Illinois

Crain’s Chicago Business: Rauner proposes sales tax break for Illiana Expressway

For the second time in a month, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration has moved to throw an apparent financial lifeline to the proposed Illiana Expressway. But Team Rauner says things aren’t what they seem.

While insisting that the proposed south suburban toll road is still on ice, with all spending frozen, the Rauner administration filed for public comment a proposed rule to grant a sales tax exemption to construction materials that would be used to build the road. The rule then likely will be submitted to a legislative review panel for final approval.

Earlier Rauner signed a bill authorizing $5.5 million in spending on the road, saying the money would go for consultants working to wind down the project. That came despite an overall budget crisis that has left the state billions of dollars in the red.

Rauner spokesman Lance Trover said the proposed language headed to the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules “is required by legislation” and “is in no way an effort to revive a project that the Illinois Department of Transportation has pulled from its multiyear plan.”

Illinois Department of Revenue spokesman Terry Horstman said the rule stems from a 2010 law authorizing tax breaks for the highway, which would stretch from the Indiana border to Interstate Highway 55. Horstman said he didn’t know why it took five years for a draft rule to be filed or why it was filed now.

Longtime Illiana critic Howard Learner is suspicious. In a statement, Learner, who heads the Environmental Law and Policy Center, asked, “Given the state of Illinois’ financial crisis, why in the world is the Department of Revenue proposing to grant a sales tax exemption for the boondoggle Illiana Expressway?”

“It’s time for Gov. Rauner to finally terminate the wasteful Illiiana Tollway,” he continued, “and not create another new costly subsidy that Illinois taxpayers can’t afford.”

Continue Reading

Quad City Times: Rauner administration seeks Illiana toll road tax credits

SPRINGFIELD — In another sign the controversial Illiana Expressway still has a pulse, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration is seeking legislative approval of tax breaks that could benefit the on-again, off-again project.

In a proposal filed by the Illinois Department of Revenue on July 10, the administration is seeking sales tax exemptions for building materials used to construct the road, which would connect Interstate 55 in Will County with Interstate 65 in Indiana.

The sales tax proposal, which is pending before the Illinois General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, is in a public comment stage through Aug. 24.

The 47-mile tollway has been a lightning rod since it was proposed as a way to reduce heavy congestion on Interstate 80, located 15 miles to the north.

Former Gov. Pat Quinn pushed hard for the $1.5 billion project to move forward before he left office in January. Rauner suspended the project earlier this year as part of a review process that is under way during tight budget times.

In June, however, the Republican governor signed legislation that included $5.5 million for ongoing efforts to develop the highway.

The project also has been the subject of a federal court ruling that found the Federal Highway Administration’s approval of the project in 2013 violated U.S. environmental law.

The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by Illinois environmental groups, which alleged the green light from the federal government was based on faulty information.

Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, was surprised to hear the administration was pursuing the sales tax exemption proposal in light of the federal ruling.

“I don’t get it. Why in the world is the Department of Revenue proposing to grant a sales tax exemption for this project?” Learner said. “It’s time for the State of Illinois to stop wasting money on boondoggle projects like the Illiana Expressway.”

Keep Reading

Chicago Tribune: New Power Rules May Hike Chicago Electricity Bills, Bring Exelon Payday

ChicagoTribune

 

July 28, 2015

New Power Rules Prompted by Polar Vortex May Hike Chicago Electricity Bills

By Cynthia Dizikes

Beginning next month, power plants in northern Illinois and other states will be able to make more money from consumers in order to shore up electricity in frigid weather and prevent the scramble to keep the lights on that occurred during the extreme winter of 2013-14.

But critics — including the head of the federal agency that analyzes such moves — argue that the electric grid, while stressed, did not actually fail during the polar vortex and that the approach may be misguided and flawed, potentially ballooning costs by several billion dollars over the next few years without stabilizing the electricity available to consumers in severe weather.

“Despite the potential multibillion dollar burden consumers will be asked to bear, there is no analysis, however rudimentary, indicating whether the benefits are at least roughly commensurate with the costs,” Norman Bay, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, wrote in a cutting opinion last month.

The PJM Interconnection, which manages the grid in 13 states, including the Chicago area, anticipates the change could add a couple of dollars a month to residential electricity bills.

