Ballot measure 3 on the November general election Nov. 6 is a deeply flawed Constitutional Amendment that would force Nevada to dismantle its regulated electricity system – one of the most reliable and affordable in the nation – and replace it with a new, unknown system that would need to be established by legislature and the courts.
Opponents say Question 3 would cost Nevada consumers and taxpayers billions, cause the loss of thousands of good-paying jobs, and disrupt Nevada’s progress toward a renewable energy future.
In a presentation made to the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners July 16, Lincoln County Power District General Manager Dave Luttrell explained what the measure is all about, what it would do, and what it would not do.
Mt. Wheeler Power General Manager Kevin Robison, in a telephone interview this week, echoed the same thoughts about Ballot Measure 3.
He said, “We operate an at-cost company on behalf of our membership, one of the lowest, if not the lowest in the state of Nevada and the nation as far as rates. If the measure would pass, our members are going to be harmed, especially when you add a retail component to it.”
In 2016 Nevada voters faced the same bill and passed it by a wide margin. White Pine was the only county where the measure did not pass.
But because it is to be a constitutional amendment, Luttrell notes, voters must approve it a second time before it becomes law by July 1, 2023.
The language of the bill looks appealing, to be able to shop for your own lower power rates from competitive electric suppliers, “but the Devil is in the details,” says Luttrell.
Fourteen of Nevada’s rural electric providers oppose the measure, only one, in Pahrump, supports it.
“Big business will win,” he said, if the measure passes, “rural Nevada will lose.”
Over the past several months Luttrell and others have been making presentations around the state.
Shellie Watts, Mt. Wheeler Power Assistant Manager, made a presentation recently to the Eureka County Board of Commissioners.
Robison said, “We are scheduled to do a meeting with their Natural Resources Council in Eureka Aug. 14 or 15. We have also used the Ruralite magazine to make sure the information gets out there. We are also putting notices in our billings.”
He said on Aug. 7 there will be a “Night Out,” in Eureka and have personnel there giving out information.
Robison said as the message about the real meaning of the measure is getting out, “We are very confident that we can deliver the rural vote in opposition.”
Ballot measure 3 is being pushed primarily in the legislature by major corporations in southern Nevada, specifically two Las Vegas billionaires, Sheldon Adelson, the Sands Corporation, and Rob Roy of Switch, who don’t want to pay the very high exit fees of having to opt out of using NV Energy. As some have said, “They want to spread that out over the people of Nevada to pay for it.”
A constitutional amendment would allow the billionaires to buy power for themselves at lower rates, but would strap the people of Nevada with having to do the same thing and dismantle the state’s rural electric companies, who already provide power to the customers cheaper than where they could buy it on the open market.
“Lower rates initially, maybe,” Luttrell noted, “but that is just the price per kilowatt hour, not including the cost of transmitting the power to the customer,” or in other words, “other fees are not included.”
The concept of energy choices is not new, about 14 states, mostly in the northeast, do use it, but Luttrell noted no other states have gone that way since the late 1990s.
He said in the states where it does exist, it was done by law, not a constitutional amendment. Nevada would be the first.
State laws allow for exemptions, he said. An amendment to the state constitution does not allow for exemptions. “If you find later you don’t like it, it becomes very difficult to change the constitution. It takes at least six years. They don’t go backwards easily.”
In addition, Measure 3 would change the “virtual utility model.”
Mt. Wheeler Power is an interstate company, Robison said. “We actually serve into the state of Utah also. Many of the cooperatives around the state do also supply to neighboring states. And that is going to pose a problem if the measure were to pass, maybe even a legal problem when you look at interstate commerce. Right now, our rates are the same across state lines.”
Managers have explained, “If you were having to buy power from some small company in Texas, if there is a problem, who is going to fix it, who is going to be the provider of last resort, sets the rates and makes future plans for supplying the County?
In addition, rural Nevada would no longer be able to receive power from Hoover Dam, where 80 percent of it comes from now.
“Hoover Dam is a federal facility,” Luttrell points out, “and private utilities would not be able to purchase power there.”
The Nevada Public Utilities Commission Luttrell said, conducted a series of hearings and studies in which the question was asked at each meeting, “Is there anyone who would want to go on record to give the assurance that this (Measure 3) will lower rates for residential families?”
He said, “Not once did the big Vegas corporations who support the measure get up and respond to that question.”
“The language in Measure 3 implies rates will be lowered for a residential family, but they would not even go on record to back up that statement.”
The official final report of the NPU concluded, “This initiative is likely to increase the residential rate for at least 10 years.”
Robison said he believed, if the measure were to pass, “our wholesale rates would go up over 30 percent.”
As he and others in opposition to Measure 3 have said, “There is nothing good in it for rural Nevada.”