Tribe near Vegas appealing EPA coal plant air rule

Associated Press Modified: October 22, 2012 at 5:32 pm •  Published: October 22, 2012

LAS VEGAS (AP) — An American Indian tribe living in the shadow of a coal-fired power plant outside Las Vegas is heading a legal push for more stringent emissions and air quality standards for the facility.

The Moapa Band of Paiute Indians, National Parks Conservation Association and Sierra Club is asking the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to order the federal Environmental Protection Agency to beef up standards approved in August for the Reid Gardner Generating Station.

"Everything we've done so far, we've ended up with nothing," William Anderson, chairman of the 320-person tribe, said Monday.

Anderson said he's seen friends and neighbors sickened by soot, chemicals and ash waste produced by the three-unit, 557-megawatt plant built in the mid-1960s. Health officials have not verified those complaints because sample sizes of health studies are small.

EPA spokesman Mike Ardito in San Francisco said the federal agency could not comment on the legal case.

NV Energy Inc. officials didn't immediately comment Monday. The publicly traded company has said the plant complies with federal and state laws, and provides enough electricity to power 335,000 Nevada households. It calls Reid Gardner a key component of a group of generating stations providing reliable electricity at a stable price for customers.

The EPA Clean Air Act standard adopted Aug. 23 didn't address health concerns. It placed limits on emissions of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and fine particles blamed for regional haze in areas such as Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree and Zion national parks.

Anderson argued that a court order requiring installation of expensive pollution control measures could prompt NV Energy, the state's dominant electric utility, to shut down the plant.

"We've advocated, we've gone to regulators, we're building commercial-scale solar, but still the coal pollution and illness are here," Anderson said. "We've seen coal at Reid Gardner become too costly to make economic sense, but still NV Energy doesn't retire a plant that's almost 50 years old."

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