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Thankful for families: National Adoption Day celebrated at courthouse

ELKO – Laughter and smiles filled Elko District courtrooms Tuesday as five families adopted children on National Adoption Day.

Four step-parent adoptions and one foster child adoption took place in Judge Al Kacin’s and Judge Nancy Porter’s courtrooms Nov. 21. The official National Adoption Day was Nov. 18.

Elko County has hosted five National Adoption Days to create awareness of adoptions and the need of foster families in communities.

For the Catania family, the completion of the adoption process meant all five members of the family shared the last name.

“Zane wanted it,” said Joey Catania, Zane’s step-father, adding it took about six years to get the paperwork done.

The Catanias invited family and friends to see the proceeding in Porter’s courtroom, even though Zane, 8, told his father he didn’t understand all of the attention over changing his last name.

But Hannah Catania said the process to make it official was important to her even though they already considered themselves a family, which includes two more children.

“It closes one chapter and opens a whole new chapter,” Hannah Catania said. “[Joey] legally has all the rights.”

“To have it done on National Adoption Day is pretty cool,” Joey Catania said.

After the formal proceeding concluded, Porter asked the Catanias to join hands with her in a circle and repeat an oath:

“We receive this child into our lives and our family with humility and hope. We accept the opportunity that is ours to love and nurture him and to lead him by our teaching and example as we grow together.”

Joey Catania recited an additional oath: “I may not have given you the gift of life, but life has surely given me the gift of you.”

“I think it’s great,” said Manny Leprovost about Adoption Day. A friend of the Catanias, he attended the adoption proceeding. He said he felt encouraged to look into foster parenting.

The Hopper family was another step-parent adoption that took place in Porter’s courtroom. Samantha, 14, was formally adopted by her step-father David and to have it finalized a couple of days before Thanksgiving was significant to the family.

“It’s one more thing to be thankful for,” said Linda Hopper.

All adoptees choose a teddy bear, and siblings were given a balloon. Families and friends were invited to stay for a lunch sponsored by Newmont Gold Corp. and catered by Ogi Deli.

The event was organized by the Community Improvement Council, a committee made up of judges, attorneys, child legal advocates, representatives from the Division of Child and Family Services and Premier Adoptions.

“I love today,” said Judge Al Kacin, who presided over adoptions in his courtroom. “It’s the best of what we get to do. It’s inspiring to be in a room that is joyous.”

“It makes me thankful I became a district judge.”

District Judge Michael R. Montero of the Sixth Judicial Court in Humboldt County was on hand to watch the proceedings and said he wanted to learn more about Elko County’s event.

“I wanted to see it for myself,” Montero said. “We don’t have a specific adoption day in Humboldt County. It’s something I’d like to see us do.”

At the luncheon, Family Court Master Andy Mierins described the experience he and his wife Gail had with adopting their two sons and offered his gratitude to birth parents who make the difficult decision to give up their parental rights for their children to be adopted.

“I hope we’ll think about the great sacrifice that sometimes parents go through, the situations they find themselves in that have led to them either having to relinquish their rights or having those parental rights terminated,” Mierins said. “I think it’s a very difficult decision and it’s one that I hold very dear to me because without that I couldn’t have the privilege or the honor of being a parent.”

Diane Judd said she has attended all of Elko County’s Adoption Day ceremonies and remembered crying through the first one. Adoption has been a large part of her family and she knows firsthand what it means to the children and parents to have the family legally recognized.

“Just to see the children get a family, it makes me cry,” Judd said. “It isn’t blood that makes a family it is love.”

“When it’s legal, no one can tear you apart,” Judd said.


State-and-regional
Governor's office pushes for federal geothermal research lab

In the past two years, the conversation about renewable energy in Nevada has focused on fights over rooftop solar and the announcement of large-scale solar projects. Politicians and advocates all said the goal was to turn Nevada into the “Saudi Arabia of solar.” As Western energy markets pivot from fossil fuels, state officials want to broaden that goal. They see Nevada as not only the “Saudi Arabia for solar” but also the “Saudi Arabia of geothermal.”

And if they see Nevada as the Saudi Arabia of geothermal, they see Fallon as its capital.

State officials pledged $1 million this week to a years-long effort to land a national geothermal laboratory near Fallon. The Fallon site is one of two locations competing to serve as the main hub for the Department of Energy’s geothermal research. The other possible site is in Utah.

The federal agency is expected to pick a site next year. Researchers have been developing the Fallon project since November 2014, when a proposal was first submitted to the Department of Energy. In late 2016, it was selected as one of two possible sites for the FORGE lab. Since then, a team of researchers from organizations and national labs, has been conducting environmental reviews, drilling test holes and working on getting federal land permits.

The $1 million grant comes from the state’s Renewable Energy Account, according to Angie Dykema, director of the governor’s office of energy. That account was funded through a portion of property taxes on renewable projects that located in the state between 2010 and 2013.

