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June 04, 2013

Big Win in Nevada on Clean Energy, Retiring Dirty Coal Power

Moapa Band of Pauites Earth day march2There is big news out of Nevada that will echo around the nation. Late Monday night the Nevada Assembly passed a bill clearing the path to retire the polluting Reid Gardner coal plant. The bipartisan bill is now headed for an expected signature from Governor Brian Sandoval. For the Moapa Band of Paiutes and so many others in Nevada, today is a time for major celebration.

Under Senate Bill 123, which is called the "NVision" plan, the Reid Gardner coal plant will retire earlier than planned – closing units 1-3 in 2014 instead of 2020, and unit 4 in 2017 instead of 2023.

The Moapa Band of Paiutes and Sierra Club have fought for several years to retire the Reid Gardner coal plant, which sits immediately adjacent to the Moapa River reservation. Paiute families have been suffering for decades from high rates of asthma, heart and lung disease, and cancer they believe are related to the plant's air pollution. We recently featured their story on the cover of our "Cost of Coal" issue of Sierra magazine.

Reid Gardner's carbon pollution is also Nevada's biggest contributor to climate disruption.

And there's more. As part of this bill, Nevada will also end its use of coal power from Arizona’s dirty Navajo Generating Station (NGS) and will plan for 350 megawatts of new renewable energy. This comes on the heels of the recent announcement that Los Angeles will divest from NGS. These actions reflect shifting public perception across the region, delivering a major blow to the regional viability of coal use in the Southwest.

In fact, this bill was greatly strengthened by the involvement of local advocates and community leaders who sought to increase the amount of clean energy that would replace the retired coal power and remove the requirement that the bulk of the replacement, 550 megawatts, would need to be natural gas.

"This victory belongs to all of us who want a cleaner and better future for our families and community," said Vickie Simmons, member of the Health and Environment Committees of the Moapa Band of Paiutes.

The Moapa Band of Paiutes are national leaders in working for a transition to clean energy, both by working to retire Reid Gardner and in building their own large-scale solar project - the largest tribal solar plant in the nation. The City of Los Angeles will be purchasing 250 megawatts of solar power from the Moapa solar facility, built on their tribal lands northeast of Las Vegas.

The best news of all - community-based efforts like this one are springing up all over the nation. When communities are plagued with health and environmental problems caused by nearby coal plants, they are mobilizing for action. People are demanding change from their leaders, they're pushing to retire coal plants and replace them with clean energy, and they're winning big victories, like this one. They want an end to asthma attacks, polluted water, and bad air quality days - not to mention the climate disruption that threatens all our families.

Sierra Club is standing with them all. Together we are showing public officials that coal is dirty and expensive. We know clean energy is the answer, and it's ready today. It brings good, local jobs that don't pollute the air or water, don't cause asthma and threaten our health, and don't push our climate to the brink.

That's a victory for everyone.

-- Mary Anne Hitt, Beyond Coal Director

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