2012 Year In Review
Monday, November 19, 2012
2012 Victories: Protecting Our Environment, Health and the Midwest’s Special Places in Ways that Grow the Economy
Protecting Clean Air: Retiring the Old Highly Polluting Fisk, Crawford and State Line Coal Plants in Chicago and Northwest Indiana. A turning point for clean air! ELPC’s “clean up or shut down” strategic legal advocacy over a decade with our grassroots community and public health partners resulted in the Fisk and Crawford coal plants shutting down in August 2012. These were the largest, most polluting coal plants operating in city neighborhoods. How did this victory happen? ELPC’s litigation pressure before the Illinois Pollution Control Board; our legislative lobbying and leadership on the Chicago Clean Power Coalition; ground-breaking grassroots organizing; media attention; and the changing Midwest electricity market. The result: Chicago is now a “coal-free” city with less pollution and healthier air. The State Line coal plant on the Illinois-Indiana border also shut down, rather than modernize, due to market pressures and ELPC’s and our allies’ advocacy.
Advancing Clean Energy in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio. ELPC’s advocacy is helping repower the Midwest with more renewable energy and energy efficiency. Iowa is now the #2 state in the nation for wind power, and Illinois is #4. ELPC’s legislative advocacy improved Illinois’ Energy Efficiency Building Code and Net Metering standards, which advance small-scale solar and wind projects. In Iowa, ELPC led the charge to pass a new solar energy tax credit law, while ELPC attorneys and experts also improved and expanded solar programs through public utilities commission proceedings in Michigan and Ohio. ELPC attorneys are preparing to help defend Minnesota’s forward-looking Next Generation Energy Act against a lawsuit brought to protect North Dakota’s lignite coal generation. On the energy efficiency front, ELPC is working with utilities and before public utilities commissions in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Ohio to leverage $500 million of funds to design and implement energy efficiency programs that deliver strong performance. The results: clean energy development is creating jobs, keeping energy dollars in the Midwest economy, reducing pollution and improving public health and our environment.
Preserving Natural Resources: Stopping the “Hastert Highway” Sprawl in Illinois and Protecting Michigan’s Saugatuck Dunes. The proposed “Hastert Highway” (aka “Prairie Sprawlway”) would have exacerbated sprawl and gobbled up thousands of acres of open space and farmland in exurban Kane, Kendall and Grundy Counties. ELPC attorneys and our clients, Citizens Against the Sprawlway and Friends of the Fox River, achieved a huge victory through our federal court lawsuit and effective negotiation. The proposed new Hastert Highway was stopped and the federal funds were shifted to support a better transportation solution: improving existing roadways, protecting sensitive environmental areas, creating needed jobs today and preserving community values. ELPC public interest attorneys are representing the Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance in federal court and local proceedings to hold off a billionaire developer’s relentless efforts to build a large-scale hotel-resort complex on a remarkable dunes landscape along the Lake Michigan shoreline. ELPC’s strategic legal advocacy combined with strong grassroots organizing by local conservation groups is succeeding thus far in preserving the threatened Saugatuck Dunes area.
Protecting Clean Water: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin and the Mississippi River and Great Lakes. ELPC attorneys and scientists are removing obstacles to implementing the long-delayed Clean Water Act “anti-degradation” standards designed to keep clean waterways clean. ELPC led the environmental groups’ efforts over four years to achieve the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s adoption of this vital clean water standard in 2012. ELPC attorneys also successfully represented the Iowa Environmental Council in persuading the state courts to reject the Iowa Farm Bureau’s lawsuit attacking the state’s clean water standards. Meanwhile, ELPC’s legal advocacy with our partners at Midwest Environmental Advocates led to Wisconsin’s phosphorus pollution reduction standards, which can help constrain unsightly and unsafe algae blooms in lakes and rivers. ELPC filed two precedent-setting enforcement lawsuits in Illinois aimed at changing practices at a coal mine that violated its water pollution permit 624 times and at four coal plants’ leaking coal ash impoundments that have contaminated groundwater. ELPC Executive Director Howard Learner played a lead role in helping convene the White House’s Great Lakes Summit in early 2012. Stay tuned for a new ELPC initiative in 2013 to advance protecting and restoring the Great Lakes.
