Friday, June 15, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Linda Overbey sat with a blue “Heart Clean Air” shirt folded on her lap, pleased with what she heard after a two-hour panel discussion on clean energy in Nevada.
Overbey, a Las Vegas resident and member of the Sierra Club, expected to hear about an environmental utopia: a land where fossil fuels and oil companies become fossilized, and windmills and solar panels light up homes. Instead, she heard about ongoing efforts and realistic ways for renewable energies to work in a capitalistic society.
Overbey said she was pleasantly surprised there was no finger-pointing from the panelists.
"They were all very positive: ‘Let’s not try to focus on who’s wrong, but what we can do,’” Overbey said. “For me, I see them as they’re trying to work with power companies, and that is the way forward.”
Launce Rake, and the Sierra Club and Nevada Conservation League with which he is affiliated, put together a panel of five members for the discussion Wednesday. Panel members included a UNLV physics professor, a family physician, a mother of two and environmental activist, a Boulder City community development director and the chairman of the Moapa Band of Paiutes. Each one had been affected personally by pollution or was involved with efforts to improve the environment.
Rake said the goal was to talk about the future of clean energy in Nevada and how it can help the economy. Though he hoped all the seats in the chamber room would be filled, he was pleased with the turnout of more than 50 residents and public officials.
“We had the public administrator and political leadership here. … I was pretty impressed with that,” Rake said. “We wanted to let them know there is an active concern in the community. … It’s kind of a message that we want Nevada (clean energy) development.”
Throughout the discussion, panel members brought up various personal concerns they have with the state of the air quality as well as their own efforts. William Anderson, chairman of the Moapa Band of Paiutes, received applause for his efforts to help his community.
Anderson described how the coal plant near the Paiutes’ land caused asthma and other diseases. Yet, rather than do nothing, he worked to set up solar energy in the region.
Meanwhile, Brok Armantrout, community development director for Boulder City, described how his town has used its vast land to build renewable energy plants.
“In a lot of ways, we take for granted the way we do things in Boulder — our sustainable lifestyle and solar energy,” Armantrout said. “It’s nice getting recognition from other groups that we are doing the right thing and supporting the local infrastructure.”
Although Armantrout said construction of the Copper Mountain Solar 1 field in Boulder City produced as many as 2,000 jobs, he said it only takes five people to run it.
Still, UNLV professor John Farley said moving forward in environmental energy is beneficial, especially if global warming raises ocean levels and wipes out whole portions of sea coasts.
“Environmental energy is expensive, but the total cost of doing nothing is more expensive,” Farley said.
The panel wrapped up the discussion by addressing what residents can do to help. They suggested speaking out to government representatives, educating children and informing local governments that there is a willingness to pay a little extra for clean energy.
Rake said Nevada has made en effort to advance clean energy, but there is still room for improvement.
“We have a lot of sunlight and enormous potential for solar energy. We’ve got loads of wind,” Rake said. “When we pass rules that benefit renewable energy investment, when we have renewable energy investment, we’re investing in the valley.”