Author: Vanessa Bonilla

Chicago Tribune: ELPC Among Groups Testing Citizen Devices to Track Chicago’s Pollution Hot Spots

Citizen devices tracking Chicago’s pollution hot spots

November 11, 2017
By Michael Hawthorne

With an array of palm-size devices strapped across her chest and connected wirelessly to her smartphone, Gail Merritt discovered the air in the South Loop might be a lot dirtier than expected.

Merritt and her group of volunteer pollution hunters had assumed the low-cost sensors they carried during daily walks would confirm their fast-growing neighborhood had relatively decent air quality, at least when compared with the gritty industrial corridors in other parts of Chicago.

Color-coded graphs that popped up on Merritt’s screen during an unseasonably warm October afternoon told a more complicated story. Something as common as a CTA bus or city garbage truck passing by caused the amount of lung-damaging particulate matter in the air to temporarily jump off the charts.

Just as concerning were spikes of pollution that turned up when the group reviewed data from a different air monitor stationed for three weeks in Dearborn Park, a quiet, tree-lined square framed by high-rise condominiums.

The volunteers now are eagerly awaiting a review of their handiwork by scientists who oversaw air monitoring in the South Loop and three other Chicago neighborhoods during the past six months. Funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the project is part of a broader nationwide effort to use rapidly developing technology to give people easy-to-access information about pollution they breathe during their daily routines.

“We came into this thinking we would be a control group they could use to compare to other neighborhoods with environmental justice issues,” said Merritt, a management consultant who leads the Alliance for a Greener South Loop. “Given all of the vehicle and train traffic around us, it looks like we have our own pollution problems.”

Breathing even small amounts of particulate matter, commonly known as soot, can inflame the lungs and trigger asthma attacks. Long-term exposure can cause heart disease, increase the risk of developing cancer and shave years off a person’s life.

Unlike the thick clouds of pollution that choked cities during the past century, the soot particles that concern public health researchers today are so small that thousands could fit on the period at the end of this sentence.

Since the amount of vehicle exhaust and factory pollution can vary widely within neighborhoods and at different times of day, the new wave of portable and stationary sensors can find pockets of dirty air that go unnoticed by authorities.

Intrigued by the potential of using personal technology to track the invisible-but-deadly pollution, the EPA began awarding scientific grants during the Obama administration to determine if relatively inexpensive sensors developed by tech startups and hobbyists could supplement a network of official monitors.

Regulators already measure soot at 17 sites in the Chicago area, and other monitors collect snapshots of data on smog, heavy metals and volatile chemicals to assess air quality across the entire region. But the bulky, expensive equipment isn’t mobile and the testing is designed to give a glimpse of the entire region, not identify hot spots. The closest soot monitor to the South Loop is more than 5 miles away.

Nobody thinks the new technology is reliable enough yet to be used in court or a regulatory proceeding. Rather, researchers and career staff at the EPA see it as a tool for citizens to conduct their own experiments and draw attention to pollution problems that otherwise might not be addressed, especially as President Donald Trump pushes to dramatically cut funding for federal and state environmental programs.

In addition to Merritt’s group, activists from Altgeld Gardens, Little Village and the East Side neighborhood are testing the reliability and ease of use of a half-dozen sensors, including devices small enough to fit on the straps of a backpack, one that looks like a throwback from the original “Star Trek” television series and another the size of a 16-inch softball.

Meanwhile, Serap Erdal, a University of Illinois at Chicago researcher who advises the groups, is testing all the devices next to an EPA monitor in Northbrook to determine how close the readings are to the regulatory gold standard.

Before fanning out again to see if the low-cost devices can endure a Chicago winter, some of the volunteers gathered last month at the nonprofit Delta Institute to share what worked and what went wrong during their summer and fall testing runs.

They reported the instructions and software for some of the devices were too confusing. One had a sensitive power button that would cause users to inadvertently turn off the devices. Another was knocked offline by a spider web.

“Doing good, low-cost sensor work is deceptively challenging,” said Scott Fruin, a University of Southern California researcher who studies air pollution but isn’t involved in the Chicago project. “Many of the sensors are not up to the task.”

