Bill to streamline power plants permits passes through committee |

Bill to streamline power plants permits passes through committee


CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) – The state Senate and Assembly moved ahead Thursday with separate bills designed to head off a deregulation-spawned energy crisis in Nevada.

The Assembly Select Committee on Energy did in one day what the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee has yet to accomplish after weeks of discussion.

The select committee passed AB369, a bill that would stop both deregulation and the sale of Nevada power plants.

A similar Senate bill, SB253, has been under lengthy discussion in the upper house – and is scheduled to be discussed again Thursday.

”We didn’t want to slow down the bill with considerations that have nothing to do with stopping the plant sales or deregulation,” Assemblywoman Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said of the Assembly measure.

Buckley said other deregulation-related issues will be dealt with in a follow-up bill to be discussed next Thursday in the Assembly energy panel.

While the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee hasn’t moved yet on its power plant ban bill, it did quickly pass a bill that would save utilities months in getting power-plant and transmission-line permits

SB362 would shorten the time required to permit power plants by as much as six months. Currently, such projects can take 18 months.

Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, introduced SB362. She said it would make various state and local agencies process applications simultaneously. Currently, most agencies must wait for other agencies to finish their applications.

Politicians and industry experts have agreed that the biggest problem the West faces is building more power plants and transmission lines. Titus pointed out that the last power plant built in the Northwest was in 1993.

Nevada power plants generate about half of the power the state uses. Doug Ponn of Sierra Pacific and Nevada Power said the utilities have purchased extra power for this summer, adding that he doesn’t expect blackouts.

Titus stressed that her bill doesn’t aim to weaken the authority of the federal government. The bill deals only with state and local agencies, which do not start the permitting process until after the federal government has already approved a project.

”This bill does not shorten the period for comments from the public or for notice of any part of the permitting process,” Titus said.

”The other thing it doesn’t do, which is very important to me, is weaken any environmental regulations.”

In related action, Gov. Kenny Guinn on Wednesday let the Legislature know that he wants electric utilities to recover full costs when buying higher-priced fuel.

Guinn’s legal counsel, Keith Munro, told the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee the governor wants legislation to permit deferred energy, which was repealed a few years ago. The measure would cost rate payers millions in higher rates.

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