NEW YORK – In the wake of the Bundy Ranch standoff, Nevada's public energy utility confirmed it has so many renewable-energy projects in the works that it has no need for the $5 billion solar-power project with the Chinese government and ENN Group that was withdrawn last year.
Fay Andersen, spokeswoman for NV Energy, told WND the state currently has 39 producing renewable energy projects, with an additional project under construction and another in the development phase.
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“Nevada has one of the highest Renewable Portfolio Standards in the country, determined as a percent of retail energy sales, and requiring the company to achieve 25 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2025," she explained to WND.
She said NV Energy has exceeded its renewable energy requirement of 18 percent for 2013-14, with 20.3 percent in southern Nevada in 2013 and 34.7 percent in northern Nevada.
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The public utility was on track to issue a Request for Proposal, or RFP, for 100 megawatts of renewable energy for each of the years 2014, 2015, and 2016, in accordance with the requirements of Nevada state law, Anderson said.
As WND reported, bloggers made a connection between the Bureau of Land Management's raid of rancher Cliven Bundy's land and a solar energy project in southern Nevada financed by the communist Chinese energy firm ENN. It was to be the largest solar farm in the U.S.
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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada had lobbied heavily for the company’s business, even traveling to China. Reid’s son, Rory Reid, formerly a Clark County commissioner, became a lobbyist for ENN while Sen. Reid's former senior adviser, Neil Kornze, now leads the BLM.
The project died last year, but the BLM’s library of renewable energy projects revealed it was only one of more than 50 solar, wind and geothermal projects planned for Nevada, California, Arizona and other Western states.
The plan to convert an increasingly large share of Nevada’s public land to renewable-energy projects appears to have been a key motivation for Reid to run a war against coal-burning electric power in Nevada that began during the second term of President George W. Bush.
On March 21, Nevada Business published a photograph showing Reid breaking ground on a project with representatives of the Moapa Band of Paiutes, executives with First Solar Inc. and representatives of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. The 250 megawatt Moapa Southern Paiute Solar Project is planned to deliver renewable energy to the city of Los Angeles for the next 24 years.
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The leaseholder on the Moapa Southern Paiute Solar Project is K Road Power, LLC, a New York City-based energy company that employs as business manager Jonathan Magaziner, formerly an associate at the Clinton Climate Initiative of the William J. Clinton Foundation.
Jonathan Magaziner is the son of Ira Magaziner, who served President Bill Clinton in the White House as senior policy adviser for policy development from 1993 through 1998, and is now the chief executive officer and vice chairman of the Clinton Health Access Initiative and chairman of the Clinton Climate Initiative. He also is a board member of the Clinton Hunter Development Initiative.
According to research conducted by investigator reporter Christine Lakatos, First Solar Inc. was an early green investment funded by Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street investment banking firm that ranked as a top $1 million contributor to Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. Lakota also documented that First Solar investors include bundlers Bruce Heyman and David Heller, two Goldman Sachs executives who sat on Obama’s 2008 Finance Committee.
Peter Schweizer, on pages 91-92 of his 2011 book “Throw Them All Out,” also lists Michael Ahearn, First Solar’s chief executive officer, as having given generously and exclusively to Democrats. He also pointed out that billionaire investor Paul Tudor Jones, another Obama bundler, owns a major stake in First Solar.
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In March 2012, the Washington Examiner reported First Solar, an Arizona-based manufacturer of solar panels, received in 2010 a $16.3 million subsidy to expand its factory in Ohio. The grant came after a $455.7 million taxpayer-funded loan guarantee awarded by the Export-Import Bank to subsidize the sale of solar panels to two solar firms in Canada.
One of the Canadian firms, St. Clair Solar, was a wholly owned subsidiary of First Solar, so when First Solar was shipping its solar panels from Ohio to a solar farm it owned in Canada, the U.S. taxpayers were subsidizing the "export," the Examiner said.