Some of the volunteers chafed at filling out paperwork vital to helping their scientific advisers determine if spikes of pollution detected during their testing runs are meaningful or were merely the result of a sensor malfunction. Yet organizers said people of all ages are excited to keep going, driven by the idea they could someday figure out themselves if their suspicions about neighborhood air quality are valid.

Community leaders say the technology also gives them new opportunities to expand their networks and engage with neighbors reluctant to get involved.

“It really seems like we’re entering a new renaissance in the environmental movement,” said Sammy Corona, a volunteer with the Southeast Environmental Task Force who excitedly told the Delta Institute group about a recent conference that highlighted an elaborate network of air monitors in Southern California.

“When I got back,” Corona said, “I realized we are still in the Dark Ages in Chicago.”

The neighborhood experiments are just one example of how the nation’s third-largest city is catching up.

Researchers at the Urban Center for Computation and Data, an initiative by the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory, have developed equipment that is being posted on light poles around the city to provide granular details about air quality, traffic, sound volume and temperature.

After working out glitches with the electronics and redesigning protective enclosures for the devices, dubbed the Array of Things, the scientists are planning to have 500 monitors up and running by the end of next year.

Charlie Catlett, a data scientist who directs the project, said the goal is to provide researchers and the public with new kinds of data that can be used to improve quality of life. The latest version of the monitors is designed to make it easier to add new technology as the field improves and expands.

Catlett’s project echoes a long-running study by the New York City Department of Health. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration relied on borough-by-borough maps of data from pole-mounted sensors in an effort to stop landlords from using sooty fuel oil to heat apartment buildings and switch to cleaner-burning natural gas.

In 2010, the Tribune used a handheld sensor to test air quality on Metra commuter trains and inside stations that more than a quarter of a million people pass through every weekday. The newspaper found spikes of noxious diesel soot inside passenger cars after the doors closed on outbound trains and locomotive exhaust was sucked into ventilation systems.

Metra responded by installing more effective filters that improved air quality inside the cars. But commuters still routinely complain about hazy clouds of diesel pollution inside Union Station and Ogilvie Transportation Center.

Another early adopter of personal air testing devices is the Environmental Law and Policy Center, a Chicago-based nonprofit that loaned Walkman-size sensors to students, neighborhood groups and others between May and October to measure soot in 35 of the city’s 77 community areas.

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Indianapolis Business Journal: Cities can drive climate action with Paris Accord in flux

McCABE: Cities can drive climate action with Paris Accord in flux

November 11, 2017
OP-ED by Janet McCabe

Nicaragua has officially joined the Paris Climate Accord, and Syria just announced it intends to do so. That means the United States is now the only nation in the world outside this important global agreement. But while the federal government steps back, mayors across our country and across Indiana are stepping up.

Bloomington, Carmel, Crawfordsville, Gary, Indianapolis, Kokomo, Logansport and Whiting have made commitments to take meaningful action to address climate change. Mayors and their staffs from 18 Indiana cities attended the Second Climate Leaders’ Summit hosted by Earth Charter Indiana last month in Indianapolis. These cities can lead by example with climate-change solutions that provide a wealth of benefits for public health and the local economy and that save taxpayer dollars.

Clean energy and clean transportation deliver lower carbon and cleaner air. Fewer Hoosier children will miss school from asthma and other respiratory ailments, and fewer people will go to emergency rooms in respiratory or cardiac distress. Heat waves and floods—exacerbated by climate change—threaten lives, damage property, raise public safety costs and threaten Indiana’s agricultural economy. Climate action is a fiscally responsible priority for Indiana’s mayors.

It’s exciting that many Indiana cities say they want to be part of global climate-change solutions. If I were an Indiana mayor, I would ask: What are the best things I can do to serve my city and reduce my city’s carbon footprint? Here are three of the top options:

• Achieve 100 percent renewable energy for municipal electricity needs by 2022. The Midwest has abundant wind power, and solar energy and energy storage capacity are accelerating as prices fall and technologies improve. Cities can achieve 100 percent renewable energy by using locally produced solar energy plus storage, purchasing renewable energy from third parties, and securing renewable-energy credits from new in-state wind and solar projects.
• Clean up municipal fleets. Our nation’s transportation sector now produces more greenhouse gas pollution than the electric power sector. Indiana cities should buy electric vehicles or other zero-emission vehicles for non-emergency fleets. EVs have fewer moving parts and lower maintenance costs and their operating costs are lower and more predictable. Using wind and solar energy to power EV charging stations accelerates an even cleaner transportation system. And cities can help drive infrastructure for EVs that will support increased use of clean vehicles by residents and businesses.

