Legislators look back on environmental track record while advocates strategize to secure a clean energy economy and wildlife protection on virtual webinar
NEVADA — This week, the Nevada Conservation League hosted a virtual event with state legislators and local environmental advocates to set policy priorities for the 2023 Nevada Legislative Session and emphasize the need to build on legislative progress. Speakers stressed the urgency to continue to act on climate, reminding us that Nevadans feel its effects everyday, from extreme heat to prolonged drought to scorching wildfires. Webinar can be watched here.
“After running one of its largest electoral programs to secure climate champions in Nevada’s state legislature, we are ready to get to work on meaningful policies that build on clean energy progress and protect our lands and wildlife,” said Nevada Conservation League Deputy Director Christi Cabrera-Georgeson. “Our policy objectives are focused on advancing renewable energy solutions, prioritizing wildlife safety and infrastructure, expanding access to outdoor recreation, and defending the state against legislation to prolong the use of fossil fuels.”
State legislators Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, Senator Dallas Harris, Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager, and Assemblyman Howard Watts reflected on important progress made by the Nevada legislature. They touted its leadership on clean energy and climate response.
“We’ve taken a lot of steps to rack up what I think are really monumental legislative victories on climate change. We passed legislation that protects our water, our public lands, expands access to solar and clean energy, and passed legislation to add the proper electric vehicle charging infrastructure across the state,” said Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager. He celebrated legislative victories such as AB 356 (2021), addressing drought by removing non-functional grass, SB 448 (2021), expanding the state’s clean energy economy, AB 84 (2019), extending Nevada’s Conservation Bonds, and AB 486 (2019), creating the Office of Outdoor Recreation.
“We are doing so many things that other states are really just starting to think about doing, or starting to do little pieces of. As we’re sort of feeling that impact pretty significantly here, we are taking a lot of steps that are very forward-thinking,” said Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro on Nevada’s leadership. “This session is going to be a little bit different. We’re going to make sure we keep the progress that we have.”
As Chair of the Assembly Growth and Infrastructure Committee, Assemblyman Howard Watts is leading legislation to fund wildlife crossings (AB 112). “[The bill] helps reconnect habitat that’s been disconnected by roadways and delivers a range of benefits, improving safety on our roads, and improving the health of wildlife,” says Assemblyman Howard Watts. The Nevada Wildlife Federation is among several conservation groups pushing for legislation on wildlife crossings. “Each year Nevada has more than 500 reported wildlife-vehicle collisions that kill over 5,000 animals and cost the state close to $20 million annually,” says Russell Kuhlman with Nevada Wildlife Federation.
Senator Dallas Harris underlined the role Nevada must play to expand clean energy through funding coming from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act. “These are historical investments and we need to make sure we are taking advantage of it while it’s here… so it’s incumbent on all of us at the state level to make sure we are doing the most with what we’re getting,” said Senator Dallas Harris.
Advocates from local environmental organizations shared their policy priorities and their perspectives on challenges that lie ahead with a new administration.
Western Resource Advocates will advocate for incentives to electrify medium- and heavy-duty trucks and buses. “Despite Medium- and heavy-duty vehicles making up only 5% of on-road vehicles nationally, they are responsible for 30% of on-road greenhouse gas emissions,” says Jermareon Williams, Nevada Government Affairs Manager for Western Resource Advocates. “They drive unhealthy air quality, which causes asthma and cardiovascular diseases.” The bill will be sponsored by Assemblyman Howard Watts.
“I’m hoping this session will see a lot of extra progress for indigenous communities,” said Native Voter Alliance Nevada Executive Director Taylor Patterson. She shares that Assemblyman Howard Watts has brought forward a bill allowing tribal citizens to attend state parks for free with their tribal IDs. “This is a privilege that we already have at the National Parks system… The fact of the matter remains that we are this country’s first people, and we deserve to have access to all of our public lands, and to be able to utilize these public lands to get back into our traditional spaces.”
With the change in administration, Battle Born Progress tells advocates what’s at stake. “We are going to have an uphill battle this session. We have to be realistic about what we’re facing in Carson City… This is going to best the most important session that we work in because we have a lot of wonderful things — clean energy bills, public lands bills, the Office of Outdoor Recreation — so many amazing things, and we have a responsibility to protect all of those good things,” said Annette Magnus, Executive Director of Battle Born Progress.
There is a growing need to address environmental justice in our state’s climate and clean energy policy agenda. With unprecedented federal funding aiming to address communities hit hardest by the climate crisis, advocates know it will be a critical task to ensure funds reach low-income families and communities of color.
“Overall, we are worried about the climate crisis and know this will impact future generations. Our current generation is living through [its effects], and we need to look at solutions to resolve it today,” said Juan Carlos Guardado, Organizer for Chispa Nevada. “Electric school buses are a good start. We need more investments in clean energy. The people most impacted [by the climate crisis] are low-income families, and this is what Chispa Nevada is focused on. Laws that help the well-being of our families and our children will be our fundamental priority.”
Low-income communities and communities of color often face significant barriers to accessing public lands, open spaces, and parks. Somos Votantes is supporting legislation to fund the Outdoor Education and Recreation Grant Program to provide outdoor education and recreation opportunities for underserved students across our state. “A relationship with nature, especially in a state where it can be so abundant, can be considered essential to our wellbeing. Funding for the Outdoor Recreation Grant Program provides them with the opportunity to feel connected with our state’s natural beauty — a connection that is well-deserved for our students and families,” Jacinto Alfaro Martinez, Organizer for Somos Vontantes.
“At the forefront of our conversation has to be ‘what is going to happen for historically underserved communities and BIPOC communities… especially with clean energy?’… And so with the workforce development issues and our minority communities, if they’re not making enough money, then they won’t be able to afford solar panels or electric vehicles,” said Faith Organizing Alliance Organizer Marlon Anderson. “If we can have quality in the hiring processes and equality in pay rates, then we will be off to a great start. Making sure that as clean energy initiatives continue to go forward, everybody in every community should have the same opportunities to experience these clean energy resources.”