The polar vortex brought one of the worst winters in decades to cities across the U.S., rendering nearly a quarter of power producers in Chicago’s regional electric grid inoperable on a particularly brutal January day that saw temperatures plummet to negative 12 degrees.

Some coal plants that had promised to provide electricity stopped working because their conveyor belts froze, while some natural gas plants could not obtain enough fuel because of increased demand for heating. Grid operators raced to keep electricity flowing to millions of people. Electricity prices in the wholesale market spiked, and grid operators contended they came close to using emergency tactics to keep the system from failing.

That spurred PJM to propose a “no excuses” policy that would financially reward power producers that continue to pump electrons onto the grid during such harsh weather while fining those that fail to come through.

The five-member Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the controversial new electric grid rules last month over Bay’s lone dissent, setting the stage in the coming weeks for prices to potentially be set higher.

“PJM raises serious and legitimate concerns,” according to the majority opinion. “Failure to act today … could cause reliability issues years from now, at realized cost levels potentially significantly higher to customers.”

PJM’s massive system stretches from Chicago to the Atlantic Ocean and covers about 61 million people and 1,400 electric generators.

PJM has predicted the new rules could cost electricity customers up to $5.4 billion over the next few years after accounting for potential savings that could result from generators performing better in bad weather. The organization has estimated that long-term costs could be up to $700 million a year, at the same time underscoring that the cost of power interruptions can reach tens of billions of dollars and endanger lives.

The changes will be implemented over the next few years with initial costs being made public in August.

The impact to residential customers, according to PJM, should be “relatively modest,” or about $2 to $3 more a month, with the possibility for all of that or more to be offset by lower energy prices in extreme weather years.

Using industry consensus estimates, the cost to an average Commonwealth Edison residential customer could be similar, or about $3.50 more a month in 2018, according to market experts. Some, however, have pointed out that the new rules could allow prices to reach about $12 more a month in 2018 for the average ComEd residential customer without triggering a review.

“PJM’s mission is to ensure reliable service at the lowest possible cost to the end-use customer,” said Stu Bresler, PJM’s senior vice president of market services, in a conference call with reporters this month. “Those old performance requirements simply were not enough to assure the kind of performance we needed.”

PJM is an organization whose members include power generators. Many of them lobbied hard for the new rules, including Chicago-based Exelon, which stands to make more money from the changes at a time when it is threatening to close some of its nuclear plants because of increased competition from wind- and natural gas-generated power.

The new rules specifically apply to PJM’s so-called capacity market. Capacity is an industry term that generally refers to a power producer’s ability to provide electricity to the grid.

In northern Illinois, power producers make money through energy markets, where they continually sell their electricity to the power grid, and through capacity markets, where they commit to be able to supply a certain amount of electricity to consumers three years in advance if needed.

Capacity markets provide a way for power producers to recover costs beyond the fuel they use, such as for land purchases, construction and maintenance. They also are intended to be a stabilizing force in the system, locking in commitments and prices and encouraging the construction of new plants if more electricity is needed.

Consumer advocates contend that in recent years power generators have pushed to make capacity markets even more lucrative as profits from energy markets have plummeted, driven down by cheap natural gas prices and decreased demand for electricity.

PJM argues that the potentially higher prices are necessary, billing the new capacity rules as an “insurance policy” consumers will be taking out to ward against the disruption and cost that a sudden drop in energy supply might cause. During the polar vortex, for instance, some consumers on variable rates saw prices spike to 35 cents per kilowatt-hour — more than four times the going utility rate, and six times ComEd’s rate during that time.

Others, however, have asserted that the capacity market is not necessarily tied to energy prices and simply serves as a dependable revenue stream from consumers to generators. They point out that even though energy prices jumped in the wholesale market during the polar vortex, most residential customers in northern Illinois did not get dinged because they were on fixed-rate plans.

Cara Hendrickson, chief of the public interest division for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, said that the rules are likely to cost consumers more, yet “they do not guarantee that the money will be used to make the system more reliable.”

‘Verge of collapse’
In PJM, capacity prices are established three years in advance through a main annual auction. Power generators bid capacity into the auction at a certain price, and PJM chooses the lowest bids that will meet the demand for electricity it expects in the future. Power generators whose bids get picked are paid for that promised electricity three years later.

