LAS VEGAS (CN) - A federal judge Wednesday approved a $4.3 million settlement in the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians' Clean Air Act lawsuit against a Nevada utility that polluted the tribe's land by openly dumping coal ash.
U.S. District Judge Jennifer A. Dorsey approved the joint motion for settlement and dismissed with prejudice the complaint against Nevada Power dba NV Energy and the California Department of Water Resources.
The settlement requires Nevada Power to pay $4.3 million to the tribe and close the Reid Gardner plant by Dec. 31, 2017.
Dorsey gave the tribe and co-plaintiff Sierra Club until Nov. 12 to file a motion for attorney's fees and costs.
The $4.3 million will pay for projects to "mitigate the harm and risk associated with contamination of the Reid Gardner site," according to the settlement.
One project will be a $1.5 million wellness center with a gym, day facilities for seniors and nutrition centers. Another $2 million will be used to mitigate water problems.
About $400,000 would pay for monitoring environmental cleanup of the Reid Gardner site, and another $300,000 for air quality monitoring equipment and technical assistance.
The settlement also gives the tribe the opportunity to buy 500 acre-feet of water rights associated with the Reid Gardner plant, subject to Nevada Water Authority approval. An acre-foot - enough water to cover one acre one foot deep - provides enough water for an average residential home for one year.
The Reid Gardner plant opened in the 1960s and by the 1980s had four coal-fueled power stations producing electricity, mostly for Las Vegas Valley in the summer.
Nevada Power already has closed three of Reid Gardner's four coal-fueled plants and switched to renewable energy. The power plant next to the Moapa River Indian Reservation will be the last to go.
NV Energy supplies electricity to about half of Nevada's 2.8 million residents, including those in Las Vegas Valley.
The Moapa River Indian Reservation is along the Moapa River, about 45 miles northeast of Las Vegas. Coal ash dust from the plant frequently blows across the reservation, home to about 200 Moapa.
Critics said the plant is one of the nation's dirtiest. Since 1991 state and federal courts have fined its operators more than $6.8 million. The Department of Justice in 2007 demanded $85 million in improvements to reduce pollution after the Environmental Protection Agency reported 56 violations of federal air pollution laws.
Nevada Power officials were not immediately available for comment Thursday.
The Moapa were granted a 2 million acre reservation in 1874, but two years later Congress cut it down to 1,000 acres - a reduction of 99.95 percent. President Jimmy Carter gave back 72,000 acres in 1980.
The Moapa-Paiute practiced irrigation agriculture before Anglo contact, when water still flowed in Nevada. They speak a language that anthropologists believe has elements of Uto-Aztecan and Shoshone. "Pa" means water in Shoshone.
Subscribe to Closing Arguments
Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.