Legislative Reform Work for Statewide Environmental Justice and Quality Review Process, ACR3

Advocate for Environmental Justice Legislation ACR3

ACR3 would require a legislative study on the development of an in-state environmental justice and quality review process that would incorporate environmental justice and quality considerations for in-state governmental decision making. The study will require a series of public hearings to listen to diverse public perspectives and assimilate available information to recommend a framework under Nevada law to determine if a governmental action has the potential to affect the environment, and disproportionately affect certain peoples and communities. We do not currently have a statewide policy that thoroughly examines and considers environmental justice and quality in this way. However, there is a deep need for such–and implementation of such review would benefit communities disproportionately affected by mining in Nevada as well as communities afflicted by other environmental injustices in the state. Your testimony and support as members of various communities is needed to tell Nevada lawmakers to support ACR3 and call for statewide environmental justice!

HOW YOU CAN HELP

The best way you can support this is by sending comments to your legislators with your stories that show the need for this type of environmental justice and quality review. We want to highlight to legislators the need for our government to proactively reach out to communities and have an accessible and inclusive avenue for public input. Do you have examples on any of the following from your experience that highlight the failures in state and local decision making on projects without such environmental justice/quality review, that you could testify on? (These bullet points are just some suggestions to think about; please feel free to share your stories in any other ways as well for why environmental justice and quality review matter)

  • Poor outreach alerting the public with an emphasis on disproportionately affected communities and those that have been marginalized.
  • Lack of a consistent process for reviewing a project or development plan to obtain the full sense of consequences of the government decision/action.
  • Lack of clear understanding on the part of the public especially those disproportionately affected and marginalized of the full range of consequences of a government decision/action.
  • Need for government to facilitate full understanding including mechanisms for communities to get independent analysis as needed.
  • Need for transparent and accessible process for redress of government decisions/actions.
  • Where a clearly poor decision was made on a proposed project or development plan that could have been avoided had Nevada had a review process in place.
  • Examples where a Nevada review process would have avoided litigation and expenses.

Send a comment to your legislator

Who are your legislators:  https://nvlcb.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=9c2cd4575624417fa56fd084a7ee4dd9

COMMENT to your legislator:  https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/Opinions/81st2021/

Great Basin Resource Watch Written Comments

And/Or Share your opinion of support for ACR3 on Nevada’s legislative website here:

https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/Opinions/81st2021/

 

ACR3 Talking points

ACR3 – Requires the Legislative Commission to appoint an interim committee to conduct a study concerning environmental justice to the development of an Nevada Environmental Justice and Quality Act (NEJQA)

What ACR3 will Require and Provide for Nevada

Passing ACR3 will require the formation of an interim committee to conduct an interim study concerning the development of a Nevada-based environmental justice-environmental quality review process. The interim committee will facilitate a series of broadly advertised public hearings and gather information about the various aspects to consider in the development of a Nevada Environmental Justice and Quality Act (NEJQA) or other statutes as determined to be needed.

ACR3 will provide an opportunity to consider how to incorporate an in-state environmental justice and quality review process. Nevadans should see this as an open and inclusive path to update our statutes. We can draw on many examples from other states and adjust existing laws to fit the dynamic demographic profile of Nevada, and provide for flexibility as Nevada changes.

Goals of a Nevada Environmental Justice and Quality Act (NEJQA)

NEJQA would improve the health of Nevadans and protect Nevada’s land, air, water, plants, animals, and historical and cultural sites by requiring that state and local agencies consider and mitigate potential adverse effects before permitting significant projects.

NEJQA would provide a framework under Nevada law to determine if a governmental action has the potential to affect the environment, and disproportionately affect certain peoples and communities. The Act would also contain environmental justice and quality triggers as to when review is warranted. In essence, the Act would be like an in-state National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) with a focus on environmental justice impacts to our state’s communities.

Background

The State of Nevada does not have uniform requirements for state agencies to conduct publicly informed review processes of proposed projects, nor are there uniform requirements for environmental and environmental justice analysis before agencies grant permits for significant projects. Eighteen other states and the federal government have environmental review requirements.

These requirements are critical for transparency, open government, and to address disproportionate effects on certain populations, and, oblige agencies to make informed decisions. Without prior consideration of potential impacts to human health, water, air, animals and plants, historic and cultural sites, neighboring tribes, and nearby communities, agencies do permit actions which have negative impacts, many of which could be avoided with appropriate analysis, public input, and consideration of potential mitigation for those impacts.