• Rapidly improve municipal-building energy efficiency. Energy-efficiency investments produce cost savings and less pollution. Why wait? Many payback periods are short and the savings come fast. Replacing incandescent bulbs with LEDs is a no-brainer cost-saver and pollution-reducer. Antiquated HVAC systems and old appliances waste money and pollute more. Smart energy-efficiency products, technologies and controls are available. The time has never been better for cities to take stock of their energy use, then reduce their energy bills and cut pollution through energy-efficiency improvements.

• Cities can move forward with these three specific initiatives for clean energy, clean transportation and energy efficiency now and achieve significant pollution-reduction results. We should work together to turn words into deeds, achieve economic and environmental benefits together, and do our part to reduce the risks a changing climate pose to Hoosier communities.

 

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The Toledo Blade: Great Lakes conference discusses Lake Erie impairment

Great Lakes conference discusses Lake Erie impairment
November 3, 2017
By Tom Henry

One of the Kasich administration’s key players in the fight against algal blooms said Friday the future health of western Lake Erie is tied to the state’s commitment to do more aggressive edge-of-field research in each of the lake’s watersheds, not a federal Clean Water Act impairment designation that would subject farmers to more regulations.

Karl Gebhardt, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s deputy director for water resources, told attendees of the University of Toledo College of Law’s 17th annual Great Lakes Water Conference a major research project underway by Ohio State University’s Kevin King “will be critical to finding out what’s happening in each of the watersheds.”

“We will fix Lake Erie by fixing the watersheds,” Mr. Gebhardt, who also is Ohio Lake Erie Commission executive director and the man Gov. John Kasich has put in charge of Lake Erie programs, said.

Mr. Gebhardt was one of three speakers on the afternoon panel inside McQuade Law Auditorium. It focused on the impairment controversy.

He has come under fire by groups such as Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie for his many years as an agricultural industry lobbyist prior to joining the Kasich administration.

One of his fiercest critics has been ACLE’s founder, Mike Ferner, a former Toledo city councilman and two-time mayoral candidate who claims Mr. Gebhardt’s role with the administration helps explain why it is sticking to the industry’s wishes for more voluntary incentives to reduce algae-forming farm runoff instead of imposing tougher regulations through an impairment designation. Mr. Ferner’s group had about a dozen members demonstrating outside the law school auditorium before the conference began, and he handed out flyers mocking Mr. Gebhardt before his presentation.

But during his talk, Mr. Gebhardt said he wants Ohio to revitalize its Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, also known as CREP, which has lain dormant for several years. It provides incentives to farmers to create buffer strips that reduce runoff.

More importantly, though, he wants more information about whether better farming practices the state has been promoting are actually yielding the results it wants.

Several people attending the conference questioned if they are now that this summer’s algal bloom appears likely to go down as the third largest since 2002.

Mr. King’s edge-of-field research project attempts to quantify how many nutrients are leaving each of about three dozen test sites around the state. One of the preliminary results that has surprised scientists, announced months ago, is that far more phosphorus is escaping fields through underground farm tiles than surface runoff.

The state also wants to make more grants and low-interest loans available to communities such as Toledo that are reducing combined sewer overflows and modernizing their water-treatment facilities, Mr. Gebhardt said.

“We want to get money out into the communties,” he said.

He also said it is continuing to make plans for rebuilding more wetlands, and is working with Columbus-based Batelle – one of the world’s top research and development corporations – on more innovative technologies that might be used to combat algae in the future.

“We’re not going to get rid of algae in Lake Erie,” Mr. Gebhardt said. “And we want to keep the good algae in Lake Erie, because that’s what makes it the walleye capital of the world.”

He and the other two panel speakers, including Madeline Fleisher, a former U.S. Department of Justice attorney now working for the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center, agreed there’s no guarantee an impairment designation will bring more federal money – only the hope it might. ELPC has sued the U.S. EPA in federal court over the impairment issue, with Mr. Ferner’s group a partner in that litigation.

