Last Thursday the Senate Committee on Natural Resources voted to repeal a law that paves the way for Nevada’s withdrawal from a decades-old compact regulating development and environmental protections at Lake Tahoe. In a 3-2 party-line vote, the committee approved Senate Bill 229, which seeks to undo a law passed in 2011. It now goes to the full Senate.
The previous law, SB271, set up an exit strategy for Nevada to quit the bi-state Tahoe Regional Planning Agency in 2015 unless it could come to terms with counterparts in California over development in the scenic basin that straddles the Nevada-California line. It gives the governor the option to extend the deadline another two years, to 2017.
Nevada lawmakers blamed California for favoring tough environmental standards they complained hindered development and stifled the economy of a state reeling under the weight of the Great Recession. Homeowners also complained of being bullied by regulations that prevented them from carrying out simple home improvement or safety projects, from sweeping up fallen pine needles to repaving a driveway or removing a dead tree.
One sticking point was the lack of a new regional plan, which hadn’t been updated since the last 1980s despite years of talk.
A new plan was approved by the TRPA governing board late last year. One concession to Nevada is that it gives more control for smaller development projects to local governments.
Conservationists said with a new plan in place, Nevada should repeal its threat to leave TRPA and re-commit to a collaborative effort to protect Lake Tahoe.
“At this point I think it’s time Nevada shows we care about the environment,” Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, said at Thursday’s committee meeting. “Right now we want to show California that we’ve done our part and let’s get back to protecting Lake Tahoe.”
But opponents, including Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, say Nevada needs to keep the pressure up and its option open on regulating Tahoe development. They argue that even though a new regional plan has been adopted, it’s being challenged in a federal court lawsuit filed by two environmental groups.
They also counter that local governments have yet to adopt plans on how they will regulate development in their jurisdictions.
Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden, said if Nevada repeals its threat, “California will no longer be at the table.” He was joined by Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Elko, in voting against repeal.
“The drop dead date on this is after the next legislative session,” Goicoechea said, suggesting lawmakers could reconsider repeal in the 2015 session.
Senate Bill 229 as introduced (View or Download PDF)