The cost is spread out to customers across the system through capacity payments embedded in individual electricity bills.

In exchange, power generators are expected to provide the electricity they promised if PJM determines it is needed.
Traditionally the capacity market was designed to make sure PJM had enough electricity to meet demand during peak summer hours, but the new rules create an additional focus on severe winter weather.

The capacity auction for 2018-19, which will almost fully implement the new rules, will occur next month. The results will be made public Aug. 21. In the weeks that follow, PJM also expects to hold two smaller supplemental auctions for next year and 2017-18.

Under the new rules, power generators will be able to bid higher, but will also face greater fines for not providing their promised electricity to the system if they are called upon. Money from the fines will go to those that do perform.

The thinking, according to PJM, is that the possibility of fines will encourage power plant operators to make investments to prevent weather-related shutdowns. For example, coal plants could choose to cover coal piles so they don’t freeze and natural gas plants could buy pipeline capacity in advance.

“Really, for the first time, generators’ revenue is more than ever dependent upon how well they perform during system emergencies,” Bresler said.

The biggest beneficiaries would be generators like Exelon, whose nuclear plants continued running during the polar vortex. Nuclear plants have fuel on hand and equipment that doesn’t need to be weatherized to operate, so they’re unlikely to suffer weather-related outages.

Exelon, which operates six nuclear plants in Illinois, is the nation’s largest owner of nuclear power plants.

If consensus price estimates hold and all of Exelon’s northern Illinois nuclear plants are picked in the main auction, some industry experts predict the new rules could bring the company about $618 million.

Exelon executive Joseph Dominguez declined to speculate how much Exelon could make but said the company anticipates that the benefits of avoiding price spikes and blackouts will outweigh the increased costs.

Exelon spends about $1 billion a year on maintaining and upgrading its nuclear plants and anticipates it will spend up to $360 million more to improve facilities that are picked in the auction, Dominguez said.

“When we saw a system that was on the verge of collapse during the polar vortex, we believed that PJM needed to act,” Dominguez said. “Every company, every supplier, is going to have to make changes to their power plants in order to ensure performance.”

‘Serious design flaw’
But consumer advocates have maintained that the system actually worked during the polar vortex. They have questioned the need for such sweeping changes, arguing that power generators have already begun to make improvements and actually performed better last winter despite increased demand on the system.

Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Chicago, said that the old rules also allowed entities to make money by promising to decrease their electricity demand on the system when called upon, which drove down prices and made the grid more efficient.

The new rules will likely make that harder to do, said Learner, adding that smaller tweaks should have been made before PJM attempted to restructure the entire system.

“What they did is like trying to kill a fly with a howitzer rather than a fly swatter,” Learner said.

In his terse, six-page dissent, Bay also pointed to a “serious design flaw” in the new rules that could leave the penalties substantively lower than what generators could make with higher prices in the auction, raising the possibility that power producers could still turn a profit without actually performing as promised.
“In short, PJM has purchased little certainty for what may be a lot of money,” Bay wrote.

The new rules will fully take effect in 2020.

 

Journal Gazette & Times – Courier: Tax breaks sought for Illiana toll road

SPRINGFIELD — In another sign the controversial Illiana Expressway still has a pulse, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration is seeking legislative approval of tax breaks that could benefit the on-again, off-again project.

In a proposal filed by the Illinois Department of Revenue on July 10, the administration is seeking sales tax exemptions for building materials used to construct the road, which would connect Interstate 55 in Will County with Interstate 65 in Indiana.

KEEP READING 

E&E: Former Exelon CEO Rowe: Shutting down struggling nukes is ‘the proper market-driven answer’

CHICAGO — Even three years removed from running Exelon Corp., John Rowe is still among the few people who needs no name badge or introduction at electric industry events.
Rowe, who grew up on a Wisconsin farm and attended a one-room schoolhouse, spent more than three decades as a utility chief executive. He’s best known for taking over troubled Commonwealth Edison Co. in the late 1990s and overseeing the transformation into Exelon, the nation’s largest utility owner and operator of the largest fleet of nuclear plants.