Mr. Gebhardt, in fact, said he believes the U.S. EPA has “been generous” with money it has provided to Ohio fighting algal blooms.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of not having enough money,” he said. “Sure, you’d always like to have more. It’s a matter of what we’re doing with it [and] if programs are working.”

Michigan declared its much smaller portion of western Lake Erie impaired a year ago this month, a move that proponents hoped would inspire Governor Kasich to do likewise in Ohio.

Kevin Goodwin, a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality senior aquatic biologist who spoke on the panel, said that while there’s been no influx of federal dollars the impairment designation there raised the profile of the problem within state government and likely helped generate more funding at the state level.

“The mere impairment listing within the state already elevates it [within the state] for more funding,” Mr. Goodwin said. “It starts internal wheels moving.”

Ms. Fleisher said the lawsuit filed against the U.S. EPA pertains to the agency’s obligations under the federal Clean Water Act’s “rule of law.”

“Any administration, regardless of its politics, is supposed to follow the rule of law,” she said.

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Development Officer, Foundation Relations

The Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC), the Midwest’s leading environmental legal advocacy and eco-business innovation organization, seeks to hire a full-time Development Officer for Foundation Relations to work in our Chicago office. This is an extraordinary time in which ELPC’s effective legal and policy advocacy is essential for protecting our core environmental values.  This position reports to ELPC’s Director of Development and is responsible for writing compelling and persuasive foundation proposals and compiling grant reports. As part of ELPC’s development team, this person will also provide support for development events and outreach activities as needed.

ORGANIZATION: ELPC is the Midwest’s premier public interest environmental legal advocacy and eco-business innovation organization, and among the nation’s leaders.  We develop and lead successful strategic environmental advocacy campaigns to improve environmental quality and protect our natural heritage. We are public interest environmental entrepreneurs who engage in creative business deal making with diverse interests to put into practice our belief that environmental progress and economic development can be achieved together. ELPC’s multidisciplinary staff of 40+ talented public interest attorneys, environmental business specialists, policy advocates and communications specialists brings a strong and effective combination of skills to solve environmental problems and improve the quality of life in our communities.  ELPC’s offices are in Chicago (HQ), seven other Midwest cities and Washington D.C. For more information, please see www.elpc.org.

RESPONSIBILITIES: The Development Officer reports to the Chief Development Officer and works closely with senior program staff to raise support from foundations. This job focuses on marketing ELPC’s mix of policy and legal advocacy projects to national, regional, state, and local foundations, and includes: (1) Drafting and revising successful grant proposals and letters of inquiry; (2) Working with program staff to develop grant proposal content; and (3) Working closely with program staff to write reports to funders; and (4) Identifying new foundation prospects.

QUALIFICATIONS:  The ability to write strong, persuasive grant proposals and reports.  Candidates should have a Bachelor’s degree and at least five years of development experience, preferably in the environmental sector. Prior job experience writing persuasive documents (e.g., journalism, policy advocacy work) is a plus.  The successful candidate will have excellent writing, editing, and interpersonal skills; an entrepreneurial approach to fundraising; and a passion for ELPC’s mission.   He or she must be able to work productively with a team of skilled professionals in a fast-paced deadline-driven environment where attention to details and follow-through are critical.

SALARY: Commensurate with experience and with ELPC’s salary structure that is competitive with other large public interest environmental organizations.  Excellent benefits provided.

APPLICATION PROCESS:  Applicants should send: (1) a cover letter, (2) a resume, and (3) contact information for two professional references to: Kevin Brubaker, kbrubaker@elpc.org with “Development Officer” in the subject line.  Telephone inquiries are not accepted.  ELPC is an equal opportunity employer and is continually seeking to diversify its staff.

For a printable PDF version, please click here

Chicago Sun-Times Editorial: Don’t send more air pollution to Chicago

EDITORIAL: Don’t send more air pollution to Chicago
October 18, 2017
Sun-times Editorial Board

Last year, Illinois enacted a farsighted law designed to provide cleaner air, more jobs and lower energy bills. Now, a company that owns coal-fired power plants in Illinois is pushing to weaken clear-air rules in a way that would undermine those goals. The Illinois Pollution Control Board should take a deep breath and refuse to go along.

Weaker regulations, in this case, would be a big step backward. The state’s air, including in Chicago, would get dirtier and the transition away from coal would be detoured.

