. Collectively, NREA members provide electrical service to a majority of Nevada’s geography and more than 60,000 consumers with electricity. By joining together, the NREA gives its members a unified voice to advocate for rural consumers on a legislative level.

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Feb 17

Meet Nevada’s NRECA youth representative

Here’s a little video of Janel Meldrum, Nevada’s student representative at this year’s NRECA Annual Meeting in New Orleans, giving a quick introduction.

Janel is a senior at Pahranagat Valley High School in Lincoln County Power District No. 1’s service territory. She attended the NRECA’s Washington, D.C., Youth Leadership Tour where she gave a speech that placed second in the nation.

“She’s just a great young lady who did outstanding job,” said Dave Luttrell, the general manager at Lincoln County Power District No. 1.

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Feb 16

Exploring the utility of the future

Just as rapid advances in technology have changed the way we live our everyday lives, the evolution of the utility industry is likely to significantly change the way consumers receive their electricity and interact with their power suppliers. This article from provides an interesting look at the possibilities and challenges of forming the electric utility of the future.

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Feb 02

Gov. Sandoval pursues change to sage grouse protection plan

While the September decision of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to not protect the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act was a positive ruling for utilities, ranchers, mines and other rural entities operating on rangeland, restrictions and regulations protecting the bird remain an ongoing issue for Nevada and 10 other states.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has already made headlines this year by requesting the Obama administration change its sage grouse protection plan to free up mining claims by swapping some restricted areas for currently unprotected areas, restoring burned rangeland and controlling wild horse herds. Sandoval chose not to join a lawsuit backed by the state’s Attorney General Adam Laxalt that would block the implementation of the new sage grouse protections adopted by the Bureau of Land Management and Forest service, opting instead to continue working with those agencies to look for a solution that satisfies both the desire to protect the bird while also considering the best interests of rural Nevadans. While this specific request pertains to the mining industry, NREA members and other groups affected by the new restrictions will be watching closely to see what kind of precedent is set for future dialogue.

You can read more about Sandoval’s suggested land swap here.


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Jun 23

Lincoln County Solar

A relentless focus on those we serve drives members of Nevada Rural Electric Association to pursue innovative solutions to energy issues. Installing rooftop solar panels is an option for some consumers to manage their electricity consumption. But for renters, home owners with limited property, codes, covenants and restrictions, trees or roofs that aren’t aligned to the sun, Lincoln County Power District (LCPD) is building an alternative: Community Solar. Consumers can purchase shares in the 90 kiloWatt project and lock in their price of electricity for that portion of their bill for the life of the project. The Nevada Governor’s Office of Energy is supporting the project with grant funding and crews from LCPD are building the facility so shares will be more affordable than many alternatives.


See the press release from the Governor’s Office of Energy at

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May 27

NREA Insights: Cooperation could be solution to Sage Grouse listing

Congressman Mark Amodei and Senator Dean Heller are not the only allies Nevada Rural Electric Association (NREA) has when it comes to the potential listing of Greater-Sage Grouse under the Endangers Species Act. The 2015 NREA Legislative Conference also provided an opportunity for dialogue between Nevada’s land users and the federal agencies that will be in charge of implementing any such designation.

Ted Koch, State Supervisor for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, spent time speaking at the conference about his views on the issue. From Koch’s perspective, the crux of the issue is less about the passion or agendas from the groups on either side of the argument and instead should focus on the preservation of ecosystems, regardless of any decision on listing the bird.

While communication between land users and federal agencies like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is often more contentious than cooperative, there is recent precedence for collaboration and cooperation. Land users and regulatory agencies have developed plans that achieve Koch’s stated goal of preserving ecosystems while simultaneously allowing for continued economic development.

“A collaborative action can give certain limits to the shift of control that often happens with a listing decision,” Koch said.

Koch cited improved survival rates of salmon in Idaho resulting from collaboration between state and federal agencies and local farmers and ranchers. In that instance, farmers and ranchers actually developed practices and mechanisms that provided fish with bypasses to safely migrate through the river. Their collaboration with regulatory agencies led to improved practices that increased fish populations. Today, salmon populations are greater than they were before the dam system and fish survival rates are in the high-90s.

There may also be reason for hope when it comes to this fall’s decision concerning the Greater-Sage Grouse.

In April, Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced that the Bi-State Sage Grouse that makes its home along the Nevada and California border would not be listed as endangered. Jewell cited the effectiveness of agreements with ranchers to conserve land in the bird’s habitat as sufficiently stabilizing the population to the extent no listing was necessary.

“The collaborative, science-based efforts in Nevada and California are proof that we can conserve sagebrush habitat across the West while we encourage sustainable economic development,” Jewel said in an Associated Press article.

Another example of cooperative solutions can be found in Harney County, Oregon.  Farmers and ranchers there have taken a proactive approach to avoid the potentially devastating impacts that often accompany an endangered species listing. Rather than wait on a listing decision, land owners in the area have signed Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAAs) in cooperation with federal agencies. The agreements commit them to develop and practice positive conservation measures on their property in return for assurance from the government that no additional work will be required if the Greater Sage-Grouse is listed.