The former executive still lives in Chicago and keeps the title of chairman emeritus at Exelon, but is pursuing a different passion these days — education. He teaches a high school history class at a Chicago-area charter school that he co-founded. However, he hasn’t given up his fondness for nuclear power and free markets and his belief in a carbon tax to help combat climate change.

The former Exelon CEO sat down with EnergyWire last week during the Energy Thought Summit in Chicago to discuss the state of the nuclear industry, U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan and other changes confronting the utility industry. What follows is an edited transcript of the conversation.

EnergyWire: Why are certain nuclear plants having trouble competing right now? Is it just natural gas and wind?

Rowe: Yeah, wind and gas and energy efficiency. The combination of the recession and energy efficiency — and no one knows the percentages — has caused demand for electricity to stay below ’07 levels through today and probably for another seven or eight years in the Northeast. In a supply-and-demand market, reduced demand hurts. That’s the first factor. The second factor is much of the time a nuclear plant is competing against natural gas in the market, so cheap gas really hurts. The third factor is the subsidized wind — which you really pay for, and it runs whether it’s economic or not — that hurts. The wind really annoys utility people because it runs at night. At night, you have more than enough electricity, and wind just ruins the price.

EW: It has been said that preserving existing nuclear plants is key to helping the U.S. achieve climate goals. So, what’s the right policy solution to keep existing nuclear viable, such as the three Exelon plants in Illinois that are said to be losing money?

Rowe: I’m living in a fairy world because I don’t have the numbers and I’m not responsible for them anymore. But in my opinion, you shut those three plants down. You say they have become uneconomic just like some old coal plants are uneconomic. And in a world that’s driven by unfriendly market prices and unfriendly public policy, you shut them down. That’s what I think the answer is, which is a setback for our low-carbon goals and a setback for the high-paying industrial jobs that people want to keep. But it is the proper market-driven answer.

EW: That would be unpopular with your former colleagues.

Rowe: I don’t know. I can ask, but I don’t want to ask. They have to figure this out for themselves. I love nuclear power plants. For [current Exelon CEO] Chris Crane, it’s his life. He would probably go further to keep a plant running than I would go. I don’t believe there’s anything divine about markets, but I believe they’re pretty important. Chris has only seen the sour side of the markets. I don’t believe you can run a good utility letting public policy push you toward something but not pay you for it.

In some ways, I believe the only way a utility has credibility in saying that something isn’t making any money is if it’s actually willing to shut it down. If I were there, I think I’d have shut the New Jersey plant [Oyster Creek] down first. It’s the oldest, it’s the smallest, and it would have given credibility to what Exelon is saying about the other four. Nuclear power plants have been shut down before around the country. Am I saying that’s the desirable answer? No, I’m not. What I’m saying is if the real reason to keep them running is a public policy reason, then the public has to help bear the cost of doing that.

EW: What do you think about the way EPA treats nuclear power in the Clean Power Plan draft rule?

Rowe: I think EPA is right in pursuing a low-carbon world. I think they’re complying with the law. I think they’re doing their best, but they have very crude tools. The Clean Air Act is not an adequate tool for this. We needed a carbon tax or cap and trade. We still do. We won’t be rational until we have one, and we may never have one. But short of that, I don’t think it’s EPA’s job to encourage a new nuclear world. I think that would be one of the most expensive solutions it could pursue. I think its job is to pursue a low-carbon world at the lowest possible cost. And that would mean preserving the existing plants but not building new ones.

EW: What do you see as the outcome if the EPA Clean Power Plan rule is promulgated as it was proposed?

Rowe: It’s not going to be a national disaster. Period. At the same time, it’s not going to have optimal or efficient results. Because they just don’t have the tools. I have suggested to several people, including NRDC [Natural Resources Defense Council] and a couple of [Illinois] Gov. [Bruce] Rauner’s people that I think the Illinois means for compliance ought to be a carbon tax. I don’t think he’s going to buy it, but I made the suggestion. I do know that trying to do it by piecemeal reductions will be very expensive.

EW: So you think the rule should be written to help existing nuclear plants that are struggling?

Rowe: We’re writing rules all the time to help wind and solar. One of my old friends in the utility industry said a long time ago that renewable standards were like Gresham’s law: Its bad power drives out good power. Needless to say, the environmental groups would say Gresham’s law worked the other way, but the point is still the same.