Last year, stakeholders ranging from environmentalists to utilities laboriously hammered out an agreement that resulted in the Illinois Future Jobs Act, a law designed to improve residents’ health and make Illinois a leader in renewable energy — all while reining in utility bills.

Since then, however, two utilities have engaged in what amount to counterattacks.

First, the Downstate utility Ameren, which supplies gas and electricity to central and southern Illinois, persuaded the Illinois Commerce Commission to let it lower its energy efficiency goals.

Now Dynegy, which owns eight coal-fired power plants in central and southern Illinois, wants the Illinois Pollution Control Board to scrap the limits on the rate of pollution each of its plants can emit. Dynegy, which also is reportedly seeking rate increases in the Legislature, proposes instead that existing annual caps apply to its plants as a group, which would allow it to give its dirtier plants more leeway to belch out soot and other pollutants that cause smog and acid rain.

The proposal comes as Dynegy faces a deadline that Ameren, which previously owned the plants, agreed to in 2006 to reduce air pollution.

In a classic example of the problems with revolving-door government, Dynegy has worked with Gov. Bruce Rauner’s director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency — a former lobbyist for a trade association that represents Dynegy — to draw up the plan. According to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office, the revised pollution cap would provide a financial incentive for Dynegy to actually increase pollution if it chose.

For a hearing on Thursday, Dynegy is on the agenda with a request for the Illinois Pollution Control Board to rush through the decision-making process. But there is no need to rush. This is a matter that demands full input and careful consideration. Illinois does not face any shortage of power generation capacity.

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Michigan Public Radio: ELPC’s Kearney Speaks Out to Protect Saugatuck Dunes

Some Michigan residents are saying no to a potential development along the Kalamazoo River in Saugatuck.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality held a public meeting last night to hear from residents about a proposed development project along dunes on Lake Michigan.

At issue is a plan to build a marina and resort along the Saugatuck Dunes, which are off of Lake Michigan, more specifically off the Kalamazoo River.

John Bayha, an Environmental Engineer with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, says the meeting was to get public comment.

“We have two main permit applications right now under review, and so this hearing was just the opportunity for the public to provide comments that we will take into consideration in our decision making process on these applications,” Bayha said.

Margrethe Kearney, Senior Attorney at the Environmental Law and Policy Center, says the proposal raises several red flags.

“We think there are a lot of issues related to public safety, related to the public interests, related to protection of endangered species and natural resources,” Kearney said.

Kearney says the proposal also goes against state and local laws.

“There are several Michigan laws built to protect the natural landscape and protect the natural beauty we have here. [Michigan’s] scenery is a big tourist attraction and it doesn’t make sense to do anything that might hurt that,” she said.

Development along the dunes has been the subject of debate for decades in this area, but Bayha says the department’s decision regarding the application will be made sometime next month.

For the full article, please click here

Public Radio College of DuPage: ELPC Leads Plan to Revitalize Chicago Pedway

On a rainy or snowy day, getting from one place to another can be a challenge no matter where you live. In Chicago there is a way to get where you’re going and get out of the elements without getting into your car, hailing a cab, or booking an Uber. First Light host Brian O’Keefe took a walk in the Pedway with Environmental Law and Policy Center Executive Director Howard Learner.

LISTEN HERE: https://www.wdcbfirstlight.org/news/2017/10/15/elpc-leads-plan-to-revitalize-chicago-pedway

Groundwork: Fundraiser

Groundwork Seeks Fundraiser

Groundwork is seeking a Donor and Corporate Relations Specialist to join its development team. Ideal candidates will have a strong commitment to understanding Groundwork’s mission and programs, and a proven ability to cultivate new, as well as to steward existing, relationships with community members. A team player, innovative spirit, and a can-do attitude are critical to success in this job. The position is full time, year-round, and will report to Amy MacKay, Development Director.

