Casino Magnate Wants to Kill Bill That Would Make Nevada a Renewable Energy Powerhouse
By David Pomerantz
The Nevada Assembly passed a bill Wednesday that would dramatically increase the growth of renewable energy in the state, but Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate and major donor to Donald Trump, is attempting to prevent the bill from becoming law.
The bill, AB 206, would ensure that Nevada gets 80 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2040. AB 206 passed the assembly with bipartisan support by a margin of 30 to 12, but it must now pass the Senate and be signed by Gov. Brian Sandoval.
Adelson owns the Las Vegas Sands casino giant, and is known in national political circles for the massive amounts of money he has plowed into Republican coffers; he spent $100 million in the 2012 election cycle, and then donated $35 million to the super PAC that supported Donald Trump's general election campaign last year, plus another $5 million to Trump's inauguration.
Given Adelson's support for conservative politicians, clean energy supporters considered it a happy coup in 2016 when the Sands Corporation threw money behind a ballot initiative that would allow electric customers to defect from the monopoly utility NV Energy.
Sands was the biggest bankroller of the committee that backed the ballot initiative, Nevadans for Affordable, Clean Energy Choices. The company didn't shy away from saying that their support for the initiative was motivated by a desire to use electricity from cleaner sources than NV Energy had on offer, garnering it fawning press in Nevada and globally.
"… The company maintains a strong desire to purchase and use the cleanest and most cost efficient energy available on the open market," a Sands spokesperson said in a statement about its support for the ballot initiative.
Adelson Pulls a Bait and Switch on Renewable Energy
Now, however, it's clear that while Adelson may want Sands to have the ability to defect from NV Energy, his motives were not as green as advertised last year.
Sands testified last month against AB 206, along with Wynn Resorts and the Nevada Resort Association (NRA). Why would Adelson, who spent all of 2016 saying that he wanted Sands to power with renewable energy, now be lobbying against legislation to move Nevada in that very direction?
The answer is likely that the bill language not only holds NV Energy to the increased renewable energy standard, but also any companies that defect from the utility, which could soon be Sands.
Adelson seems to want to maintain his company's unfettered ability to buy not only renewable energy, but also as much natural gas as he wants, for as long as he wants, as well.
"We feel that this just isn't the time to codify these mandates," Sands lobbyist Chase Whittemore said about the bill, according to the Nevada Independent. NV Energy also fought the bill, introducing unsuccessful amendments to neuter it.
Is Adelson Funding a New Dark Money Group to Kill Nevada Renewable Energy Growth?
The lobbying against AB 206 by Sands, Wynn, the Resort Association and NV Energy did not seem to slow down the bill's progress in the assembly, but the casino operators and NV Energy may have another trick up their sleeves: a new dark-money group is making a final two-week push to kill the bill in the Senate or on Gov. Sandoval's desk. The Independent reported this week:
"A new nonprofit that does not disclose its donors plans to spend six figures in the last two weeks of the Legislature to try to defeat a renewable energy measure opposed by most gaming companies."
The non-profit, called "Secure Nevada's Future," registered with Nevada as a non-profit organization in April, listing Texas as its qualifying state. Its list of officers is due May 31. The group seems to have a Facebook page which also became active in April.
As long as Secure Nevada's Future refuses to disclose its donors, it's impossible to know if Adelson, Wynn, NV Energy or some other mystery opponents of increased renewable energy is funding the effort, but longtime Nevada political reporter Jon Ralston wrote that "it's a reasonable assumption that major businesses are funding the operation."
Ralston reported that the one person publicly associated with the group as its executive director, Chris Young, used to work for Chris Carr while at the RNC; Carr now runs Wynn's political operation. Carr had previously run a non-profit, "Engage Nevada" that received significant funding from Adelson personally, as well as from NV Energy.
Conflict of Interest Among Nevada Resort Association Lobbyists
While Adelson's Sands Corporation tries to kill the strong renewable energy standard, another casino company, the MGM Grand Corporation, has actually shown that its commitment to renewable energy is more than just greenwashing. The company came out publicly in support of AB 206 earlier this week.
Like Wynn and Sands, MGM Grand is a member of the Nevada Resort Association—more than 10 of its properties are named as NRA member resorts, and MGM is listed on the NRA's board, along with Wynn.
But despite MGM's support for renewable energy growth, the NRA has sided with Wynn, Sands and NV Energy. The internal politics that drove that decision aren't public, but it's possible that some conflicts of interest among the NRA's lobbyists may be a contributing factor.
Carson City is a small town, and lobbyists commonly represent multiple interests, but a review of lobbyists for NV Energy, MGM Grand, Wynn, Sands, the NRA and Caesars revealed that the only overlap was between NV Energy and the NRA, and that overlap was significant: Of 12 lobbyists listed for NV Energy, seven are also lobbyists for the NRA. Those lobbyists are Morgan Baumgartner, Pete Ernaut, Greg Ferraro, Lorne Malkiewich, Nivk Vassiliadis, Nicole Willis-Grimes and Paul Young.
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By Kristen Fischer
It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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By Eoin Higgins
Over 300 groups on Monday urged Senate leadership to reject a bill currently under consideration that would incentivize communities to sell off their public water supplies to private companies for pennies on the dollar.
<div id="fea63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a6f211c2bc5aedd34837944cb8eeedf"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281000111481294849" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Water in Illinois is overwhelmingly public. Why is Tammy Duckworth sponsoring a bill that aims to change that? https://t.co/1V36Kkd99s</div> — The American Prospect (@The American Prospect)<a href="https://twitter.com/TheProspect/statuses/1281000111481294849">1594249201.0</a></blockquote></div>
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