EW: Well, your successor at Exelon took a lot of heat for his views on the PTC [production tax credit] and wind.

Rowe: I agree with his position, but I have the thought that as a nuclear company, environmental support was so important to Exelon that I would have tried harder to work something out with them, I think. But he had a different problem to deal with than I had during my years, so judge not.

EW: When you were running the company, did you see the wind build-out being a real threat to the economic competitiveness of nuclear?

Rowe: Yes. What we didn’t see, even as late as ’08, we just didn’t see what shale gas was going to do to gas prices. Some of our downside scenarios were at $4 gas. We did not see below $3 gas. … Boone Pickens, who does not always tell the whole truth, told Rahm Emanuel about shale gas before my own fuel people told me about it. I shouldn’t learn things like that from the president’s chief of staff. I have a wound on my neck from that one. There were a few people that saw it, but unfortunately it wasn’t the prevailing view.

EW: You made a comment during your presentation: “Utilities are good at saying no and good at saying yes and not doing anything.” Can you explain?

Rowe: You have to have regulatory systems that give them a chance to profit from doing it. They need to have an upside like everybody else. It’s not that a utility is going to turn into a Google. You can attach wings to an ox, but it still won’t fly very well. You can’t make a utility do everything as a public service duty and expect it to be imaginative and creative about it. Give it some incentive and all the sudden you change the quality of people they put on it.

We found back at New England Electric, when we got an incentive that basically gave us 10 percent of savings calculated by environmental groups and 1 percent of gross on energy efficiency programs, overnight they became the most profitable work the utility did. The person I put on it was Cheryl LaFleur, who has just been chairman of the FERC. I put that level of talent on it because it was not only public service, but because it was profitable work.

EW: When did you first begin advocating for a carbon market?

Rowe: I believe it was ’92, and that was at New England Electric, which was mostly a coal-burning utility.

EW: But the science then wasn’t as undisputed as it is now.

Rowe: Correct, but it was getting pretty strong. If you paid attention to those kind of people, which I always did. I think it’s almost overwhelming now. My Republican friends disagree with that. The reason the Republicans disagree with it is because they don’t enjoy the consequences. There’s a whole strand of the environmental movement that would really like to have us in an English garden driving those bicycles with those little flower baskets. That isn’t how Republicans see the world. Ninety percent of the climate scientists are would-be socialists. It’s not too shocking that even if you respect their vast analytical ability, a conservative is skeptical of some of their science when the science leads to an end state that they want and you don’t.

John Holdren, the president’s science adviser, is a friend. And he and I want very different worlds. But he’s still a friend, and he knows far more about this than I ever will. And I believe him. But once you believe it’s a real problem, if you believe in things like property and markets, then you want to identify a solution that is the most policy neutral that you can. Carbon taxes do that. Cap and trade does that. Renewable standards don’t. At the same time, Congress was rejecting Waxman-Markey at a $25 cap, California was adopting renewable standards with an estimated cost of $180 a ton. We just threw money at these preferred things. It’s like saying, “Oh, there’s a tree, let’s pick the apples from the top of the tree first.”

EW: How would a carbon tax, a market-based approach, have changed the generation portfolio? How would it be different now?

Rowe: If we had adopted a cap and trade or carbon tax, and if you had a ratcheted cap on the carbon price, a lot of the thing is how the carbon price grows. $25 or $10 or $15 won’t change it that much tomorrow, but it will change every investment decision going forward , and particularly if you have to include in your cost model the fact that you’ve got a carbon price that’s ratcheting at the general rate of inflation. You don’t put any more money into coal plants. And you try to burn natural gas as quickly as you can. I think with a carbon tax you’d see a faster move to more natural gas in the supply system. I don’t think it would be big enough to accelerate the renewables. But it would accelerate the coal conversion.

 

Press Release: Environmental Groups Deliver Petitions to ORSANCO Calling for them to Uphold Mercury Anti-dumping Standards for Ohio River

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Environmental Groups Deliver Petitions to ORSANCO Calling for them to Uphold Mercury Anti-Dumping Standards for Ohio River

Technical committee meets today to decide recommendations

Cincinnati, OHIO – A coalition of environmental groups will deliver close to 2,000 petitions today to a subcommittee of a multi-state commission urging members to recommend following through with new standards that forbid companies from dumping high levels of toxic mercury into the Ohio River. Mercury is a known neurotoxin that causes brain and nerve damage to children and developing fetuses.

