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Symbolic Victory for Clean Energy as North America’s Largest Coal-Fired Power Plant Will Soon Be Home to a Solar Farm
By Ron Johnson
One would be hard-pressed to find a more symbolic victory for clean energy than a solar farm taking up residence inside the former home of one of the largest coal-fired power plants in North America. That's what is happening, on the shores of Lake Erie in Ontario, Canada.
At one time, the Nanticoke generating station was producing a staggering 4,000 megawatts of energy and was one of the country's largest greenhouse gas emitters. The plant was officially decommissioned in 2013, part of a long process to shutter all coal-fired plants in the province—a goal that was accomplished in 2014.
Now, in a move that unites local First Nations business leaders and renewable energy companies, the mothballed site will soon be home to a solar farm called Nanticoke Solar. The new project is a joint venture of Sun Edison Canadian Construction and the Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation.
The facility—located in Haldimand County on four separate parcels of land including a former coal pile—is expected to generate 44 megawatts and utilize the transmission wires already in place. The plant's capacity, is just a little over one percent of the some 4,000 megawatts the former coal plant used to generate, but it's part of Ontario's larger effort to replace coal with renewable energy sources.
Currently, the province of Ontario meets the majority of its energy needs through nuclear and hydroelectric generation. Clean energy sources—wind, solar and bioenergy—provide just six percent of the province's energy demand. Unlike most Canadian provinces, Ontario's emissions are on the way down—already at six percent below 1990 levels. The long-term goal of the province's climate change strategy is an 80 percent reduction in 1990 emission levels by 2050.
Nanticoke Solar is one of 16 new renewable energy projects announced by Ontario's Independent Electricity System Operator that in total could generate 455.885 megawatts of renewable energy including five wind, seven solar and four hydroelectric contracts. Of the new projects announced, 13 involve participation from Aboriginal communities.
“Six Nations has been involved in renewable energy for quite some time," said Matt Jamieson, the president and CEO of the Six Nations development corporation, an equity investor in the project. “We are a participant , through the (now defunct) Ontario Power Authority's Feed-in Tariff Program and we gained a lot of exposure through our partnership with Samsung at the Grand River Energy Park. We've demonstrated the First Nations community capacity to get projects done, those that benefit the environment."
In addition to generating clean energy, the project also manages to reuse an old industrial facility that has been nothing but a financial liability for the past two years.
“There are a tremendous amount of transmission lines essentially sitting idle and a quite expansive supply of land owned by OPG, so it made sense to work with them," Jamieson said. “That was the real motivation for us; it made a lot of sense."
In addition, the deal should also provide jobs for First Nations members. One of the corporations' stated goals, according to Jamieson, is to “maximize employment of our community members." The group has a contract to sell power back to the Ontario power grid at a set rate for 20 years. Beyond Nanticoke, the Six Nations group is looking for more ways to get involved in renewable energy.
“Our activities align with our cultural values," Jamieson explained. “You won't find us engaging in development activities that conflict with the environment or those elements that are important to us."
Six Nations of the Grand River is the largest First Nations reserve in Canada, with more than 25,000 members. The corporation was set up after a long 18-month process of dialogue and discovery with the Six Nations of the Grand River.
“We take a multi-generational approach," Jamieson said. “There is a common expression that asks to look to the next seven generations to make sure there is nothing well down the line [that will be negatively impacted by] what we are doing today. We are hypersensitive to this."
Construction work for the project is set to begin in 2017 and the solar plant is expected to start operating by late 2018 or early 2019.
The project hasn't been without its detractors though. Toby Barrett, a local conservative Member of Provincial Parliament, described Nanticoke Solar “a symbolic move" for province premier Kathleen Wynne. “It will be a good photo-op for Kathleen Wynne to let environmental extremists know that she has replaced the coal pile with solar panels. And when they get around to knocking down the stacks, that'll be another photo-op," he told a local newspaper.
Barrett pointed out that power produced by the former coal plant cost only 2 cents per kilowatt hour, while energy from the solar plant would cost consumers nearly eight times more or about 15.67 cents a kilowatt hour.
But such criticism doesn't take into account the long-term environmental and public health benefits of shifting away from coal. Here's a small example: In 2015, the first full year when Ontario was entirely coal-fired power free, the province had zero smog days.
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Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.