Coal Plant Closures = Climate protection, reduced toxins and improved air quality
"Coal closures and straw men: Why shutting down Ontario’s coal plants wasn’t a waste of money..." (click here to read the article)
by former Ontario Environment Comissioner Gord Miller outlines the many benefits of closing the coal plants (last plant closed by end of 2014):
- reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the single largest climate change initiative undertaken in North America,
- reducing toxic emissions such as the neurtoxin mercury,
- contributing to the reduction of smog.
A report by the Fraser Institute, "Did the Coal Phase-out Reduce Ontario Air Pollution?" only examines the value of the coal plant closures on the basis of air quality issues and also claim that closing Ontario's plants had only a small contribution. Thus they imply the plan to close Alberta's coal plants may not be a good economic decision.
In 2003, five of the six coal plants in Ontario were still operational when Ontario committed to phasing out coal. Between 2005 and 2014 the plants were closed, Thunder Bay and Atikokan plants were converted to biomass-fuelled.
There is no question that air quality has improved: in 2005 there were 53 smog alert days, in 2014 and 2015 there were zero smog alert days. The opinions on the exact contribution of air quality improvements by closure of the Ontario coal plants varies. There were a number of contributing factors that led to reduced smog including improved pollution controls in the United States (see further reading below).
However, the above debate should not distract from the many benefits of closing coal plants across Canada and around the world. From the mining of coal to the waste products after combustion there are detrimental impacts on human health, water and the climate all of which have associated costs.
There are cleaner, greener alternatives that will protect the climate from catastophic change and provide many economic opportunities.
Ontario’s Coal Plant Phase-out Produced Many Health and Environmental Benefits A Blog by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment
"On January 17, 2017, industry think-tank the Fraser Institute released a new report, Did the Coal Phase-out Reduce Ontario Air Pollution? which suggests that coal plants across Canada should not be phased out based on its assertion that Ontario’s phase-out did not significantly reduce air pollution (Fraser Institute, 2017). This report includes a number of statements about pollution, health care benefits, and coal plants that are incorrect or misleading."
" We believe that the phase-out of coal plants in Alberta and across Canada is an economically prudent decision that will improve the health of Canadians while taking the steps needed to address climate change."
The End of Coal: Ontario's coal phase-out A report by the International Institute of Sustainable Development based in Winnipeg, Manitoba
"What lessons can be learned from Ontario’s coal phase-out experience? How can its success be replicated in other parts of the globe? This paper explores these questions for all those around the world who may draw inspiration and lessons learned from Ontario: policy-makers, campaigners, entrepreneurs and others interested in transitioning to a low-carbon future."