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Environmental Dialogue to Continue Over Controversial Landfill

November 1, 2010

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - NV Energy won the latest round in the utility's efforts to expand a controversial landfill site, but environmentalists who teamed up with a local Native American tribe say they also won an important condition. The Las Vegas Health District board voted 8-4 last week to expand the landfill that holds toxic coal ash from the Reid Gardner power generating station.

However, Jane Feldman with the Toiyabe chapter of the Sierra Club says a condition was placed on the approval that requires NV Energy to come back in six months to show they are improving safeguards.

"We are involved in this dialogue, and they're taking us seriously - they're taking the Moapa Paiutes seriously - to make sure the public health and the environment are protected here."

NV Energy contends that expanding the landfill actually protects the Muddy River because the expansion will put new waste at a greater distance from the water. The EPA is expected to issue new standards for storing coal waste in the next six months and Feldman says the utility will need to show they are meeting those standards in order to keep its approval.

The Moapa Band of Paiutes live next door to the landfill, which now has conditional approval to expand to hold up to 10 million cubic yards of toxic coal-combustion waste. Feldman says coal ash often contains radioactive isotopes.

"One of the things that the Moapa tribe is very sensitive to is being exposed to radiation. They were already bearing the burden of above-ground radioactive tests from the Nevada Test Site in the 1950's and '60's."

In addition to radiation, the tribe is concerned about both water and air quality around the landfill, which they contend is a major source of respiratory problems.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NV