Twelve years ago, the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, known as ORSANCO, banned companies located along the Ohio River from releasing large amounts of mercury into the water through the use of mercury dilution zones. The ban on these “mixing zones” is scheduled to go into effect in October in order to improve the safety of fish consumption caught in the river and overall protection of public health. Dozens of coal plants and factories in Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and elsewhere haven’t yet complied with this long-planned ban and many are now asking the commission to create exceptions to that ban or eliminate it completely. ORSANCO, which oversees water pollution and abatement standards on the Ohio River, has said it’s considering their request.

Environmental groups have been collecting signed petitions urging ORSANCO to stick to its original ban set in place more than a decade ago – and already delayed by 2 years – rather than give in to pressure from businesses that have failed to take even initial steps to comply with mercury mixing zone standards, according to Madeline Fleisher, staff attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Columbus, Ohio. ORSANCO’s technical committee, which is reviewing comments submitted by environmental groups and others during the public comment period last spring, is meeting today in Cincinnati to discuss recommendations it will submit to the commission.

“The Environmental Law & Policy Center and our partners are pressing ORSANCO to do the right thing by ensuring there’s a level playing field requiring concrete steps to reduce the amount of damaging mercury that polluters are dumping into the Ohio River,” said Ms. Fleisher.

The Ohio River is the public water supply for more than 5 million people, and it ranks at the top of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list of dirtiest rivers, in part because of high mercury levels. The petitions delivered to ORSANCO today were gathered by ELPC, the Kentucky Water Alliance, the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, the National Wildlife Federation and other environmental group allies. Last May, more than 17,000 petitions from environmental groups were delivered to ORSANCO during its public comment period.

“We want the state and federal appointed officials tasked with improving water quality in the Ohio River to uphold the ban on chemical hot spots, or mixing zones,” said Judy Peterson, executive director of the Kentucky Water Alliance. “We want government officials to put public health before corporate profits.”

“Citizens up and down the Ohio River are saying ‘clean water can’t wait,’” said Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition. “They won’t accept delay or backsliding when it comes to reducing dangerous toxins in their water supply.”

The commission is slated to make its decision by fall and announce its new pollution control standards at its scheduled October 8 meeting. The 27-member commission is charged to conduct a review of its pollution abatement and control standards every three years.

 

###

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DNA Info: Want to Catch Carp on Chicago Riverwalk? Use McDonald’s French Fries

DavidCatfishDOWNTOWN — The secret to catching a giant carp in the Chicago River: McDonald’s French fries.

That’s the bait Ryan Williams used to land a 20-pound carp on July 3 with lunchtime fishing buddy and coworker David Jakubiak. They’ve hooked four other carp since then, wearing dress clothes on their fishing trips to the Chicago Riverwalk, just paces from the Environmental Law & Policy Center office Downtown where they work.

“Carp are bottom feeders, and they’ll eat anything, so we shot over to the 7-Eleven in our building and tried hot dogs, Combos, cheese puffs, gummy worms and a bunch of other stuff that didn’t work, either,” said Williams, a development officer with ELPC. “As we talked to other people fishing they told us McDonald’s fries were the only way to fly. The first day out with fries, I landed my first monster carp, and we’ve hooked four more with the fries! I guess Chicago River carp just love McDonald’s.”

Williams and Jakubiak, a media relations manager, have fished the Chicago Riverwalk two to three times a week for the past month. In addition to carp, they’ve also caught catfish and have had small bass follow their bait — in this case, plastic lures.

Whenever they fish, Williams and Jakubiak said they draw big crowds of folks hoping to see them land a lunker.

Continue Reading on DNAInfo

New website, calculator tout benefits of building near transit

As living near transit becomes increasingly popular, a new report and online calculator from the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) and Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP) offers recommendations and support for the City of Chicago to expand zoning and target financial incentives to attract more residential and commercial development near transit in neighborhoods across the city.

