Move to keep deals secret could backfire on NV Energy

By: - September 11, 2023 2:46 pm

“The inequity of asking ratepayers to pay for purchases” that NV Energy “is not even willing to publicly disclose is contrary to any public policy promoting transparency,” reads the draft order. (Photo: Ronda Churchill/Nevada Current)

NV Energy’s effort to keep details of its sponsorship agreements with sports teams confidential could result in even more information being made public, should the Nevada Public Utilities Commission approve a draft order Tuesday proposed by Commissioner Tammy Cordova.  

Cordova wants NV Energy to disclose its sponsorship agreements with the Henderson Silver Knights and the Las Vegas Aviators. The utility is trying to recoup from ratepayers part of the costs of its energy conservation and efficiency programs, which are advertised through the sponsorships.

NV Energy declined to comment on the draft order.

The utility objected in July when David Chairez of the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection submitted public testimony with details of NV Energy’s sponsorship deals – such as how many VIP tickets or parking passes the utility is receiving from the Las Vegas Raiders. 

The utility’s customers “should not be asked to pay for sponsorship of professional sports teams and community events,” Chairez said in the testimony, which was removed from the PUC website hours after it was posted, and replaced with a version that redacted details of the sponsorship arrangements. NV Energy contended Chairez violated a protective order designed to keep information about the utility from the public, and asked that he be forever banned from testifying before the PUC. 

NV Energy subsequently abandoned its efforts to have ratepayers subsidize its sponsorship deal with the Raiders, citing the generality of its advertising campaign, but maintained its bid to recoup about $150,000 of the $1.3 million it spent on sponsorships with the Henderson Silver Knights and Las Vegas Aviators. 

Cordova, in her draft order filed last week, finds BCP violated its agreement with NV Energy, and orders that Chairez and other BCP staff members attend continuing education classes on ethics and confidentiality to address any “lack of understanding” of the process.

“Whether the BCP believed the information revealed in the Chairez testimony was not entitled to confidential treatment is irrelevant when considering whether the terms of the protective agreement were violated,” Cordova wrote in the draft order.  

The BCP, according to Cordova’s draft order, argues details of the sponsorship agreements customers “will ultimately be paying for, even in part, are filings,” quoting the BCP, “‘that must be open at all reasonable times to the public.’” She notes BCP’s argument that “the inequity of asking ratepayers to pay for purchases” that NV Energy “is not even willing to publicly disclose is contrary to any public policy promoting transparency.”

Cordova granted the BCP’s request to make public NV Energy’s sponsorship contracts, discounting the utility’s argument that doing so puts it at a competitive disadvantage. 

NV Energy contends the information it seeks to keep secret is  “commercially sensitive and derives independent value from not being generally known to the public,” Cordova writes.  

The BCP asserted that NV Energy is using confidentiality provisions in an attempt to thwart a thorough investigation of the utility’s rate applications.  

Cordova’s draft order notes NV Energy “should not designate any information as confidential without having a reasonable basis.” 

“Transparency,” she wrote, “should be the goal in all commission proceedings…”

Should Commissioner Hayley Williamson dissent, hearing officer Sam Crano may be called on to cast the deciding vote, given the vacancy on the commission that has yet to be filled by Gov. Joe Lombardo. The draft order gives NV Energy until Sept. 19 to present the contracts or file a motion for reconsideration.  

The PUC meets Tuesday at 10 a.m.  

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Dana Gentry
Dana Gentry

Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.