Southwest Gas ramped up its political giving in Nevada this election cycle, surpassing contribution levels for prior cycles in recent years. According to the most recent campaign finance reports, the gas utility spent over $400,000 this campaign season, which is more than $130,000 from the 2020 cycle and over $160,000 from the 2018 cycle.
During the legislative session in 2021, Southwest Gas lobbied against legislation that would have directed the utility to file projections of its infrastructure investments, fuel demand, and required regulators to compile reports on the role of gas utilities in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Southwest Gas also introduced a bill, carried by Democrat Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, that would have allowed the gas utility to replace thousands of miles of pipelines and recover costs through a monthly rate. Neither bill passed. Currently, the utility is looking to supply more “renewable natural gas” to the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada and may join its industry peers in advancing legislation that prevents municipalities and counties from reducing greenhouse gas emissions by banning new gas infrastructure and hookups.
Southwest Gas contributing to individual political candidates
Nevada campaign finance law limits Southwest Gas to contributing $10,000 to a candidate ($5,000 for the primary and $5,000 for the general election) per two-year election cycle. All but one of the recipients of Southwest Gas contributions totaling $10,000 are members of the Democratic Party, across multiple municipal and state offices. Democrats control both houses of the Nevada legislature.
EPI reported on Southwest Gas’s notable contributions leading up to Nevada’s primary elections in June. In March, Southwest Gas gave $10,000 – its largest contribution at the time – to Assemblywoman Lesley Cohen’s Democratic primary opponent, Joe Dalia. Residents in Cohen’s district also began receiving political mailers smearing Cohen. The mailers were paid for by the front group Nevadans for Economic Opportunity (NEO), a 501(c)(4) “pro-growth, public policy” coalition financially backed by the Retail Association of Nevada (RAN) and the Associated Builders and Contractors of Nevada, among others. The address of RAN is also the same one for NEO in the state’s campaign finance disclosure database.
In 2021, Cohen introduced AB380, legislation requiring gas utilities to employ a more rigorous planning process before expanding infrastructure. Southwest Gas built a coalition of affiliated interest groups to defeat the legislation. The utility’s lobbying campaign included creating a now-disbanded front group, Coalition for Cleaner, Affordable Energy. The group sponsored Facebook content to “Stop AB380” and featured RAN’s Senior Vice President, Bryan Wachter, falsely framing the climate bill as a fossil gas appliance ban. Cohen won her primary in June and will be on the ballot on November 8.
Over the past cycle, three Democratic Nevada Assembly members have received $10,000 from Southwest Gas, including Steve Yeager, Elaine Marzola, and Daniele Monroe-Moreno. Yeager is Speaker pro Tempore and Monroe-Moreno is Assistant Majority Floor Leader. Republican Gregory Hafen II, who also received a total of $10,000, is Assistant Minority Whip.
Southwest Gas contributing to majority of members on the Assembly Growth and Infrastructure Committee
In addition to their leadership roles, Monroe-Moreno is the chair of, and Yeager is a member of, the Growth and Infrastructure Committee, providing jurisdiction over energy matters, among other related issues. In 2019, the committee also voted to approve legislation that required the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) to adopt regulations that allowed Southwest Gas to purchase and recover the cost for “renewable natural gas” (RNG).
The committee’s oversight also includes the Department of Transportation (NDOT), the entity addressing the future of Nevada’s transportation system, which has identified Southwest Gas as a key stakeholder in transportation planning processes. In August 2022, Southwest Gas filed an application with the PUCN, requesting an increase in the use of RNG in its procurement agreement with the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC). The request comes after Governor Sisolak launched the State of Nevada Climate Initiative in the summer of 2020 to help ensure the state achieves its emissions-reduction targets of 28% by 2025, 45% by 2030, and net-zero or near-zero by 2050. Many reports have been released in recent years that detail the pitfalls of increasing RNG due to methane leakage throughout the system.
This cycle, Southwest Gas has contributed over $40,000 to 7 of the 11 members of the Growth and Infrastructure Committee, including Democrats Shondra Summers-Armstrong, Cameron Miller, Tracy Brown-May, Howard Watts and Republicans Tom Roberts and Glen Leavitt.
Southwest Gas contributing to members of the Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee
Elaine Marzola– recipient of $10,000 from Southwest Gas– serves on the Commerce and Labor Committee in the Nevada Assembly. Southwest Gas has contributed nearly $35,000 to 7 of its 13 members, including $7,500 to the Committee Chair, Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui.
