Reid touts carbon action, renewable energy ahead of annual Las Vegas forum

Source: Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Senate’s top Democrat hopes legislation to price carbon dioxide emissions will be back on his chamber’s agenda after this November’s midterm elections.

Extreme weather events including wildfires will continue to raise the issue’s profile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said on a call yesterday with reporters.

“As we speak, we have wildfires raging in five or six different states in the West. Raging,” he said. “There are lots of reasons why we need to really take another look at this.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) in particular has said repeatedly that efforts to enact climate change legislation might revive as soon as next year, spurred on by U.S. EPA regulations and increased public awareness of the issue. But November could also make it easier for opponents of EPA’s two power plant greenhouse gas rules to enact measures stripping or limiting those rules, especially if Republicans gain control of the Senate.

Reid spoke on a call held to preview this year’s National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas, an annual event he has been involved with since its inception seven years ago. This year’s summit will be held on Sept. 4 at MGM’s Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino with backing from MGM Resorts International, the Center for American Progress and other sponsors. It will feature White House adviser John Podesta, former Utah governor and Republican presidential contender Jon Huntsman, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, among others.

Clinton, who is considered a front-runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, has touted her role in helping to make some progress toward an international agreement on climate change during 2009 United Nations talks in Copenhagen, Denmark (Greenwire, July 7).

Reid touted the role he said renewable energy had played in Nevada’s economic recovery after the 2008 recession.

“Everyone knew that this state had a lot to gain from the clean energy future,” he said. “Those were bad, bad times for us. But what we needed was a catalyst to move things forward.”

The summit is intended to shine a national and international spotlight on Nevada’s renewable energy potential and has drawn investment to the state in the past, he said.

Reid used the call to strike back at reporting by the Las Vegas Review-Journal that threw doubt on the number of jobs created by renewable energy.

“We have created thousands and thousands of jobs in Nevada,” he said, adding that with any major construction project jobs diminish after the project has been constructed.

Reid and Jim Murren, MGM Resorts International’s chairman and CEO, were asked about the choice by climate skeptic think tank the Heartland Institute to hold its annual convention at Mandalay Bay. The group gained public notoriety in 2012 for erecting a billboard in Chicago equating belief in climate change to Unabomber Ted Kaczynski.

Said Murren: “They paid their bills, so that was fine with me.”

But he added that his company had found there was a business advantage in taking steps to reduce carbon and boost renewables. Mandalay Bay’s rooftop is being fitted with solar panels.