Moapa Band of Paiutes tribe members led a 16-mile Earth Day weekend walk to put the spotlight on plans to close a coal-fired power plant and build a solar energy plant in Southern Nevada.
Activists and faith leaders joined the Coal to Clean Energy walk Saturday from NV Energy’s Reid Gardner generation station to a planned 350-megawatt solar project on the Moapa Paiute Reservation.
The march took place about two weeks after NV Energy announced plans to begin closing Reid Gardner and invest more money in renewable energy.
Plans call for Nevada’s largest utility to close three of four units by 2014 at the coal-fired plant in Moapa about 40 miles northeast of Las Vegas. The fourth unit would remain operating until 2017.
“We want to make sure that the coal plant does indeed close and stays closed,” tribal Chairman William Anderson said Saturday. “We don’t want the coal plant to be replaced by another polluting power plant like a (natural) gas plant. We want a switch to truly clean sustainable energy sources like the solar project that will be built in our reservation.”
National Sierra Club President Allison Chin, who took part in the walk, said the solar project will create good jobs for tribal members and supply power to Los Angeles.
“Today’s march ... 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.
The Moapa Band of Paiutes has been fighting for years to force publicly traded NV Energy to decommission the plant. They say tribal members living on ancestral land have been sickened by soot, fine particles of pollution and gases.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid expressed support for Saturday’s march. “The Moapa Band of Paiutes is an important voice for Nevada’s transition towards a cleaner, more sustainable energy future,” he said in a statement.
NV Energy plans to construct, acquire or contract for 600 megawatts of renewable energy in Nevada during the next five years — marking the first time the utility owns and operates renewable energy power plants. The company also plans to construct or acquire and own 1,000 megawatts of natural gas energy during the next five years and 1,000 more megawatts in the next 10 years with construction or acquisition intended to be in-state.