Commentary

The next governor should sweep the Nebraska Environmental Board clean

November 4, 2022 9:53 am
Nebraska Environmental Trust

The Nebraska Environmental Trust, headquartered in Lincoln, awards about $20 million a year in grants to help the state’s environment. (Courtesy of the Nebraska Environmental Trust)

The incoming governor of Nebraska should carefully examine the voting, statements and activities of the entire board of the Nebraska Environmental Trust to ensure they align with the law, rules and regulations, and principles of the Trust.

The winner of the Carol Blood-Jim Pillen race for governor should sweep the board clean after taking office next year if she or he is not satisfied that each member has fulfilled his duty to help conserve, enhance and restore the natural environments of Nebraska.

The board, composed of 14 members, 12 appointed directly by the governor, is charged with evaluating projects and awarding grants annually from money provided by the Nebraska State Lottery. The Environmental Trust was created by legislation in 1992 and began awarding grants in 1994.

The Trust board has been embroiled in a lawsuit, shown blatant conflicts of interest, lacked transparency in its operation, displayed inconsistency of decision-making, flouted its own rules and regulations, railed against popular conservation easements, ignored climate change and refused to allocate lottery funds, contrary to its charge by state law. Some members do not deserve to continue to serve.

The Trust has dispersed more than $350 million to approximately 2,500 projects in the state. It typically distributes as much as $20 million to $25 million from the lottery each year.

The latest outrage was a sham of a public “listening session” held in Lincoln on Oct. 25, to get public input on the board’s operating rules and regulations. According to news reports, only one board member bothered to show up to hear constituent concerns. Inadequate notice of the meeting held the attendance down to six persons, three of whom testified.

Friends of the Nebraska Environmental Trust urges the public, the press, grant applicants and other stakeholders to attend the next two listening sessions: one in Omaha on Nov. 9, and one in Kearney on Nov. 15. A Zoom session is scheduled Dec. 5. Go to the Trust website for details.

Three public positions on the Trust board are up for appointment next year, all subject to confirmation by the Legislature. Five current board members are state agency heads and nine are from the public. Friends is asking that the current board give the new governor an opportunity to appoint members who truly care about Nebraska’s natural environment.

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Randy Moody
Randy Moody

Randy Moody is a retired lawyer and lobbyist living in Lincoln and near Tucson, Arizona. He was one of the architects of the legislation creating the Environmental Trust in 1992. He also was the campaign manager for Friends of Education and the Environment, the committee supporting the constitutional amendment that created the Nebraska State Lottery in 1992, which provides funding for the Trust. He is board secretary of the current Friends organization.

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