By Stephanie Bunker
Moapa Valley Progress
Members of the Moapa Band of Paiutes and the Nevada Sierra Club gathered together in front of the annual National Clean Energy Summit held at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas for a rally on Tuesday morning, August 7. The groups had organized a rally to protest specifically against the Reid Gardner Power Plant and to move toward transitioning to a clean energy future.
About 20 members of the Moapa Band of Paiutes attended the rally. Several of them were young adults.
“It was very successful,” said Sierra Club member Lynn Goya. “We got a good response from people driving by.”
Many of those were on their way to the Clean Energy Summit. Dave Hamilton, the Sierra Club National Clean Energy Director, Vicky Simmons and Vernon Lee, both members of the MV Band of Paiutes gave speeches while at the rally.
In Lee’s speech he stated that the Reid Gardner Power Plant is old and the times are changing. Lee said that with the suffering that is going on at the MV Paiute Reservation, their residents just want it to change now.
The Reid Gardner Power Plant is located near the residential area of the reservation. The Paiutes have made claims about having to live with pollution from the plant.
“There has been a death every two months!” said Lee. “A lot of people are suffering illnesses here.”
During a speech at the Clean Energy Summit, Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) singled out Reid Gardner as a facility whose time had come.
“The more dirty coal we use, the higher the price of coal gets,” Reid said. “The more solar power we use, the cheaper it gets. Shutting down this one coal-fired power plant won’t save the planet all at once — but it would save an Indian homeland. For NV Energy, the first step should be deciding to turn out the lights on Reid-Gardner — and turn them out forever.”
During the Summit, members of the Moapa Band met with Reid to discuss their grievances.
“I feel really confident we are going to do this,” said Vernon Lee after the meeting. “I seriously expect it to shut down next year with the help of Earth Justice and the Sierra Club.”
In Reid’s speech he cited the long-standing plight of the Moapa band.
“Every day Reid Gardner rains down on the dwindling Native American tribe fine particulates and coal ash filled with chemicals that cause cancer, emphysema and heart problems,” Reid claimed.
But in an interview with the Progress, NV Energy spokesman Mark Severts said that Reid Gardner is currently emitting almost no particulates and has been operating under the highest regulatory standards.
“The coal-fueled power plant at Reid Gardner – unlike some similar-aged power plants elsewhere in the nation – has already undergone extensive improvements to its emissions and operations,” Severts said
Severts explained that NV Energy has added technology to capture 99.9% of particulate emissions. The plant’s high-efficiency scrubbing systems allow the plant to consistently rank among the top 10 percent of plants nationwide for low-sulfur emissions, Severts added.
“NV Energy will continue its commitment to operate the Reid Gardner Generating Station in an environmentally responsible manner, in compliance with all federal and state laws, and in the best interests of our customers,” Severts said.
Darren Littell, the Team Nevada Spokesman pointed out in an email last week that Reid Gardner Power Plant is also very important to the economy of northeastern Clark County. The plant supplies 150 jobs to those that live in the area, Littell cited.
“Reid is so consumed with Washington DC politics he doesn’t realize Moapa’s population is about 7,000 people,” Littell said. “Shutting a facility like this would almost double the area’s unemployment rate.”