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Message to Buffett from NV Tribe Member: Opportunity & Lingering Pollution

PHOTO: Moapa Reservation and Reid Gardner coal-fired power plant. Credit: Sierra Club
PHOTO: Moapa Reservation and Reid Gardner coal-fired power plant. Credit: Sierra Club
August 13, 2013

LAS VEGAS - The Clean Energy Summit gets started today in Las Vegas, and a Nevada tribe member says he plans to buttonhole the prospective new owners of utility company NV Energy and make sure they know about the extent of the pollution problem they are buying into. According to Vernon Lee, an environmental committee member with the Moapa Band of Paiutes, there could be a brighter future for renewables with a Warren Buffett-owned company buying NV Energy. However, he said, the prospective owners also need to know they are buying into an enormous pollution problem at the Reid Gardner power plant.

"We believe that NV Energy is not going to be forthright and tell them that they have a big problem at Reid Gardner," Lee said. "They probably will minimize anything about Reid, whereas the tribe has major concerns."

Filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission indicate both companies involved approved the merger on May 29 and Buffett's MidAmerican Energy Holdings is paying $5.6 billion for NV Energy. The sale needs to be approved by the state Public Utilities Commission and by federal regulators.

The energy chair of the Toiyabe Chapter of the Sierra Club, Jane Feldman, said they expect the lawsuit filed last week over Reid Gardner cleanup will likely force any new owners to abide by what they expect will be a court-ordered settlement agreement.

"That will have a strong enforceable action plan to take care of all of the coal ash and sludge that's at the site and properly contain it and dispose of it," she said.

Vernon Lee noted that his tribe is in the solar power business and up until now the only market has been out of state. He hopes the pending sale changes that.

"Now, the Buffett thing is a game-changer," Lee declared. "We're hoping the Buffett energy division will be looking more into the future and will do renewables. Our best hope is that they will look at what we're doing and give us a power-purchase agreement, and let us start generating power for them."

According to the SEC, the CEO of NV Energy will take home $21 million from the planned sale of the company.

The Clean Energy Summit runs all day today at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NV