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Biden should seize the opportunity to cut dangerous pollution in Nevada

Pat Spearman
Pat Spearman

Public service is embedded in my DNA. Whether it was the 29 years I spent in the U.S. Army, my time as a school district president or my service as a pastor, I have a sense of duty that I take seriously to make our country a better place for people across the United States. That is why as a Nevada state Senator — and a concerned Nevadan — I am joining others across this nation to urge President Joe Biden to do all he can to enact strong limits on pollution that will protect our health and our environment, meeting the moment to fight the climate crisis. 

Here in Nevada, we’re sadly no strangers to poor air quality. According to the Nevada Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, Nevada has a higher rate of adult asthma (15 percent) than the nation (13.8 percent), which is attributable to environmental triggers including dry and windy weather, dust, pollen and particulate matter. Additionally, according to the American Lung Association, Las Vegas and Hendeson rank within the top 15 worst cities for smog pollution. And in Clark County, over 525,000 children and nearly 169,000 suffer from asthma attacks.

Those numbers represent real people, including myself who was diagnosed with adult-onset asthma in 2004 as a result of exposure to polluted air. The region also gets a failing grade for 24-hour particle pollution.

What does this mean for my constituents in North Las Vegas? Long-term exposure to this pollution can lead to chronic respiratory and heart disease, and oftentimes premature death. 

We also know that pollution and the effects of the climate crisis often impact communities of color first and worst. In Nevada, that means minority and low-income communities face greater impacts from extreme heat fueled by worsening climate change. This is unacceptable and the time to act is now. 

Thankfully, we have solutions for pollution at our fingertips that, if enacted quickly, will help President Biden fulfill his promise to cut pollution and advance environmental justice. Since the beginning of the Biden administration, Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, with the support of Nevada Sens. Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Masto, as well as Reps. Susie Lee, Steven Horsford and Dina Titus. These new laws provided historic investments and climate and clean energy, and I was proud to join local leaders recently to celebrate how they are helping cut pollution in Nevada and accelerate the growth of our state’s clean energy economy. 

While these historic investments are already benefiting Nevada, there’s still more work to do. Specifically, we need the Biden administration to use all of its existing authority under laws like the Clean Air Act to help advance the president’s public health and environmental justice goals, accelerate the transition to clean energy and create new economic opportunities. 

According to a recent study, power plant pollution is no small problem. The total carbon pollution of Nevada’s top 10 power plants is 11.7 million metric tons, which is equivalent to 2.5 million cars on the road for a year. With strong solutions for pollution, we can cut the soot, smog, carbon and mercury pollution spewing from power plants. 

While President Biden has the ability to take bold executive action, we also need Nevada’s congressional delegation to speak out in support of strong standards. The longer we fail to act, the higher the costs are in lives lost, environmental and economic harm, and more extreme weather fueled by climate change. We have no choice. We need to act now. 

Pat Spearman represents Nevada’s First District in the state Senate and serves as the president pro tempore.


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