Tribe Marches for a Sustainable Energy Future

Moapa Paiutes and their supporters prepare for their march | Photo courtesy Sierra Club Beyond Coal campaign

A delegation of the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians, who've long suffered the effects of living next to the coal-fired Reid Gardner power plant on their reservation northeast of Las Vegas, staged a 12-mile walk to the site of a proposed solar facility Saturday to call for a coal-free future.

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As we've mentioned here before on ReWire, members of the Moapa band have paid a heavy price for the presence of the 557-megawatt Reid Gardner Power Station adjacent to their tribal lands. Ash from the plant is allegedly stored in dumps onsite, and tribal members have complained for years that fugitive ash pollutes their air and causes respiratory and other ailments including asthma, lung cancer, and heart disease.

A 250-megawatt solar facility on tribal lands, endorsed by the Moapa as an alternative to the Reid Gardner plant, was approved by former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in June 2012. The plant already has an contract to sell its power to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) for 25 years.

Nonetheless, the Reid Gardner plant continues to operate. Owner NV Energy recently proposed to shut down the plant by 2025: good news for coal opponents, though it does mean another 12 years of hazard for the Moapa Band.

"For far too long, the Reid Gardner coal plant has been poisoning our air, water, and the health of our families" said Moapa Band of Paiutes Chairman William Anderson in a press release Saturday. "NV Energy moving to close the coal plant is the result of countless families coming together to demand change. We want to make sure that the coal plant does indeed close and stays closed. We don't want the coal plant to be replaced by another polluting power plant -- like a gas plant. We want a switch to truly clean sustainable energy sources like the solar project that will be built in our reservation."

Among the marchers Saturday was Sierra Club president Allison Chin. "Today's march from the Reid Gardner coal plant to the future of site of the Moapa Solar Project represents for all of us a new coal to clean energy path for not only Nevada, but for the entire West to follow," Chin said.

About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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