Illinois

Press Release: Environmental Groups Partner with Construction Firm to Adopt Clean Diesel Construction Practices in Chicago

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Environmental Groups Partner with Construction Firm to Adopt Clean Diesel Construction Practices in Chicago

Cleaner air improves health for all who live and work nearby

CHICAGO – The Environmental Law & Policy Center and Respiratory Health Association are partnering with construction firm Leopardo Companies, Inc., to create one of Chicago’s first clean diesel construction projects that will emit significantly less diesel particulates into the air and provide a healthier environment for people who live, work and play nearby.

The 265,000-square foot retail development at 3030 N. Broadway in the Lakeview neighborhood is being built with construction equipment that meets the tightest diesel tailpipe exhaust standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency. Leopardo also is limiting the time machinery is permitted to idle at the site as another component to its clean diesel practices.

“The Environmental Law & Policy Center anticipates more construction firms and property owners will be compelled to pursue clean diesel practices that are both cost-effective and  healthy for people who are employed onsite or  live and work around these construction projects,” said Susan Mudd, Senior Policy Advocate.

A majority of the heavy equipment onsite meets the EPA’s stringent Tier 4 clean diesel standards, which captures most of the harmful diesel particulates that would otherwise be expelled into the air. In addition, Leopardo hauled a 300-ton crawler crane to the site and retrofitted it with an emissions scrubber to meet the equivalency of the Tier 4 standards.

Pollution from diesel exhaust contains extremely small particles that can lodge deep inside the lungs. Anyone with respiratory challenges, such as asthma, is at greater risk for more health complications when exposed to diesel particulates, said Brian Urbaszewski, the Respiratory Health Association’s Director of Environmental Health Programs.

“Respiratory Health Association is proud to recognize companies that are proactively seeking out diesel equipment that is much cleaner and safer, improving the health of their employees and community members who live and work next to construction sites,” said Urbaszewski.

“Leopardo is committed to having more clean diesel construction sites in the future,” said George Tuhowski, director of sustainability at Leopardo, one of the largest construction firms in the region. “We’re confident that more contractors will rally behind this green initiative and make it the standard practice.”

The property, owned by 3030 N. Broadway LLC, will have a Mariano’s Fresh Market as the anchor of the 5-story building. The project is expected to be completed by fall 2016.

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Christian Science Monitor: Turning wasteland into power plants fueled by the sun

When utility giant Exelon built its pioneering inner-city solar plant on an abandoned factory site in Chicago’s West Pullman neighborhood, there was at least one unanticipated hazard: the shattering of glass photovoltaic panels by stray bullets falling from the sky. Exelon City Solar may not have resolved the deep-seated social problems of this crime-ridden South Side community, but it has demonstrated that solar power can breathe new life into polluted properties that have lain dormant and decaying for decades.

Surveying more than 35 million acres of abandoned mines, landfills, factories, and hazardous waste dumps, the US Environmental Protection Agency has identified a total of 5.5 trillion watts of solar potential – enough to produce about seven times the total electricity consumed by all US households. Site preparation costs may be prohibitive at some of these properties; cheap electricity from coal and gas may further inhibit solar development in certain areas; access to transmission lines may be a constraint at others. But already solar developers have overcome these constraints at hundreds of “brownfield” sites across the country, and hundreds of additional projects are in various stages of development. Huge clean energy prospects await us if we are willing to look anew at the wastelands we have long shunned as best forgotten.

In West Pullman, dozens of perfectly aligned rows of photovoltaic panels occupy the polluted acreage once used by International Harvester as an assembly plant. When the farm equipment manufacturer shut this factory down more than three decades ago, it turned its back on pools of polluted wastewater and soils loaded with asbestos. Even after the city took over the 41-acre parcel and began to clean it up, the site was far from safe for residential or commercial development. Solar power offered a path to redemption through reuse, but it took a combination of entrepreneurial daring, engineering savvy, and local political support to make the project a reality.

