Small Nevada tribe sues BLM over coal ash landfill


At a Southern Nevada Health District public hearing this October, farmer Norm Tom said that he and his tribe had “seen a lot of death” in the last 35 years, and he placed the blame squarely on the neighboring Reid Gardner coal-fueled power plant, run by Nevada's primary power company, NV Energy.

“Every time we make a complaint or a phone call, you guys haven’t done anything about controlling all this daggone dust.” Tom said.  “We breathe it; we even eat it…it’s better just to bring all the Indian people out and shoot ‘em all with a 45 caliber gun.”

Built in 1965, NV Energy’s Reid Gardner Station is located 45 miles northeast of Las Vegas and just a few hundred yards from the Moapa River Reservation, home to many of the 314 remaining Moapa Band of Paiutes. The plant supplies low-cost power to about 400,000 southern Nevada residents, and to do so burns through 60,000 tons of coal a day.

The Reid Gardner coal-fired power plant is located adjacent to the Moapa reservation. Image courtesy Sierra Club.

For years, the Moapa Band of Paiutes have complained that dust from the coal plant’s landfill and water evaporation ponds has regularly swept through the reservation, grinding up their lungs and afflicting nearly two-thirds of the tribe with a variety of upper respiratory illnesses and high rates of cancer and asthma-related deaths.

This past month, the tribe and the Sierra Club filed a filed a federal lawsuit to stop the construction of a new coal ash landfill and nine new evaporation ponds, which NV Energy officials says Reid Gardner needs because its old storage facilities are filling up.

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