Air Quality coal-fired power plant

Published on March 26th, 2013 | by Tim Tyler


Indian Tribe Files Suit Against Nevada Coal Plant

March 26th, 2013 by  

An ongoing battle between a Native American tribe and a Nevada coal plant is really starting to heat up. The Moapa Band of Paiute Indians has been trying to force the closure of the Reid Gardner coal-fired power plant, located outside Las Vegas, for years.

Recently, the tribe filed suit against NV energy — claiming that from 2006 to 2011 the company submitted false reports to the state concerning the pollution levels near the plant and received no penalty for doing so.

The president of the Indian tribe, William Anderson, says that NV energy has deceived the state by submitting false reports about airborne pollution levels near the plant to the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection and has created health risks to the 320 members of the tribe that live near the plant.

coal-fired power plant

Image Credit: coal-fired power plant via Shutterstock

According to Anderson: “It turns out NV Energy wasn’t even measuring the pollution, so we have no gauge on the extent of the threat families here have been exposed to.”

The chief executive of NV energy did admit that a contractor measuring fine pollution particles near the plant found some “irregularities” back in July 2011. But claimed, “any reports that NV Energy falsified any documents or reports are patently false.”

According to the Associated Press;

Yackira maintained that the 557-megawatt plant 55 miles northeast of Las Vegas never failed to meet federal and state smokestack emission standards over the five-year span, and he dismissed assertions that the plant spews toxic pollution that threatens the health of nearby Moapa community residents.

“The Reid Gardner Station has continuous emissions monitoring in place for all regulated air pollutants and has been and remains in substantial compliance with all regulatory requirements,” he said.

The Moapa Band of Paiute Indians have filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue with the federal Environmental Protection Agency, Nevada Division of Environmental Protection officials, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, and NV Energy. The tribe plans to file the lawsuit in the US District Court in Las Vegas seeking damages and an injunction against the company.

The Moapa tribe’s lawyer, Joshua Osborne-Klein, said that “the tribe and many voices in this community have been calling for the plant to be shut down. The tribe wants an agreement leading to a timeline for shutdown of Reid Gardner.”

The Environmental Protection Division looked at the faulty data by the Environmental Monitoring Company and stated that “It wasn’t falsified … It just kept going over the same numbers.”

Although this data wasn’t needed for the power plant to be in compliance with the EPA emission standards, since compliance is based on smokestack emissions measurements that showed no violation of air quality over the same five years.

The Reid Gardner power plant was built in the 1960s and ’70s and is reaching the end of its life span. It is one of two remaining coal-fired power plants in Nevada. NV energy also has seven gas-fired plants and more than 40 renewable energy projects. The Reid Gardner plant will be decommissioned eventually or transferred to natural gas. But, with the efforts put forth by the Moapa Paiute tribe it maybe sooner.

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About the Author

Holds an electronic's engineering degree and is working toward a second degree in IT/web development. Enjoy's renewable energy topic's and has a passion for the environment. Part time writer and web developer, full time husband and father.

  • GeorgeG

    ‘Legal limits’ is a flimsy term. Safe limits are not the same thing as legal limits. Legal limits for emissions of coal plants are much more lenient than for other industries. Note that the EPA, thanks to the GOP, no longer reports mercury emissions from coal plants. The main reason there are any legal limits is to define the least a plant operator must do and protect them against liability for harm that they do. The legal limits, such as they are are unscientific: it is obvious that proximity to the stack, height of the stack, weather patterns, terrain and other parameters are all factors determining the safety risk. Further, legal limits only apply to some HAPs (hazardous airborne pollutants). For example, anyone living in proximity to a large coal plant is exposed to more radioactive isotopes than if they lived near a nuclear power plant (no legal limit on that). For comparison, individuals face legal limits for HAPs that come out of their tailpipes for which coal plants have no legal limit. But this case is worse as ash is a condensed and concentrated version of airborne emissions and blown and leaching ash is a significant part of the problem; the utility’s reference to their stack emissions is misdirection in this regard. And, there are no national standards for disposal of coal ash – it’s not easy being green but it’s easy to be legal.

  • Legal limits on particulate and CO2 emissions have not been established at healthy levels. For too long polluters have been given legal rights to poison citizens. Make coal power operators responsible for their harms.

  • Otis11

    “he dismissed assertions that the plant spews toxic pollution that threatens the health of nearby Moapa community residents. ”

    Even if it was within allowable levels, that’s still not true. We know the fine particles released by coal power plants cause health problems, even if they are within legal limits.

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