'Green energy' bills passed in Nevada

CARSON CITY, Nev. — Nevada lawmakers rushed to pass renewable energy bills on Friday, as part of a mostly cooperative effort that has included Gov. Jim Gibbons.

Gibbons, who is pushing one of the measures, and the lawmakers who sponsored the other bills want to streamline the process of developing renewable energy in Nevada.

But knowing that there were some parts of their bills that the governor would not like, legislators made sure their measures passed in time to override a potential veto.

The Assembly gave final legislative approval to SB358, which would create a Nevada energy commissioner who would help renewable energy companies set up shop in Nevada.

With 86 percent of the state's land controlled by the federal government, the commissioner would help such companies get through the cumbersome process of leasing and developing such land.

Another bill, AB522, passed by the Assembly late Friday, states that while the governor would appoint the energy commissioner, the appointment must be approved by the Legislature.

"We would not agree with that idea," said Dan Burns, spokesman for Gibbons. "It's supposed to be an appointee of the governor."

"There's a couple of pieces that the governor didn't like, but I'm not changing the bill," said Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, the bill's author.

AB522 also would strengthen the requirements to qualify for tax abatements, set to expire in June.

For large counties, a company would have to create 75 jobs in the second quarter of its construction phase, and those jobs would have to pay 110 percent of the statewide wage average of about $19 an hour. Companies also would have to make a capital investment of at least $10 million, up from the current requirement of $1 million.

Gibbons' bill, SB395, had originally included more generous tax abatements, but those were amended out of the bill.

"We had wanted to create a situation that was attractive for businesses to come here, for geothermal, wind and solar projects," Burns said.

Another controversial component of AB522 is that the property tax abatements don't extend to geothermal companies.

"We would like to see geothermal recognized as a renewable energy in this state when it comes to property tax abatements," said industry lobbyist Tom Clark, who added that he will work to add an amendment extending those abatements when the bill crosses over to the Senate.

Gibbons' SB395 would encourage renewable energy development, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and require state buildings to adopt energy and water efficiency standards.

SB395 also requires that at least 25 percent of electricity sold to consumers by energy companies be from renewable sources by 2025 and requires car dealers to disclose the amount of carbon dioxide starting with 2012 models.

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