“It’s an enormous gift to this project,” said Doug Blankenship, a researcher at Sandia National Laboratories, the lead organization for the Fallon project. “[New geothermal technology] is a golden ring that deserves to be looked at and Nevada is the best place to be doing that.”

Few Nevadans have likely heard of geothermal, a renewable energy resource that uses heat trapped beneath the Earth to power turbines. The geothermal industry is the first to admit that it lags behind other renewables like solar. With the steady drop in solar prices over the last few years, utilities have often passed over geothermal. They see solar as the least-costly renewable.

The industry is ready to see that change, and the Fallon lab could play a big role in that.

If selected, the Fallon field laboratory would be known as the Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Engineering, or FORGE. The Department of Energy would use the Fallon FORGE lab to research and develop a concept known as “enhanced” geothermal drilling.

At conventional geothermal plants, operators drill wells to tap underground steam or hot water. The resource then travels through the well and is used to spin a turbine, which runs a generator.

A successful geothermal plant requires three things: heat, water, and water pathways. Those three factors are difficult to find together, and because geothermal (like oil and gas) is a blind resource, exploration can be expensive. Some companies might drill only to find that there is heat but poor geologic permeability. The goal of enhanced geothermal is to fix that problem.

In an attempt to induce water pathways, enhanced geothermal uses injected water to fracture rock. It is similar to hydraulic fracturing, but it does not rely on sand or the added chemicals.

“The overall goal of FORGE is to develop the technology that we need to make enhanced geothermal systems commercially viable,” said Bridget Ayling, who directs UNR’s Great Basin Center for Renewable Energy. “We know we have hot rock. We have hot rock everywhere.”

Last year, geothermal accounted for only 0.4 percent of all electricity produced by U.S. power plants, according to the Energy Information Administration. Researchers, industry experts, even utility executives see the potential to deploy far more geothermal. A 2006 technical analysis from MIT predicted that geothermal could account for 10 percent of the U.S. energy stock.

From a geological perspective, the potential is even greater.

Fallon FORGE says on its website that enhanced geothermal could open up a massive 100 gigawatts, enough energy for 100 million homes. Nevada has the country’s second-largest share of untapped geothermal resources, according to a 2008 report from the U.S. Geological Survey. The most conservative estimate in the USGS report suggests Nevada has about 500 megawatts of known geothermal potential, enough for 375,000 homes. It is likely much greater.

That’s one reason state officials want the FORGE lab here. The state also has experience.

Reno-based Ormat Technologies is one of the largest geothermal operators, with projects across the West and in Nevada. The state ranks second in installed geothermal capacity.

Ormat is on the team readying the Fallon lab for site selection.

“Nevada is an international leader in geothermal production and technology but in order to remain the best in the world, we must continue to innovate and invest in research and development,” Gov. Brian Sandoval said in the press release announcing the $1 million grant. “These funds demonstrate the state’s commitment to renewable energy and our dedication to remaining the top research destination and producer of geothermal technology and techniques.”

Researchers at the Fallon site plan to use the funds to analyze subsurface rock. Ayling said the core samples will provide them with important data. She expects that they will offer a better understanding of the area’s geology, such as the strength and mineral composition of the rock.

Out of research and development like the FORGE project, the geothermal industry is hoping for a technological breakthrough in enhanced drilling, something that helps geothermal compete.

As Western states emphasize clean energy policies, geothermal companies see an opening.

Geothermal runs all day and night, whereas solar is intermittent; solar panels only produce electricity when the sun is shining. As more coal plants (and some natural gas plants) are pushed out of the markets, a geothermal power plant could be a more reliable replacement option than intermittent solar or wind. It’s a renewable that can be dispatched any time.

For utilities that buy geothermal, this could change the economic equation.

“As you go to higher penetrations of renewable energy displacing thermal plants, geothermal has a significant value. And that is you can dispatch it,” NV Energy CEO Paul Caudill said in a recent interview with The Nevada Independent. “We can use geothermal plants at night when we can’t use a solar facility. I think there is a significant value there. And as you start pushing to increase [solar] penetration on the grid, geothermal is going to become more valued.”


Elko Daily Free Press file  

Piping runs along Grass Valley Road May 2014 near Ormat Technologies Inc.’s McGuiness Hills geothermal power plant.


Loren Benoit  

Rayne Andrews stretches a plaster strip over Stephanie Dunning’s belly in October in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. The casts mainly serve as a physical reminder of how a woman’s body changes as it provides life for her unborn child.


National
AP
FCC chairman sets out to scrap open internet access rules

MENLO PARK, Calif. — The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission set out Tuesday to scrap rules around open internet access, a move that would allow giant cable and telecom companies to throttle broadband speeds and favor their own services if they wish.

