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Scrapbook: Longtime Nevada Conservationist and Renewable Energy Advocate Honored

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Sierra Club Scrapbook

January 03, 2012

Longtime Nevada Conservationist and Renewable Energy Advocate Honored

Photo by Dave Hombeck

"Joe Johnson was the Pied Piper of the renewable power movement before it was fashionable," says Jean Stoess, chair of the Sierra Club's Toiyabe Chapter.

Johnson, a former geologist, Nevada State Assemblyman, and now state lobbyist for the Sierra Club, was recently honored with the Golden Pinecone Award, celebrating "the good work of citizens to preserve and enhance the environment of northern Nevada."

That's Johnson at right, above, accepting a plaque from Assemblyman David Bobzien, who emceed the awards ceremony. "Joe has great institutional knowledge of what works and doesn't work in renewable energy in the legislature," Bobzien said in presenting Johnson with the award.

"After retiring from the state legislature Joe went to work for the Sierra Club (among other clients), where he has focused mainly on renewable energy policy," says friend and colleague Paula Carrell, the Club's State Program Director. "Nevada has in many ways been at the forefront of renewable energy policy, and that's largely thanks to Joe.

"He's also a great dancer," Carrell says. "He's very light on his feet."

Johnson was instrumental in developing and guiding Nevada's growing energy regulatory and incentive structure. The group Nevada Econet lauded his representation of private non-profit interests in the Legislature and his service on the Nevada Environmental Commission.

"I've always admired Joe's ability to accomplish changes in legislation by quietly working behind the scenes," says fellow Toiyabe Chapter activist Lois Snedden. "I suspect that the drama that works in some states would fail here!"

The same week Johnson received the Golden Pinecone Award, he was attending a meeting of the state legislature's Oversight Committee on development around Lake Tahoe when Senator John Lee unexpectedly called on Johnson to speak about the Sierra Club's position and took the occasion to compliment him at length about his lobbying skills.

The Toiyabe Chapter and conservation-minded residents of both Nevada and California are deeply concerned about Nevada Senate Bill 271, which would allow Nevada to withdraw from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA), a bi-state agency with the charter to "preserve, restore, and enhance the unique natural and human environment of the Lake Tahoe region."

California and Nevada share jurisdiction of the country's largest alpine lake. Last April, the California State Water Resources Control Board approved a plan by the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection to reduce pollution flowing into the lake, and the U.S. EPA approved the plan in September.

Passage of SB 271 would allow Nevada to leave the TRPA if California and the federal government don't agree to weaken the agency and allow more real estate development. It would essentially put Nevada on record as opposing plans to regulate development in the Tahoe Basin. Johnson has argued before the Nevada legislature that the state's departure from the TRPA would be irresponsible.

"The Toiyabe Chapter and other Lake Tahoe lovers will rely heavily on Joe's lobbying skills to keep us informed and effective in dealing with the potential fallout from SB 271," says Stoess.


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