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April 12, 2013

Moapa to Lead Powerful, Symbolic Walk from Coal to Clean Energy

Moapa Band of Pauites Earth day march
The 2012 Moapa Band of Paiutes "Walk from Coal to Clean Energy."

Southern Nevada's Moapa Band of Paiutes are organizing a 16-mile "Walk from Coal to Clean Energy" on April 20, 2013 in concert with Earth Day. This walk will celebrate the tribe's efforts to retire the polluting Reid Gardner coal plant that adjoins their tribal lands, and also their success in developing the largest solar project on tribal lands in the nation, which will begin construction later this year. The walk will start at the coal plant and end at the solar site - a powerful symbol of change for Nevada and the nation.

The Moapa and a broad coalition of environmental and community groups in Nevada have been pushing to retire NV Energy's Reid Gardner coal plant for many years. A recent announcement by NV Energy CEO Michael Yackira that the company wants to retire its coal plants and contracts early and replace them with renewable energy and natural gas power is a key milepost in the decades-long struggle of the Moapa for environmental justice.

"Coal is a fuel of the past in our state"
- that's how Yackira put it, in a recent interview discussing the announcement. The company has drafted legislation to be considered by the Nevada legislature that would allow the coal plant retirements.

So on Earth Day, tribal leaders and members, as well as other tribes from the region, will walk 16 miles starting at sunup and arriving at the solar plant site by mid-afternoon. Environmental activists and other community supporters will meet them to rally and celebrate this important milestone in their campaign, and to call for the expansion of more renewable energy like solar, wind, and geothermal for Nevada's clean energy future.

Moapa walk
Grassroots supporters from throughout southern Nevada will meet at a location 1.5 miles from the rally site (about 40 miles northeast of Las Vegas) and walk to the site. The rally will feature a drum circle and several speakers including William Anderson, Chairman of the Tribal Council, and Allison Chin, President of the Sierra Club.  It will conclude with a round dance by the Moapa Band of Paiutes.

The Reid Gardner coal plant is located directly adjacent to the tribal community, only a few hundred feet from the nearest homes. Built beginning in the 1960s, it is a source of serious air and water contamination. Over the decades the Moapa have experienced many health problems that are likely related to the plant, including very high rates of asthma, heart disease and cancer.

The Moapa were featured in Sierra magazine's recent "Cost of Coal" series, too.

The Moapa and other organizations like the Sierra Club and the Nevada Clean Energy Campaign are hopeful that NV Energy's change in strategy will ultimately lead to a just, fair and environmentally sound resolution to close the Reid Gardner plant and move Nevada quickly to a clean energy future.

The city of Los Angeles has already agreed to purchase the energy from the Moapa solar project, as part of the city's commitment to move beyond coal, announced just last month by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Al Gore, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, and others. We look forward to keeping the clean energy momentum rolling with this powerful, symbolic march.

For more information about the "Walk from Coal to Clean Energy" on April 20, please contact Sierra Club Organizer Elspeth DiMarzio at (702) 732-7750 or elspeth.cordua@sierraclub.org. Second photo by Craig Rock.

-- Mary Anne Hitt, Beyond Coal Campaign Director

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