Moapa Paiute March 50 Miles in Anti-Coal Protest
On Earth Day, Moapa Paiute Indians arrived in Las Vegas where they were joined by Sierra Club members and others protesting the Reid Gardner Power Plant. The Tribal members were completing a three-day, 50-mile "Cultural Healing Walk," some of which had taken place in temperatures that topped 100 degrees.
The Reid Gardner facility, operated by NV Energy, is located in Moapa, Nevada, on land that abuts the Moapa River Indian Reservation. Reservation residents say the plant is ruining their health and has been for years. William Anderson, Moapa Band Chairman, summarized the problem in a statement: “The high percentage of thyroid and respiratory problems is a big concern for the tribal members on the reservation. ... We need a proper study from air monitoring equipment installed on the reservation to study the emissions we’re breathing in. That would help determine what needs to be do for our people’s health. We also need more stringent storage conditions for coal ash and a study to be conducted to show the health risks associated with breathing in coal ash.”
Tribal member Vernon Lee explained to The Spectrum that the band's small population has prevented them from getting needed attention from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “We asked the EPA to at least study the plant or give us a grant to do the study to see exactly what poisons were coming from there, but we were told we didn’t qualify for the study or the grant," he said. “In order to get a federal study grant, there have to be 500 people affected. There are only about 300 members of the Moapa Band and not all of us live on the reservation.”
Reid Gardner is the last coal-burning power plant in the state of Nevada. Air pollution takes the form of toxic coal dust, which Tribal members say arrives in giant clouds that send people scurrying indoors, but that's not the only problem they have observed. "There are also several settling ponds for coal ash residue, there are enormous piles of coal that are uncovered, and a huge coal ash landfill that is also uncovered," said Barb Boyle of the Sierra Club, in an article published on the Huffington Post written by Mary Ann Hitt, director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign. Boyle said that the Tribe "has borne this burden for decades. It's time to stop."
The plant was built in 1965, and the Moapa Paiute say they have witnessed their own standard of living plummet over time. "In my era, we were all healthy people," Aletha Tom, who runs the Moapa school house, told 8newsnow.com in February. "We didn't have the asthma, thyroid problems, cancer, diabetes, but we have that on our reservation. It's so major now."