Who is affected?

A NEJQA would ensure that agencies consider potential adverse effects on all individuals and communities, and Nevada’s flora and fauna before permitting major projects; that they are responsive to public input about their projects, and that they consider alternatives to their proposals which may accomplish the same ends with fewer negative outcomes.

Environmental Justice

How a major project can disproportionately affect unique communities should be a central aspect in permitting. Examples include the Dakota Keystone Pipeline which would destroy a cultural landscape thousands of years old and threaten a regional water supply, the rollback of protections for the Bears Ear Monument that also threatened culturally significant landscapes, and most recently, the federal government and the State of Nevada permitted a project that allowed a unique Western Shoshone cultural and spiritual area at Mt Tenabo in Eureka County to be destroyed.

“When the Earth Mother, your land, is gone, your walking towards a slow spiritual death”
– Western Shoshone Elder Carrie Dann

Why Nevada Needs an Environmental Justice & Quality Act (NEJQA)

  • To provide coherent and uniform public process for permitting and other governmental action
  • For increased transparency on project and permitting – full understanding of the consequences of the governmental action
  • To ensure that cumulative impacts are incorporated into the permitting process
  • To mandate an explicit effort to include underrepresented and disproportionately affected communities
  • Create clear environmental justice trigger(s) for prescriptive government action
  • To provide a comprehensive EJ&Q review process for state, county and local level actions where NEPA does not apply
  • Serve as a compliment to NEPA where deficiencies exist, in particular with the current federal Council on Environmental Quality rules.
If you would like to see examples for why an environmental justice and quality review process is needed in Nevada (to support you in crafting your own testimony), a few are written below:

Example 1 – The practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, provides another example of the need for  state-based environmental review.  Fracking is new to Nevada and unique geology and hydrology must be factored into decisions about it.  New York state used its authority under its State Environmental Quality Review Act, passed in 1975, to analyze the potential impacts of  fracking on lands in the state.  The New York Department of Environmental Conservation officially prohibited the practice of high-volume hydraulic fracturing in 2015, and Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced legislation in the FY 2021 Executive Budget to make New York’s fracking ban permanent.  Nevada would benefit from a similar process since federal agencies have not provided an adequate analysis of how fracking will affect Nevada.

Example 2 – Since Nevada has no environmental quality law, the only environmental review for non-federal projects is the state permitting process. The Nevada permitting process is not a highly inclusive public process nor does it evaluate cumulative impacts.   For example, Comstock Mining Inc’s (CMI) operation in Lyon County, Nevada has never had a NEPA-style environmental review, largely because it’s not on public land.  This is despite the clear community impacts of CMI’s operations.  The residents would have benefited greatly from a NEPA-style review.  Under NEPA, CMI would have had to submit a Plan of Operations, including projections of future actions, which CMI has kept shrouded to avoid undermining its public relations campaign.

Example 3 – “Statewide environmental analysis could have helped to limit litigation and ensure protection of water resources, plant life, wildlife and human life that were all considered during the permitting process for the Las Vegas Pipeline.

  • More than 190,000 acres of shrubland habitat, 10,000 acres of wetlands, hundreds of miles of streams, endangered species, rural communities and urban ratepayers were all at-risk.
  • Cumulative state analysis will help provide more scientific and economic consideration for all Nevadans when public or private projects cross-cross with our limited resources.”  Kyle Roerink Executive Director  Great Basin Water Network

Example 4 – Why Air Quality is an Environmental Justice Issue  by Jasmine Vazin

Nevada suffers from some of the worst air quality in the country, with Las Vegas being ranked as 13th in the nation for air pollution. The public health effects of this pollution were estimated to cost Nevadans $898 million in medical costs in 2012 alone. (https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2019GH000202) But are some in our cities carrying more of the burden from dirty air than others?