THE RELATIONS SPECIALIST WILL:
  • Be responsible for an assigned portfolio of individual donors, meeting with them to secure annual gifts, multi-year pledges of support, major gifts, or planned gifts, as appropriate;
  • Collaborate with staff, Board of Directors, and others to identify prospective donors and participate in strategic outreach to recruit them to become Groundwork supporters;
  • Procure corporate sponsorships and favorable underwriting options to help fund Groundwork’s programs, special events, conferences, and reports, etc.;
  • And, maintain and develop new relationships with business community, looking for ways to involve and recognize the corporate interests and partnering opportunities.
PERSONAL QUALIFICATIONS

Groundwork seeks the following qualities in successful candidates:

  • Strong commitment to Groundwork’s mission and programs;
  • Exceptionally skilled at networking and a keen listener;
  • Proven ability to organize priorities, with keen attention to detail and deadlines;
  • Self-directed working approach, initiative and strong teamwork skills;
  • And, a sense of humor and positive outlook.
PROFESSIONAL REQUIREMENTS
  • 3+ years of experience in fundraising and development for a nonprofit organization or transferable experience in private sector sales.
  • Experience in several aspects of fundraising including annual giving, major donor cultivation, corporate giving and planned giving. Demonstration of successful revenue increases over time desirable.
  • Unquestionable integrity, and professionalism coupled with highly developed relationship building skills.
  • Absolute commitment to a donor-centric centric approach to all work and an ability to motivate this approach among staff and volunteers.
ABOUT GROUNDWORK

The Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, formerly known as the Michigan Land Use Institute, was established in 1995 as a nonprofit organization to protect the environment, strengthen the economy, and build community. The principal office is located in downtown Traverse City with a satellite office in Petoskey. With a staff of twelve, we work to build a thriving local farm and food economy; to make our towns and villages more affordable, walk-able, and transit-friendly; and to develop local, clean energy. We seek to achieve on-the-ground results in northwest Michigan and leverage them to support other communities and improvements to state policy. All of this is designed to build resilience in our communities and equity in our opportunities.

COMPENSATION, BENEFITS, AND APPLICATION PROCEDURE

This is a full-time position with a competitive salary range, depending on experience. Full-time employees and their families qualify for Groundwork’s health insurance coverage. They also receive retirement benefits, ample vacation, and schedules flexible enough to enjoy the wondrous forests, clean rivers, and the magnificent Great Lakes shoreline that distinguish the Traverse City region. Please send a one-page cover letter, resume and references to amy@groundworkcenter.org with the subject line Donor and Corporate Relations. We are accepting applications until we find the perfect fit.

Chicago Tribune: Pollution could increase as Rauner EPA moves to rescue coal plants

By Michael Hawthorne

September 27, 2017

In a move that could lead to dirtier air in Chicago and other downwind communities as far away as New York, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration is pushing to overhaul stringent limits on lung-damaging pollution from some of the last coal-fired power plants in Illinois.

Proposed amendments to state rules would scrap limits on the rate of pollution from a fleet of eight coal plants in central and southern Illinois owned by Dynegy Inc. Instead, the state would impose annual caps on tons of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emitted by the fleet — a subtle but significant change that could stall or reverse efforts to reduce Dynegy’s contributions to smog, soot and acid rain.

Drafted with extensive input from the company’s Chicago-based attorneys, the proposed pollution caps are significantly higher than what Dynegy’s fleet emitted during each of the past two years, according to a Tribune analysis of federal pollution data.

Alec Messina, director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, said the goal is to keep the financially struggling coal plants open by giving Houston-based Dynegy more flexibility to operate individual generating units, several of which are not equipped with modern pollution controls. Before joining the Rauner administration, Messina worked as a lobbyist for a trade group that represents the company’s interests in Illinois.

State standards would still be tougher than federal requirements, Messina said, and company spokeswoman Meredith Moore noted emissions could still increase if the state’s rate-based limits were kept in place.

But if a state rule-making panel approves the proposed changes, expected to be formally introduced this month, the new limit on sulfur dioxide would be nearly double what Dynegy’s existing fleet emitted last year and higher than every year since 2012, according to the Tribune’s analysis. The cap on nitrogen oxide emissions would be 79 percent higher than what came out of the smokestacks in 2016.

In an Aug. 25 letter to the state EPA, Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office questioned why the new regulations are necessary unless Dynegy plans to operate its dirtier coal plants more frequently and its cleaner plants less often.

The proposed pollution caps are set so high that the state would end up encouraging Dynegy to pollute more, Madigan’s office said.

“We want to make sure the public is getting the full benefit of the pollution standards the company agreed to meet,” James Gignac, Madigan’s environmental counsel, said in an interview. Changing the standard now could roll back years of progress, he said.