The “Grow Chicago” website also provides a first-of-its-kind calculator, developed by MPC, that allows people to input the location, type and size of a specific development proposal, and calculate the benefits to the local community in terms of additional annual local retail sales, tax revenues, nearby jobs, residents, annual transit rides and affordable housing units.

View the report’s complete findings and recommendations and try out the calculator today.

Victory! First $5M of $30M Solar Procurement Allocated in Illinois

In 2014, ELPC played an instrumental role in passing legislation that create a program to kick-start the Illinois rooftop solar market. The legislation will allow the Illinois Power Agency (IPA) to run a series of procurements for Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) from new, Illinois-based rooftop solar systems. The IPA will spend $30 million over three different procurements, the first of which happened in late June 2015 when the IPA contracted for $5 million of SRECs that will result in about 6 MW of solar development. One SREC represents the generation of one megawatt-hour of solar-powered electricity. We expect that once these procurements are fully implemented, the resulting new rooftop solar projects will more than double the amount of DG solar in Illinois. This is a great win for Illinois and for ELPC’s policy advocacy.

Learn more about the $30 million solar procurement program in Illinois.

Press Release: Groups Push Back on Dynegy’s Latest Request for More Time to Pollute

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 22, 2015

Environmental, Public Health Groups Push Back on Dynegy’s Latest Request for More Time to Pollute
Dynegy Putting Off Pollution Cleanup Despite Record Profits

CHICAGO – A Dynegy proposal to allow tens of thousands of tons of dangerous air pollution while bringing millions in profits to the Houston-based coal plant operator would lead to hundreds of millions in health care costs in Illinois and neighboring states, according to a filing made late Tuesday at the Illinois Pollution Control Board by a coalition of public health and environmental groups.

In April, Dynegy asked the Illinois Pollution Control Board for a variance allowing the company to sell sulfur dioxide pollution credits it has received under a federal air pollution prevention program. Dynegy estimates the sale of the credits, which would allow the continued release of more than 60,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, would bring the company $3 million in profits. The groups called this an attempt by Dynegy to undermine Illinois’ Multi-Pollutant Standard, a state law established in 2006 to protect public health. The Multi-Pollutant Standard protects the pollution reductions from being undone by prohibiting the trading of pollution credits, though Dynegy now wants out of these commitments.

Sulfur dioxide is a dangerous pollutant that has been tied to costly health impacts including asthma attacks, emphysema, heart disease and premature death. In fact, using a metric developed by the National Research Council in a 2010 report, the health damages of 60,000 tons of sulfur dioxide from coal-fired power plants would amount to more than $400 million.

“The idea that Dynegy would be allowed to cause hundreds of millions of dollars in health costs for $3 million in profits defies the law and defies logic,” said Jennifer Cassel, an attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

Holly Bender, Deputy Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, pointed out that Dynegy’s request to boost profits at the expense of the public comes on the heels of recent windfall the company received in June when the price for its power jumped about 900 percent, from $16.75 per megawatt-day to $150.00 per megawatt-day. The Illinois Attorney General’s office is looking into the results of that power auction.

“Since arriving in Illinois in 2013, Dynegy has repeatedly gone to the Illinois Pollution Control Board to get out of its commitments to reduce its pollution. Make no mistake, this wealthy energy company does not need another subsidy from Illinois in the form of special treatment under the law,” Bender said. “As the company rakes in profits, it wants to squeeze a few more dollars out of Illinois while families of children with asthma pick up the costs. It’s time to get serious about cleaning up Illinois’ communities.”

Brian P. Urbaszewski, Director, Environmental Health Programs with Respiratory Health Association said the Illinois Pollution Control Board should dismiss Dynegy’s request. “Over a million Illinois residents live with lung disease. Adding 60,000 tons of pollution to the air, as Dynegy wants, would only burden those families with added doctor appointments, higher medical bills, more hospital visits and avoidable premature deaths,” Urbaszewski said . “The board needs to protect these families, not pad Dynegy’s profits.”

Ann Alexander, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) noted, “Dynegy made a deal. It knew what it was getting itself into when it made that business decision. It should not now be allowed to back out because the deal has become inconvenient.”

Click to view comments filed by the groups to the Illinois Pollution Control Board.

###

ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

Donate Now