Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010 | 8:37 p.m.
The Moapa Band of Paiutes and the Sierra Club filed suit Thursday in hopes of blocking the development of evaporation ponds and the expansion of a landfill that would be used for continued operation of the Reid Gardner coal-fueled power plant 45 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
The project was approved last month by the board of the Southern Nevada Health District over the objections of the Paiutes and the Sierra Club.
Thursday’s suit wasn’t filed against the Health District. Rather, it was filed in federal court in Las Vegas against the federal Bureau of Land Management, which attorneys for the plaintiffs say granted a right of way to NV Energy for the project in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.
The lawsuit says the BLM, in approving the project, failed to properly take into account how it would lead to continued environmental problems as well as health risks for humans and animals.
The lawsuit says the ponds on 315 acres and landfill on 555 acres would be used for the disposal of dangerous wastewater, fly ash, bottom ash and other solid wastes and would accommodate operation of the plant for another 30 years.
That’s opposed by the Sierra Club, which has been working to phase out operation of all coal-fired plants because, it says, they are degrading the environment and creating health problems.
“Continued operation of Reid Gardner would result in continued production of coal ash waste and attendant issues of fugitive dust. Members of the Moapa Band of Paiutes living on the Moapa Reservation regularly find ash from the existing ponds and landfill blowing into their community, into their homes and into their lungs,” the suit charges.
While Thursday’s lawsuit frames the issue in terms of the BLM decision allowing the plant to continue operating, NV Energy officials have said the plant would continue to operate regardless of whether the landfill expansion and ponds were approved.
Minutes of a Health District meeting last month in Overton show Tony Garcia, manager of environmental services for NV Energy, said the improvements would protect the Muddy River and groundwater in severe floods as the new evaporation ponds will be more than 100 feet above groundwater and 2 1/2 miles away from the river and the Moapa Band of Paiutes.
The landfill also would prevent safety problems associated with trucking the waste elsewhere, he said.
“We understand the Sierra Club is not shy about intentions to close Reid Gardner generating station,” he said. “While we certainly respect their right to challenge and disagree, we have an obligation to our customers to continually run the power plant with or without this permit.”