The Commerce and Labor Committee votes on bills impactful to Southwest Gas. In 2015, this committee advanced legislation that required the PUCN to adopt regulations authorizing Southwest Gas’ infrastructure expansion, which has resulted in the $28 million expansion project to Mesquite and the $62 million expansion project to Spring Creek.
Southwest Gas supporting Clark County Commissioners race
In 2019, Nevada’s Clark County Board of Commissioners – which includes Las Vegas – developed and adopted its first Sustainability and Climate Action Plan, All-In Clark County. The plan includes zero emissions from buildings by 2050, citing the need to shift operational energy from fossil gas to clean, renewable energy. Currently, 62% of Clark County’s electricity is generated from gas, meaning the plan could significantly impact Southwest Gas’s current and planned infrastructure investments. Southwest Gas is listed as a stakeholder in the All-In Clark County plan, and participated in the interview process for the greenhouse gas inventory, the working group for the climate vulnerability assessment, and multiple community roundtables.
Southwest Gas contributed over $20,000 to several of the Clark County Commissioners this cycle, including 3 who are on the November 8 ballot. The next phase of the All-In plan includes the development of a regional greenhouse gas inventory and climate vulnerability assessment, requiring approval from the Clark County Board of Commissioners.
|Candidate||Election Year||Contribution from SWG (2021-2022)|
|James Brinley Gibson||2022||$5,000|
|William McCurdy II||2025||$2,500|
Southwest Gas spending on political action committees in Nevada
In addition to giving to individual candidates, Southwest Gas contributed $129,000 to Nevada political action committees (PACs) this cycle. These PACs then allocate the funds it has raised and donate to campaigns for or against candidates. Several of the PACs that received Southwest Gas money are affiliated with trade associations and chambers of commerce. These groups may join the gas utility in future lobbying campaigns.
Southwest Gas contributed $15,000 to the Home Building PAC, the political action committee for the Southern Nevada Home Builders Association (SNHBA). Southwest Gas employees Philip Conors and Tony Stipanov sit on the board of SNHBA as associate director and senior director, respectively. Further, a report from EPI earlier this year regarding the “future of gas” docket at the PUCN, detailed SNHBA’s filed comments highlighting concerns about electrification in buildings. Southwest Gas is a member of SNHBA, paying annual membership of at least $1,592.
The Vegas Chamber of Commerce’s BizPac received $15,000 from Southwest Gas this year. Boyd Nelson, VP of Strategy and Corporate Development at Southwest Gas, sits on the Board of Trustees at the Vegas Chamber. Debra Gallo, the Director of Regulatory Projects at Southwest Gas, is also the Chair of BizPAC and serves on its Government Affairs Committee.
Southwest Gas also contributed to PACs registered to state lawmakers. Nevada Victory PAC, received $10,000 from Southwest Gas, and is registered to Assemblywoman Melissa Hardy, a republican member of the Commerce and Labor Committee. Hardy also received an additional $2,500 from Southwest Gas as an individual contribution.
Southwest Gas gave $10,000 to Steve Yeager’s PAC, NV Strong. As mentioned earlier, Yeager is a member of the Growth and Infrastructure Committee and received an additional $10,000 from the utility as an individual contribution.
Southwest Gas contributed $6,000 directly to Rochelle Nguyen, in addition to contributing $10,000 to her PAC, Nguyening Leadership. Furthermore, Southwest Gas gave $10,000 to Senator Nicole Cannizzaro’s PAC– Battle Born and Raised Leadership. The PAC predominantly contributes to Democratic candidates campaigning for the Nevada State Assembly.
|Political Action Committee||Contribution from SWG (2021-2022)|
|Make Nevada Work||$25,000|
|Home Building PAC||$15,000|
|Sapphire Leadership PAC||$10,000|
|Nevada Victory PAC||$10,000|
|Battle Born and Raised Leadership||$10,000|
|Nevada Hispanic Legislative Caucus||$5,000|
|Let’s Get to Work Nevada||$5,000|
|IMPAC – Henderson Chamber of Commerce||$2,500|
|Nevada Black Legislative Caucus||$1,500|
Featured image: Nevada Legislature Building, Carson City, Nevada. Source: Ken Lund, Flickr.