In 2012, NV Energy rebuffed pressure by Reid to get behind the $5 billion solar project that ENN Group wanted to build near Laughlin, Nev. Steve Tetreault noted in the Las Vegas Journal-Review in July 2012 that Reid said the envisioned ambitious complex "would start tomorrow if NV Energy would purchase the power," but the company "has not been willing to work on this and that’s a shame."
Tetreault said the Senate majority leader's remarks were the linkage between the Nevada utility and the clean energy project.
Previously, he wrote, the project was aimed at serving utilities in California, but state officials there said they had no interest in importing power from other sources.
"NV Energy is a regulated monopoly," Reid said, according to Tetreault’s report. "They control 95 percent of all the electricity that is produced in Nevada and they should go along with this."
The Las Vegas Review-Journal further reported that in response to Reid, an NV Energy spokeswoman said the utility was not in the market for more renewable energy, having exceeded the state's requirement that 15 percent of its portfolio originate from clean sources.
Tetreault noted Reid has a personal stake in pushing NV Energy to use more solar power. Reid had teamed up with the Chinese firm to invest $8 billion in the U.S. on renewable energy projects in the coming decade. Also, Reid had invited ENN Group's chairman, Wang Yusuo, to speak at the senator's clean energy summit in Las Vegas during the summer 2011.
Chinese pull the plug
In April 2012, Bloomberg reported the Reid-sponsored deal to have ENN Group invest $5 billion in a solar plant and energy-generating farm in Laughlin, Nev., was on the ropes because Reid and ENN were unable to find a utility company willing to buy the solar energy.
According to Bloomberg, Reid never stopped pressuring California, evidently concerned he would need an alternative if NV Energy could not be convinced.
The energy plant "will generate the electricity California must have in just a few years," Reid said in March, referring to a state mandate requiring 33 percent of a utility’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020. "This project is close to California. It’s within walking distance."
Reid's spokeswoman, Kristen Orthman, said the senator was working on introducing ENN to utilities.
Laughlin officials were getting calls every week from investors, job seekers and local business owners wanting to know the status.
"It’s extremely frustrating,” [Clark County Commissioner] Steve Sisolak said at the time. “Everybody is so anxious and wants this project to move forward."
Then, on June 17, 2013, the Associated Press reported ENN Group dropped its plans to build the $5 billion solar project. ENN officials informed Clark County officials the company was terminating its agreement to purchase 9,000 acres because it was unable to sign up public utilities in either Nevada or California to agree to purchase the solar energy generated.
On June 14, 2013, Clark County Commissioner explained to the Las Vegas Sun: “Alternative energies are still more expensive than fossil fuels and they [ENN] couldn’t get (the costs) down to a point where they could sell any of the power. Even if we had given them an extension for a year or two, it wouldn’t have made a difference.”
Bundy’s 'trespass cattle'
On April 9, the U.S. Senate in a 71-28 vote confirmed Neil Kornze, a former senior adviser to Reid, to head the Bureau of Land Management.
At BLM, an agency Kornze originally joined in 2011, Kornze distinguished himself by spearheading BLM’s “Western Solar Energy” plan that produced the following year a “Final Pragmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for Solar Energy Development in Six Southwestern States.”
The document currently serves as a blueprint for the federal government to “mitigate” the potential environmental impact of the planned Solar Energy Zones, or SEZs.
The government seeks to transform thousands of acres throughout six Southwestern states into alternative habitats to relocate endangered species from private land sold to accommodate renewable energy projects.
A BLM study titled “Regional Mitigation Strategy for the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone, Technical Note 444,” dated March 2014, identifies Bunkerville, Nev., the site of the Bundy Ranch approximately 80 miles northwest of Las Vegas, as a mitigation area for the Dry Lake SEZ.
The Dry Lake SEZ, about 15 miles northeast of Las Vegas, encompasses approximately 5,717 acres under management of the Clark County BLM office.
A BLM map identifying the “Bundy Cattle Tresspass Overview,” the area designated by black diagonal lines, also shows cattle from the Bundy Ranch ranging on public land adjoining the Moapa Indian Reservation, site of the previously referenced First Solar project.
