In 2016, Nevada voters overwhelmingly approved a deceptive “energy choice” ballot question, which would allow the state to deregulate its energy market. If enacted, this policy would result in higher energy prices, large-scale job loss, and potentially even “energy deserts” in some rural parts of the state.
This measure, known as Question 3, is a state constitutional amendment, and Nevada law requires such amendments to be approved by voters twice before going into law, which means that Question 3 will once again be on the ballot this November.
IBEW 1245 has been expressing opposition to Question 3 since it was first introduced in 2016. At that time, NV Energy had opted to remain neutral on the measure, but the company has since changed its position, joining Local 1245 in strongly opposing Question 3. In fact, according to NV Energy CEO Paul Caudill, the company has committed $35 million to defeating the measure.
Caudill took time out of his busy schedule to attend the July Advisory Council in Reno, where he led a candid and detailed discussion with the union’s leadership regarding Question 3. Since taking over as CEO shortly after NV Energy was acquired by Berkshire Hathaway in 2013, Caudill has proven to be exceptionally collaborative with the union, and that unique labor-management dynamic was on clear display during the Advisory Council meeting.
“When Paul came in as CEO, in very short order, our relationship with NV Energy went from worst to first,” Dalzell told the Advisory Council as he introduced Caudill. “He insisted that … with collaboration, we could all achieve more. He set the tone, and our relationship pivoted in a matter of months and became the model within Berkshire Hathaway.”
Caudill began his presentation by expressing his appreciation for the positive, solutions-oriented relationship between the company and the union.
“I think about where we would be if we hadn’t made the changes that we did with the IBEW and the AFL; we’d be in a completely different situation right now,” Caudill told the Advisory Council. “It was a rough start, but it didn’t take long for us to realize there was an opportunity for us to do something different.”
After espousing his gratitude to the union and its members, Caudill proceeded to explain the ins and outs of Nevada’s energy market, the role of the state legislature in the enactment of Question 3, and the drastic impact that it would have on the entire state. He shared excerpts from a Blue Ribbon Panel report on Question 3, which found that the enactment of such a policy would result in residential rate increases for at least 10 years, and lead to hundreds of lost jobs, if not more.
“The report says that 400 workers would be impacted – but I think that’s an understatement,” Caudill said. “Quite frankly, we could lose 1,000 employees in the transition.”
Caudill also explained how Question 3 would stagnate the development of more clean and green energy resources.
“The proponents [of Question 3] have been saying that energy choice would open up opportunities for renewables, but it’s really the opposite,” Caudill said. “Uncertainty is the enemy of renewable energy.”
Caudill underscored the exceptionally diverse nature of the No on 3 coalition, which includes both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, several chambers of commerce, the AARP, the Sierra Club, veterans groups, many of Nevada’s rural electric co-ops, and the Nevada AFL-CIO.
Caudill emphasized that, despite the fact that the measure passed in 2016 by more than two-to-one, the current polling on Question 3 shows a dead heat, putting the No on 3 campaign in a strong position this fall.
After Caudill answered several questions on topics ranging from energy regionalization to campaign tactics, Dalzell once again echoed the importance of getting out the vote to defeat Question 3 this fall.
“We’re going to have our retirees, organizing stewards and volunteers walking precincts to get out the No on 3 vote, and each of the other Berkshire Hathaway utility locals from Iowa, Illinois, Utah and Oregon is sending two people to walk as well. IBEW Local 1 in St. Louis will be sending people, and so will IBEW 1547 in Alaska,” Dalzell told the Advisory Council. “Local 1245 is treating this like the fight of our life.”
Photos by John Storey