Waukegan Generating Station. (Photo by ribarnica via Creative Commons)
It’s been a year since Midwest Generation’s two coal plants in Chicago closed, amid much celebration from environmental groups and residents.
Now another archaic Midwest Generation coal plant located in a low-income, largely minority urban community is in the spotlight.
Environmental advocates think that the coal plant in Waukegan, 40 miles north of Chicago on the shore of Lake Michigan, will close in the next few years. But they aren’t willing to wait; they say state agencies must take action now to stop the plant from killing fish and polluting the lake, groundwater and air.
They want the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) to make more stringent demands in a Clean Water Act permit that is currently open for public comment; and they want the company to have frank discussions about the plant’s future with community residents and elected officials.
(Photo via EnerNOC)
©2013 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By Hannah Northey
A burgeoning demand-response industry flexed its muscles during a heat wave on the East Coast last week by powering down machines at key times to de-stress the aging electric grid.
Consider Boston-based Energy Network Operations Center, or EnerNOC, a firm that pays more than 1,600 industrial, commercial and residential entities to switch off air conditioners, assembly lines and even defoggers on grocery stores’ freezer doors when power demand soars.
(Photo by Gary Allman via Creative Commons)
While big-box retailers like Walmart and Ikea are nationally known for their adoption of renewable energy, the drug store chain Walgreens is quickly joining their ranks.
The Deerfield, Illinois-based company is already one of the nation’s retail leaders in the installation of rooftop solar panels. And the company recently announced it will be working together with Chicago-based solar developer SoCore Energy to put solar panels on top of more than 200 stores located primarily in California and the Northeast. Walgreens already has solar panels on about 150 stores.
A map of the proposed Flanagan South pipeline, via Enbridge. (Click to enlarge)
It may sound like a familiar story: A proposed pipeline that will carry hundreds of thousands of barrels of Canadian oil sands crude across the Midwest prairies is embroiled in a permit controversy.
But this is not a story about Keystone XL.
Enbridge Energy’s proposed Flanagan South pipeline, like Keystone XL, would connect with existing pipes to ferry crude oil from Alberta — and Montana and North Dakota — to refineries in the Midwest and the Gulf Coast. The 600 miles of 36-inch pipe would run from southwest of Chicago across Illinois, Missouri and southeast Kansas before connecting with the oil hub of Cushing, Oklahoma.
Both pipelines would have a hefty capacity: 830,000 barrels a day for Keystone XL; 600,000 barrels a day initially for the Flanagan South, and 783,000 barrels per day once combined with the Spearhead, an existing pipeline that largely runs parallel to the proposed Flanagan route.
Ann Alexander is a Chicago-based senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Cross-posted from NRDC Switchboard
By Ann Alexander
We’ve been saying it till we’re blue in the face: fracking is not only already legal in Illinois but has now started up. And we’ve just confirmed new evidence of this fracking, thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
What does this mean for Illinoisans? It means we need basic protections in place – yesterday – to limit environmental harm and give people a say in what could be happening right now in their communities. We need meaningful citizen participation in decision-making and enforcement, as well as rules governing how fracking is conducted.
And that’s why, if the moratorium is voted down despite our relentless efforts over the past year, we’d better put in place a law that gives people a fighting chance at protecting themselves. That is what NRDC has been working for, and what the regulatory bill will provide.
As for the proof of fracking starting up, take a look at this “well completion report” for a frack job performed last year. The report indicates that the Campbell Energy “Salem H-1” well in White County was a horizontal frack that used a total of 640,151 gallons of fluid. If that’s not high-volume horizontal fracking, then there’s no such thing.
Mendota Hills Wind Farm, Illinois. (Photo by Ron Zack via Creative Commons)
Support in the Illinois legislature is slowly growing for a proposal that backers say will save ratepayers millions while freeing up state renewable energy funds currently sitting unspent.
But the proposed bill faces an uphill political battle because of opposition from ComEd’s parent company Exelon, whose nuclear fleet could face competition and depressed power prices with more wind power on the market.
Illinois energy experts have for months been calling for reforms to the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS). The massive shift away from utilities to community aggregation and alternative electricity suppliers has exacerbated a quirk in the law that now means customers are paying millions of dollars into a fund for renewable energy that is languishing untapped.
Meanwhile, the state risks failing to meet mandatory benchmarks in the RPS; and even the renewable power that is being bought for Illinois customers is largely through short-term contracts for renewable energy credits that could come from wind farms in Texas or other states.
A cask of nuclear waste is loaded onto a truck at the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. (Photo via ANL)
A proposal in the U.S. Senate has advocates concerned that Illinois could become a leading contender for storing nuclear waste from around the nation.
The discussion draft of a Senate bill released April 25 and open for public comment until May 24 launches a process to create a “centralized interim storage” site (CIS) for nuclear waste that is currently stored at reactors nationwide.
And a June 2012 study [PDF] by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory using spatial modeling suggests that northern Illinois would be among the top possibilities.
Many nuclear energy critics oppose the concept of centralized interim storage, saying that the long-distance transport of nuclear waste to such sites would pose serious risks, and that interim storage sites could become financial and safety burdens especially if a long-term waste repository is never created.
The Waukegan power plant in Illinois. (Photo by ribarnica via Creative Commons)
The Illinois Pollution Control Board on Thursday granted Midwest Generation two extra years to meet a state multi-pollutant standard that would require they install emissions controls on their four Illinois plants by 2015 and 2016.
At a January public hearing in the suburb of Joliet, officials with Midwest Generation and its parent company Edison Mission Energy told the board that the company – which is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings – does not have the financial means to make the required upgrades by the deadlines.
Environmental leaders and many local residents told the board that the state should not allow Midwest Generation to delay controls for financial reasons, and that they feared the company did not actually plan to install pollution controls but just wanted to run the plants longer before closing them.
A coal shipping terminal in Illinois. (Photo by findoffenseinreason via Creative Commons)
Even as coal-fired power plants are closing nationwide, the coal industry is still very much alive — and facing environmental scrutiny — in Illinois mining country.
Mining companies are seeking to expand their harvesting of Illinois Basin coal, which is much cheaper than dwindling Appalachian reserves and closer to Midwest and East Coast power plants than Wyoming’s Powder River Basin.
As mine operators seek permits for expanded and new operations, environmental groups are calling on the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) to reform its mine permitting process. They say that the current process doesn’t do enough to limit operators with histories of violations, and forces taxpayers rather than the companies to foot most of the cost of the permitting process.
(Photo via GE Hitachi)
A new, smaller breed of nuclear reactor that is being promoted by the Obama administration may offer some advantages over the larger reactors that now provide about 20 percent of the United States’ electricity, but critics say they also have the same drawbacks.
While nuclear plant construction is largely a thing of the past in the U.S., the new smaller paradigm – and the $452 million in federal funds aimed at pushing it forward – has generated a lot of interest. At least four consortia of engineering and utility firms are now developing designs and licensing standards, and competing for federal funds.
One industry group, led by engineering/construction firms Babcock & Wilcox and Bechtel, has been awarded federal funds and plans to have its first small modular reactor (SMR) operating at a site in Tennessee by 2022.
The Obama administration is aiming for 20 plants by 2030 and 50 plants by 2040.