Dynegy also secured a provision that would keep the pollution caps fixed at the same amounts — 55,000 tons of sulfur dioxide and 25,000 tons of nitrogen oxide annually — even if it decided to shut down individual generating units or scuttle entire plants.

An EPA draft would have automatically tightened limits on Dynegy’s fleet to reflect plant closures, according to emails obtained by the nonprofit Environmental Law and Policy Center and shared with the Tribune. Chicago attorney Renee Cipriano, a former Illinois EPA director who represents Dynegy and other companies she once regulated, lined out or replaced language in the state’s draft, the emails show.

“We are making those types of tweaks to the rule language, so hopefully they address your issues,” Dana Vetterhoffer, an EPA attorney, responded in a May 31 email to Cipriano. “OK great,” Cipriano wrote back four minutes later.

Howard Learner, the environmental group’s president, said the changes would allow Dynegy to avoid installing pollution controls at its dirtiest plants and turn off the equipment at others.

“The company’s strategy is to run these plants on the cheap for as long as possible, like an old Chevy beater,” Learner said. “If the Rauner administration goes ahead with this, they’re effectively passing on the health costs of Dynegy’s pollution to the rest of Illinois and beyond.”

Moore, the Dynegy spokeswoman, said in an email to the Tribune that swapping the state’s current system for caps on the fleet’s emissions “would mean real environmental benefits.”

The EPA director echoed the company’s comments. “For the first time there is a cap on this fleet. That’s a big deal,” said Messina, who took over the state agency last year after serving as a top aide in Rauner’s office. He previously was a lobbyist for the Illinois Environmental Regulatory Group, an association that represents industries subject to state pollution regulations.

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Sierra Club: Michigan Political Organizer

Job Title: Political Organizer

Chapter: Sierra Club Michigan Chapter

Location: Sierra Club Michigan Chapter office in Lansing (some flexibility on location) with occasional travel required

Reports To: Chapter Legislative/Political Director and State Director

Timeline: January 2, 2018 – December 21, 2018

Hours: 28.5 hours a week (.76 FTE)

Context: Works with the Legislative and Political Director, Political Chair, Chapter Chair and Lead Lobbyist to help organize and implement the Political and Legislative program for Sierra Club Michigan Chapter for the 2018 election year.

Scope: The Political Organizer assists Sierra Club Michigan Chapter members in protecting the environment, with a focus on legislative and political campaigns. Helps run our political internship program, provides communications and writing support, trains activists, performs digital organizing, manages mailings, helps maintain our political action committee fund, helps organize citizen lobby days, performs research, supports coalition building, and lobbies at the state capitol.

Job Activities:

  1. Recruits and interviews political interns at colleges and universities across Michigan.
  2. Helps train political interns on organizing skills/strategies and Sierra Club Michigan Chapter’s priority issues, programs, and campaigns.
  3. Helps manage ongoing communication with political interns.
  4. Drafts and promotes press releases, action alerts, and newsletter articles.
  5. Gives public presentations on behalf of Sierra Club Michigan Chapter.
  6. Supports implementation of the chapter’s diversity, equity, and inclusion goals.
  7. Provides administrative support for our legislative and political programs including event planning, data entry, and mailings.
  8. Helps organize citizen lobbying events and maintaining legislative scorecards.
  9. May attend hearings at the state capitol on behalf of our Legislative and Political Director.
  10. Engages supporters in effective advocacy, public education, and awareness-raising activities to achieve campaign goals.
  11. Recruits and supports non-intern volunteers to further the goals and priorities of the chapter.
  12. Other miscellaneous duties as assigned.

Knowledge and Skills:

  • Some experience in grassroots organizing, training, motivating volunteers, electoral/political campaigns, coalition building, and lobbying.
  • Demonstrated written and oral communication skills.  Demonstrated public speaking ability.
  • Some knowledge and background in Michigan politics.
  • Demonstrated ability and effectiveness working with volunteers.
  • Self-motivated with a demonstrated ability to work independently towards goals.
  • Valid driver’s license, satisfactory driving record, and proof of auto insurance required.
  • Experience with Microsoft Office applications, Google drive, email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, websites, and constituent database management applications such as the Voter Activation Network (VAN) and Salesforce is preferred.

For full job description and to apply, please click here

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