Environmental injustice occurs when marginalized groups face disproportionate impacts from a range of environmental threats. Poor air quality is just one way this happens. Redlining, or the practice of cities blocking off entire neighborhoods of color for loans, investment, and development (https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/feb/21/roads-nowhere-infrastructureamerican-inequality), made it easier for these communities to become hotspots for polluting industries, roadways, and crippling infrastructure. This is true throughout the U.S. In Las Vegas, much of the west side (https://books.google.com/books? id=Cj6SHy8pHVEC&pg=PA117&lpg=PA117&dq=%22las+vegas%22+banks+in+trouble+for+redlining&source=bl&ots=1jbMv9ALvd _Q67v8nJXiZkB9NLn4D4cwzrAc&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjamsaLt8vVAhXCiFQKHa5AB9kQ6AEINTAC#v=onepage&q=%2 and North Las Vegas suffered from a history of redlining (https://lasvegassun.com/news/2008/may/15/other-las-vegas/) that kept businesses and loans out of these areas for decades while making these communities targets for highway corridor Construction (https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/03/role-of-highways-in-american-poverty/474282/). This type of systematic oppression is still taking a toll today; with air pollution risks that are unequally impacting minority groups in these areas, and in others like them throughout Nevada.

Most of Nevada’s air quality issues are due to automobile exhaust, with ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide and other poisons spewing from millions of cars every single day in our cities (https://ndep.nv.gov/air/air-pollutants/mobile-sources). High traffic corridors cut right through communities of color in Las Vegas and Reno, meaning these neighborhoods are on the frontlines of emissions exhaust (see maps below).

This is not to say that our poor air quality is not impacting all Nevadans, but it is harming communities of color (particularly children) to a higher degree. Air pollution is known to impact the growth of developing lungs, and numerous studies show children are more susceptible to health impacts when exposed to pollution and other toxicants (https://www.who.int/ceh/risks/cehair/en/). Data from the Clark County school district 2006-2007 academic year shows that African American students had the highest rates of asthma by race (13.4%) followed by Hispanic/Latino students (6.6%). Furthermore, asthma is the single leading cause of missed school days in the nation, and has been shown to be a significant factor in absenteeism leading to being held back a grade in Clark  County Schools. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20861594) Putting this information together, this infers that black and hispanic students are suffering from higher rates of asthma, higher risk of missing school, and greater risk of being held back from academic advancement due to a disease that is likely caused by their polluted environment (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/7544430_Childhood_Asthma_and_Exposure_to_Traffic_and_Nitrogen_Dioxide).  Air pollution has been found to have a huge impact on intelligence (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/aug/27/airpollution-causes-huge-reduction-in-intelligence-study-reveals) and life expectancy (https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsa0805646) as well; and all of these factors can create barriers to personal success and long-term community growth for areas that are impacted by severe levels of air pollution. 2/15/2021 Why Air Quality is an Environmental Justice Issue | Sierra Club https://www.sierraclub.org/toiyabe/blog/2020/01/why-air-quality-environmental-justice-issue 2/4

This is why air quality in our state is a clear environment justice issue, and it is our moral imperative to mitigate these disparities and provide clean, healthy air to all those who live in Nevada. The Clean Transportation For All campaign is working to do just that by working towards clean transportation solutions that will provide cleaner air, healthier lungs, and more sustainable cities for all.

To clean our air, we are advocating for these solutions:

  • Begin the transition to electrified transportation. Starting with government fleets like school buses, public transit, and public service vehicles. Every single diesel burning vehicle contributes to further air pollution, and the positive impacts of transiting state fleets are a great first step in bringing down pollution levels.
  • Passing stricter emissions standards in Nevada, by joining the 14 other states that have adopted California’s Low-Emission Vehicle (LEV) and Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) rules, so that all cars sold in the state are transitioned to more sustainable, cleaner models.
  • Seriously pursue statewide public transit reform; focusing on multi-modal options such as light rail and EV buses, as well as city planning that encourages carbon-neutral transit such as walking, bikes, scooters. If public transit can meet the needs of everyone to get around our cities, personal vehicles will become obsolete for many, which will drastically reduce the daily pollution into the air, as well as the congestion on our roadways.

If these recommendations can be implemented, Nevada will benefit from cleaner air throughout our entire state, improving everyone’s lives. Not only that, but the cars on our roads are the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions (https://www.sierraclub.org/toiyabe/blog/2019/11/why-transportation-reform-matters) in our state. Reforming our transportation sector will not only benefit our people, but also the planet.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

If you would like more information on ACR3 itself, bill text can be found here:  https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/81st2021/Bill/7602/Text

If you have any questions, concerns, or would like any support at all in crafting your testimony supporting ACR3, please feel free to email Chelsey at chelsey@gbrw.org or John at john@gbrw.org