Ajit Pai followed through on a pledge to try to repeal “net neutrality” regulations enacted under the Obama administration. The current rules treat internet service providers such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon as if they were utility companies that provide essential services, like electricity. The rules mandate that they give equal access to all online content and apps.

Pai said those rules discourage investments that could provide even better and faster online access. Instead, he said new rules would force ISPs to be transparent about their services and management policies, and then would let the market decide.

“Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet,” Pai said in a statement.

Pai distributed his alternative plan to other FCC commissioners Tuesday in preparation for a Dec. 14 vote. Pai promised to release his entire proposal today. Although the FCC’s two Democrats said they will oppose the proposal, the repeal is likely to prevail as Republicans dominate 3-2. The vote for net neutrality in 2015 also was along party lines, but Democrats dominated then.

Equal treatment for all web traffic has been a fundamental principle of the internet since its creation, but companies have increasingly put their thumb on the scales of access. AT&T, for example, doesn’t count use of its streaming service DirecTV Now against wireless data caps, potentially making it seem cheaper to its cellphone customers than rival TV services. Rivals would have to pay AT&T for that privilege.

Regulators, consumer advocates and some tech companies are concerned that repealing net neutrality will give ISPs even more power to block or slow down rival offerings.

A repeal also opens the ability for ISPs to charge a company like Netflix for a faster path to its customers. Allowing this paid-priority market to exist could skew prices and create winners and losers among fledgling companies that require a high-speed connection to reach their users.

Pai, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, said in an interview on Fox News Radio that Trump did not have any input on his proposal. Asked whether deregulation would result in higher prices and put speedy internet access out of the reach of blue-collar Americans, Pai said “it’s going to mean exactly the opposite.”

“These heavy-handed regulations have made it harder for the private sector to build out the networks especially in rural America,” Pai said.

In a Wall Street Journal editorial published Tuesday, Pai cited a report by a nonprofit think tank, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, that said investment by the dozen largest ISPs fell about 2 percent from 2015 to 2016, to $61 billion. The group didn’t link the drop solely to the stiffer rules introduced in 2015.

The attempt to repeal net neutrality has triggered protests from consumer groups and internet companies. A data firm called Emprata that was backed by a telecom industry group found in August that after filtering out form letters, the overwhelming majority of comments to the FCC — about 1.8 million — favored net neutrality, compared with just 24,000 who supported its repeal.

Carmen Scurato, director of policy and legal affairs for the National Hispanic Media Coalition, said ISPs’ ability to impose monthly caps on data use already act to raise prices and limit access. Repealing net neutrality, she said, “is just erecting more barriers.”

Among those that will be hit hardest are startups that depend on high-speed internet connections for growth, said Colin Angle, co-founder and CEO of iRobot, maker of the Roomba robot vacuum cleaners. He said his own company wouldn’t be dramatically affected in the near term, but the nascent robotics industry overall might.

“The need for these robots to consume bandwidth is certainly on the rise,” Angle said.

Google said in a statement that net neutrality rules “are working well for consumers and we’re disappointed in the proposal announced today.”

Other tech companies were more muted, with some referring instead to their trade group, the Internet Association. Netflix, which had been vocal in support of the rules in 2015, tweeted that it “supports strong #NetNeutrality” and opposes the rules rollback.

But the streaming-video company said in January that weaker net neutrality wouldn’t hurt it because it’s now too popular with users for broadband providers to interfere.

AT&T executive vice president Joan Marsh said new rules requiring ISPs to disclose their management practices will keep them honest. “Any ISP that is so foolish as to seek to engage in gatekeeping will be quickly and decisively called out,” she said in a statement.

Comcast said its commitment to consumers will remain the same. “We do not and will not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content,” Comcast’s senior executive vice president David Cohen said.

Pai’s plan also restores the Federal Trade Commission as the main watchdog to protect consumers and promote competition.

But Democratic Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn said the proposal was “a giveaway to the nation’s largest communications companies.”

Pai’s proposal on net neutrality comes after the Republican-dominated commission voted 3-2 last week to weaken rules meant to support independent local media, undoing a ban on companies owning newspapers and broadcast stations in a single market.


Crime-and-courts
featured
Three arrested for attempted auto theft at Walmart

ELKO — Three Las Vegas residents were arrested Sunday on charges of attempting to steal a vehicle from the Walmart parking lot.

The owner of a 2000 Ford pickup noticed that the ignition of his vehicle had been tampered with and notified the Elko Police Department, according to Lt. Mike Palhegyi.

The three suspects allegedly returned to tamper with the vehicle a second time after police had arrived to investigate. The officer identified them as the same suspects from the earlier incident caught on surveillance camera footage from the store.

Jessica D. Barnes, 34; Robert E. Rushwam, 38; and Vincent J. Debarr, 46 were arrested for attempted grand larceny of a vehicle. Bail was set at $20,000 each.

Debarr was also charged with violating his probation.