A document removed from the BLM website but located in Internet archive files clearly notes complaints that Bundy’s “cattle trespass impacts” include “concern that the regional mitigation strategy for the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone utilizes Gold Butte as the location for impacts from solar development, and that those restoration activities are not durable with the presence of the trespass cattle.”
That means the grazing of Bundy’s cattle on federal lands in the Gold Butte area is not compatible with moving the endangered tortoises there as part of the “mitigation strategy” planned for the Dry Lake SEZ.
Reid’s war against coal power plants
The Democratic Party plan to convert an increasingly large share of Nevada’s public land to solar power projects appears to have been a key motivation prompting Reid to run a war against coal-burning electric power in Nevada that appears to have begun during the second term of President George W. Bush.
The Laughlin site on which ENN had planned to build its solar project was the home to the 1,580 megawatt coal-fired Mohave Generating Station, owned by Southern California Edison, that Reid and other Democrats in Congress forced closed in 2005.
After the Mohave Generating Station had been closed down and demolished, Reid contacted Southern California Edison, the majority owner of the demolished coal-fueled power plant, to ask permission to use the site for a solar power plant.
“When the plant closed down, the local communities and Native American tribes lost valuable jobs,” Reid said in a statement published by his office. “I am urging Southern California Edison to convert the plant and its assets into a vibrant solar power producer to give the area an economic boost.”
Reid further suggested to Southern California Edison that industrial plants could sell sulfur dioxide credits, rather than continue to operate and spew out pollution, and the company could use that money to build a solar power plant.
In 2007, the Las Vegas Sun reported, Reid was opposing three plants proposed in Lincoln and White Pine Counties in Nevada, despite their plans to burn environmentally safe clean coal.
“They say, ‘We’ll use clean coal technology,’” Reid said. “It doesn’t exist. There is no such thing as clean coal technology. There is not a coal plant in America that is clean.”
Reid claimed the three plants would emit a combined 31 million tons of carbon dioxide each year for about 50 years, despite reduced emissions of sulfur, nitrogen, mercury and other pollutants.
Reid’s argument was that the emitted carbon dioxide for the proposed three new clean coal-burning power plants made them as bad as the Mohave Generating Station, a coal-burning electric power plant consisting of four units built between 1965 and 1983. Located near Reid’s hometown of Searchlight, Nev., Reid and his Democratic colleagues in Congress had labeled it the dirtiest power plant in the nation.
Speaking at the first Nevada Clean Energy Summit in Reno in 2007, Reid said he was "going to do everything I can to stop” the construction of new coal-fired power plants in Nevada, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
“There is no clean coal technology,” Reid said, according to the newspaper report. “There is cleaner coal technology, but there is no clean coal technology.”
Reid argued Nevada was wasting its sunlight by not capturing solar power.
“Fifty percent of the power comes from outside the state of Nevada, even though we have fuel shining on us every day – the sun,” Reid said.
The newspaper reported that Reid was determined to block the plans of Michael Yackira, the chief executive officer of Reno-based Sierra Pacific Resources, the company that sought to build the coal-fired $3.7 billion Ely Energy Center that would generate 1,500 megawatts of electricity.
The company also had signed in 2006 nine contracts for approximately 300 megawatts of geothermal and solar energy to be produced in Nevada, with the company and others investing $2 billion in the renewable energy projects between 2007 and 2015.
“We are going to build the cleanest coal plant in the world,” Yackira said.
But Reid objected, claiming it was a “matter of conscience” because he believed the proposed coal plant would pollute areas of Nevada, including national park lands.
In November 2008, the Wall Street Journal reported Reid wrote a letter to then-Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons, praising a decision by the Environmental Protection Agency’s appeals board to block the construction of a proposed coal plant in Utah. Reid argued the EPA decision “makes it overwhelmingly clear” that Nevada should not approve any new coal-fired plants without considering the “extremely high greenhouse gas emissions” of such plants.