On Track: Midwest High-Speed Rail. Modern new railcars, new stations, faster service and more funding are putting people to work and getting trains running on the tracks. Progress in 2012 is visible: the first Midwest 110-mph rail service began on parts of the Chicago-Detroit and Chicago-St. Louis routes; a new high-speed rail intermodal station in Normal, Illinois, with more new stations to come in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Missouri; federal funding to alleviate two key bottlenecks near Chicago and Detroit; and a contract for 130 modern new railcars to be built at a new factory in Rochelle, Illinois. ELPC’s new Midwest High-Speed Rail Supply Chain report identifies 460 companies in seven Midwest states that provide equipment, parts and service for the reviving rail industry. Modern, fast, comfortable and convenient high-speed rail will improve mobility, reduce pollution, create jobs and spur economic growth. ELPC’s long-term effective advocacy is achieving progress. These modern trains are getting on track. HighSpeedRailWorks.org
Engaging Citizen Advocates
Protecting Our Clean Rivers and Lakes. ELPC launched three innovative clean water education and advocacy websites for Indiana, Iowa and Illinois. Powerful multi-media stories and interactive tools inform and engage people to protect clean water. Jump in today at: INourwater.org, InIowaWater.org and InIllinoisWater.org.
What’s New with Modern Electric Cars. ELPC launched a consumer-oriented website with information about types of new electric cars, available incentives, charging options and key policies. Plug into news and policy action opportunities at: PlugInChicagoMetro.org.
Engaging Midwest University Scientists
Big Ten Scientists Explain the Connections Between Climate Change and Extreme Weather Events. Midwest university scientists are knowledgeable, highly-credible messengers with policymakers and the public. ELPC is working closely with them to better explain climate change problems and advance solutions. We reached out to leading Big Ten climate scientists and asked them how this year’s extreme weather relates to climate change. Here’s what they said in compelling op-eds published across the region: “At coffee shops, truck stops and around backyard grills, many people are asking the same question: As the climate changes, can we expect more of this? The answer: Yes. There is a strong probability that climate change is influencing certain extreme weather events.” The op-ed appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Des Moines Register, Detroit Free Press, Indianapolis Star, Omaha World Herald and Wisconsin State Journal. GlobalWarmingSolutions.org
Illinois, Michigan and Ohio Scientists Call on Congress to Uphold Mercury Pollution Reduction Standards. The U.S. EPA’s implementation of Clean Air Act standards to reduce mercury pollution has been attacked by the coal industry and certain U.S. Senators and Representatives. ELPC organized leading mercury scientists and policy specialists to better inform policymakers about the harmful impacts of mercury pollution. Our science-based public education campaign featured solutions-oriented messages about protecting public health, developing clean energy, creating jobs and spurring economic growth.
From ELPC’s Board Chair & Executive Director
ELPC has achieved extraordinary program successes and vibrant organizational growth over two decades. ELPC has grown from a ground-floor start-up in 1993 to be the Midwest’s premier environmental legal advocacy and eco-business innovation organization, and among the nation’s leaders. We’re proud of ELPC’s impact through solutions-oriented advocacy strategies that achieve results.
Through it all, we’ve effectively followed three core principles. First, smart, strategic legal and policy advocacy can improve the Midwest’s environmental quality and protect our natural heritage. ELPC plays to win, produce results and make a major difference for people, our communities and our environment. Second, ELPC puts into practice our principle that environmental progress and economic development can be achieved together. We believe that, and we do it. Third, whenever ELPC says “no” to a proposal, we will always say “yes” to a better alternative. ELPC advocates positive solutions that are good for job creation, good for economic growth and good for the environment. That’s how you get things done in the Midwest (and much of the rest of the country as well!).
Our 2012 victories show how ELPC puts these principles into action, from advancing the Midwest High-Speed Rail Network to improving public health by forcing the clean up or shut down of some of the most highly-polluting coal plants in the country to cleaning up community rivers and lakes and protecting our region’s iconic Great Waters – the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes.
As we approach ELPC’s 20th Anniversary, we will keep finding new ways to seize strategic opportunities for a cleaner and healthier environment together with growing the green economy. All of this works well for people in our Midwestern communities. That’s why we’re here at ELPC — to make a difference in this world!