Today the Exelon City Solar plant generates enough clean energy for 1,500 Chicago area homes. Among the hundreds employed building the project, a local welding shop enjoyed a major bump in business, making thousands of steel pole mounts for the solar arrays. Today, instead of having to warn their kids away from a festering wasteland, abutting residents look out on a fenced-in field of neatly arrayed solar panels.

In the Chicago metro area, the non-profit Environmental Law and Policy Center is looking for ways to build on Exelon City Solar’s lead. Scouring the industrial landscape, its Brownfields to Brightfields or “B2B” team has evaluated the solar compatibility of some two hundred properties. “There are tremendous opportunities to unlock latent value in abandoned industrial brownfields and transform them into clean energy brightfields for the future,” says the center’s president Howard Learner.

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Midwest Energy News: Agency considers further delay on Ohio River mercury rule

A 12-year extension allowing power plants and other industrial polluters to exceed mercury standards as wastewater enters the Ohio River could be stretched out even further, if a proposal before an interstate regulatory board is approved.

The question before the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) is whether dischargers should continue to be allowed to use “mixing zones” for high levels of mercury that will be diluted downstream to levels meeting the standards.

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The Herald-News: State, federal officials appeal Illiana Expressway federal ruling

In yet another sign the Illiana Expressway project may still have a heartbeat, state and federal officials are appealing a recent federal court decision that ruled the federal government’s earlier approval of the $1.3 billion project invalid.The proposed 47-mile tollway would connect Interstate 55 in Wilmington to Interstate 65 in Indiana.

Press Release: ELPC Disappointed Federal & State Agencies Appealing Illiana Tollway Court Decision

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 17, 2015

ELPC Disappointed Federal & State Agencies Appealing Illiana Tollway Court Decision 

FHWA, IDOT & INDOT sadly continue Illiana Tollway “Fiscal Irresponsibility”

CHICAGO – The Environmental Law & Policy Center is disappointed the Federal Highway Administration, the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Indiana Department of Transportation have decided to appeal a recent federal court decision that ruled the agencies’ Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) and Record of Determination (ROD) are invalid because the underlying analyses were faulty.

In its June 16, 2015 Opinion, the Federal District Court held that the FHWA, IDOT and INDOT’s approvals of the final Tier One EIS and ROD were “arbitrary and capricious and in violation of NEPA” (National Environmental Policy Act).

The appeal was filed in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division on August 14, 2015.

“The Environmental Law & Policy Center is disappointed the Federal Highway Administration, Illinois DOT and Indiana DOT are continuing their fiscal irresponsibility with the boondoggle proposed Illiana Tollway,” said Howard Learner, the lead attorney. “The federal court appropriately said the Environmental Impact Statement was flawed because of circular reasoning. The federal and state transportation agencies have a right to appeal, but that doesn’t mean that it’s in the public’s interest to do so.”

Federal District Court Judge Jorge Alonso determined that IDOT’s plan to build the Illiana Tollway was based on analyses that are “fatally flawed.” The Court concluded that the agencies violated the National Environmental Policy Act and used a circular logic to make their initial case about how the proposed Illiana Tollway will lead to population growth and traffic demand. They assumed traffic growth would be the same regardless of whether the costly proposed new Illiana Tollway was ever built or not. The Court remanded the Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision to be redone in accordance with the decision and applicable law.

“The proposed new Illiana Tollway is a fiscal boondoggle, is contrary to sound regional transportation policy, and would degrade the very special Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie,” Learner said.

 

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WBBM Radio: Democrats Join Business, Environmental Leaders In Push For President Obama’s Clean Power Plan

Congress members are joining business, religious and environmental leaders in pushing for President Barack Obama’s “Clean Power Plan,” reports WBBM Political Editor Craig Dellimore.

Congressman Bobby Rush says President Obama’s plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants will not only mean cleaner air but cleaner and greener jobs as well and low income areas need them.