With the spirit of those examples in mind, NREA and its members will continue to work toward solutions that allow us to protect and maintain our infrastructure while providing our owners with the safe and reliable energy they need to live and work on the land we share.

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May 18

NREA Insights: Heller works for common sense approach to Sage Grouse listing

Much like Congressman Mark Amodei, Senator Dean Heller is sympathetic to the Rural Nevadan cause when it comes to the potential listing of the Greater Sage Grouse under the Endangered Species Act.

Samuel Crampton, Senator Heller’s District Director, spoke on behalf of the Senator at the 2015 Nevada Rural Electric Association Legislative Conference and bemoaned a bureaucratic process full of inefficiency that delays positive change for years. Speaking at a recent hearing by the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, the Senator himself noted the devastating impacts a listing would have on the state of Nevada.

Heller stressed the importance of common sense solutions and striking a balance between environmental stewardship and economic development.

“Unfortunately, the Endangered Species Act is a prime example of a law that has proven to be out of date and ineffective,” Heller said at the hearing.

“Since the last time it was reformed over thirty years ago, it has had less than a two percent recovery rate. I know these days you get medals for just participating, but when I was in school, two percent was definitely not a passing grade. It is clear the law is not serving wildlife or our western way of life well.”

Heller talked about growing up in the state and enjoying hunting, camping, and horseback riding and the importance of preserving the environment for future generations to enjoy. He also stressed that effective environmental laws need to protect wildlife and the environment and allow for economic development.

To that end, Senator Heller has proposed a bill, the Common Sense in Species Protection Act, in the Senate requiring the Department of the Interior to report to the public the full economic impact of any proposed critical habitat designations before making a decision about a listing. While the Interior would still be able to limit activities such as mining, ranching, and energy production on designated land, it would require determining the real effect a designation would have on economic development – a factor that’s limited in the current process.

“Additionally, it requires the Service to exclude areas from critical habitat designations if the benefit of keeping it in multiple use far exceeds the benefits a restriction would have for wildlife,” Heller said.

“Access to all lands, particularly public lands, is vital to Nevada’s character and economy. Restricting the multiple-use of those lands in a nontransparent and irrational fashion is not an option for Nevadans who rely heavily on them for their livelihood.”

Senator Heller concluded his speech by expressing hope that the Interior Department will handle the potential listing of the Greater-Sage Grouse the same way it did with that of the Bi-State Sage Grouse; which is to say not choosing to list the bird.

Heller supported the conservation credit system that would allow users of land with potential habitat to buy into the system to fund conservation projects like removing cheat grass and pinyon juniper trees and rehabilitating riparian areas.

Rather than list the bird, Heller, like the NREA and other entities in Rural Nevada, sees collaboration between states, federal agencies, ranchers, land users and other stakeholders as the most promising solution to preserving the Sage Grouse and its habitat without crippling economic development.

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May 08

NREA Insights: Amodei continues to back Rural Nevadans

Congressman Mark Amodei is a great friend to Rural Nevadans and the Nevada Rural Electric Association (NREA). Whether he’s speaking on the floor of the United States House of Representatives or in a town hall setting on one of his frequent trips to small towns across the state, Amodei has consistently worked to resolve the issues of Rural Nevadans and expressed a need for a common sense approach to government.

The Congressman reiterated the same viewpoint in regards to a potential listing of the Greater Sage Grouse under the Endangered Species Act when he spoke at the 2015 NREA Legislative Conference. In the Congressman’s eyes, the Sage Grouse issue is a matter of protecting habitat, not the bird’s actual population.

In that frame, Amodei shares the concern of many Nevadans who are concerned about possible unnecessary restrictions to their ability to graze cattle, enjoy the outdoors or, in the case of NREA members, protect facilities necessary to providing safe, reliable electricity.

“We’re not mining, grazing, or recreating the chickens out, they’re getting burned out,” Amodei said. “Fire is 85 percent of habitat loss.”

At the conference, Amodei questioned the effectiveness of trying to regulate mines, ranches and utilities when the bulk of the threat to the Sage Grouse’s habitat in Nevada is wildfire. Amodei cited the burning of six or seven million acres statewide over the last 20 years compared to just 150,000 acres being permitted for mining over the same period as an example of how federal discussions sometimes miss the point.

In other words, why spend so much time regulating such a small part of the problem?

Amodei also cited fire suppression policy as another example of common sense being overwhelmed by bureaucracy and ineffective policy. While government agencies are attempting to address the amount of Sage Grouse habitat lost to wildfire by identifying at-risk areas and charting wildfires, Amodei questioned the benefit of investing so much time mapping a problem that can’t be controlled.

“If drawing lines on a map will stop lightning from striking, give me a pencil,” Amodei said.

Amodei’s larger point was the need to avoid investing money in tactics that empower more government and more hassle for Nevada’s citizens. He went on to praise a $60 million request from US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell that would be designated for “boots on the ground” fire suppression as an example of government spending intended to directly address an issue.

“Well that makes perfect sense,” Amodei said. “People will get behind that all day long.”

Amodei shares the NREA’s view that environmental stewardship and cooperation based on science-backed information remain the best tactics for preserving the Sage Grouse’s habitat, not an endangered species listing that brings with it unnecessary regulation.

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