Gov. Guinn signs casino and mine law |

Gov. Guinn signs casino and mine law

Susan Wood

The cheers could be heard as high as 16 stories up and as low as 300 feet down under.

When Gov. Kenny Guinn signed into law a bill that gives Nevada casinos and mines the green light to negotiate their own power generation sources, the power-hungry industries saw the light at the end of the tunnel.

The cost of electricity has squeezed these businesses that rely on electricity, so just the opportunity to control costs and ultimately their own destiny was met with optimism from the state and the industries it serves.

Harveys Casino Resorts Director of Facilities and Governmental Affairs Phil Herback said it’s “a good thing” the bill was signed by Guinn because he thinks it levels the playing field among power providers and buyers.

Nevada Assemblyman Lynn Hettrick, R-Gardnerville, voted for the bill. Now he expects several casinos and mines to go out and bargain for their own power.

The state lawmaker who serves Douglas County believes the savings could be significant for operations like the Miekle Mine outside Elko. The open-pit mine runs one of the largest air-conditioning system in the United States.

“We’re pleased. It’s much more preferable to cut energy costs than to lay off people,” said Tim Crowley, governmental affairs spokesman for the Nevada Mining Association.

Crowley has heard Nevada mining company representatives sharing their dismay at high costs – some to the point of squeezing them out of business if the trend of skyrocketing rates continues.

Now the mines have the opportunity for direct access, which permits a user to choose a different company for power generation other than the one that delivers electricity.

Sierra Pacific Power, which generates, transmits and distributes electricity to Northern Nevada, supported the bill.

Crowley said the mines may discover that after crunching the numbers, it may not pay to stray. But having the opportunity to control costs may prove to be worth it over the long haul.

Both casino and mining companies have complained how difficult it’s been to budget for rising costs with any kind of certainty.

He expects mining companies won’t waste any time looking into negotiating their own deals, as Guinn didn’t waste time in giving his nod of approval.

The governor signed SB661 into law Tuesday afternoon, following the Nevada Supreme Court’s ruling earlier that day that validated the bill.

The bill was delayed until the high court decided that its passage in the Nevada Legislature was valid despite taking place after the session’s midnight deadline.

“It was a tough one to tell,” Guinn’s spokesman Jack Finn said of the divided ruling Tuesday. “These things can go either way.”

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