But fellow Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley says passing the bill is no easy matter.

“Unfortunately, climate change remains a partisan issue in Congress,” Quigley said. “I work side-by-side with members who don’t believe in evolution, who believe that dinosaurs were figments of our imagination.”

Patrick Woodson with E.On Renewable Energy says climate change is real and so is the need for a companion Illinois clean jobs bill.

“That legislation could double the actual install capacity here in Illinois, creating both an environmental and an economic benefit for the state,” Woodson said.

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Press Release: Environmental Law & Policy Center Commends President Obama, U.S. EPA on Final Clean Power Plan

For Immediate Release

August 3, 2015

Environmental Law & Policy Center Commends
President Obama, U.S. EPA on Final Clean Power Plan;
Will Partner With Regional Leaders for Smart Implementation

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER
Executive Director, Environmental Law & Policy Center

“The Clean Power Plan is our nation’s strongest step forward to reduce carbon pollution by accelerating clean solar energy and wind power solutions. Solving our climate change problems is the moral, economic, policy and political challenge of our generation. The Plan’s clean energy development solutions will create Midwest jobs, improve global public health and protect our Great Lakes ecosystem.”

“The Clean Power Plan gives states flexibility for implementation strategies that maximize the benefits of both cutting carbon pollution and growing the clean energy economy. The Environmental Law & Policy Center’s experts on the ground will work with the Midwest’s local stakeholders on plans that will deploy clean technologies to hold down utility bills, create jobs and improve environmental quality.”

“For Midwest manufacturing centers, today’s news is a signal to advance the clean renewable energy and energy efficiency supply chain businesses producing modern equipment. For the Midwest’s rural areas, today’s news is a signal that wind power development will keep growing and provide a new income stream for farmers, spur rural economic development and improve the environment for everyone. For cities like Chicago, Cleveland, Des Moines, Detroit, Indianapolis and Minneapolis, today’s news means a new era of solar panels on rooftops and more energy efficiency buildings that can better energize our urban communities.

“It’s time for the Midwest’s Congressional Delegation and Governors to step up and seize this opportunity to modernize our aging energy system and gain the benefits of growing the new clean energy economy. Let’s end the political squabbling and move forward with smart climate change solutions that are good for many Midwestern businesses and good for our environment.”

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Pantagraph: Groups want hearing on Illiana tax breaks

SPRINGFIELD — A coalition of environmental groups and opponents of a proposed new toll road in Will County have requested a public hearing on a set of tax breaks being sought for the project.

The Environmental Law & Policy Center helped lead a successful federal lawsuit seeking to block the $1.5 billion Illiana Expressway. It filed the request Wednesday after the Lee Enterprises Springfield bureau reported that Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration is seeking sales tax exemptions for building materials used in the on-again, off-again project.

The tax breaks now pending before the legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules came as a surprise to opponents because Rauner suspended work on the 47-mile road earlier this year as part of a review of state spending.

“To move forward with these rules without providing the public a reasonable opportunity to participate in the rulemaking process would be unfortunate,” notes the letter, signed by the heads of 20 environmental and opposition groups, including the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society and No Illiana 4 Us.

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AP: Opponents of Illiana Tollway Want Hearing on Tax Breaks

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Opponents of a proposed tollway linking Illinois and Indiana want a public hearing on a rule to create tax breaks for the project.

The Environmental Law & Policy Center filed a hearing request after news reports that Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration this week proposed a rule granting a sales tax exemption for construction materials to build the Illiana Tollway.

Rauner suspended the project earlier this year amid state budget woes. He also signed a bill authorizing $5.5 million for the highway, saying it was for consultants to wind down the project.

Rauner officials say the rule stems from a 2010 law authorizing tax breaks for the roadway and isn’t an attempt to revive the project.

But opponents are wary. They say advancing rules without a public hearing “would be unfortunate.”

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.”

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