Illinois

WBEZ Chicago: MeLena Hessel Discusses Renewable Energy in Illinois

April 6, 2018
Illinois Steps Up As A Leader On Renewable Energy
By Daniel Tucker

The Illinois Commerce Commission signed off on a long term plan this week that clean energy advocates say will increase the installation and use of renewables like solar energy and wind power across the state. The new changes mean Illinois is on track to have renewables account for 25 percent of its overall energy by 2025. That would put Illinois among the top states for renewable energy. Morning Shift discusses what this means for businesses and the average consumer with MeLena Hessel, Clean Energy and Sustainable Business Policy Advocate at Chicago’s Environmental Law and Policy Center.

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MeLena Hessel, Clean Energy and Sustainable Business Policy Advocate at the Environmental Law and Policy Center

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Chronicle Media: Environmental Groups Say IEPA Plan Leaves State, Residents Behind

April 10, 2018
Environmental Groups: IEPA Plan Leaves State, Residents Behind
By Kevin Beese

If you won a lottery jackpot, it is likely that creating electric car charging stations would not be high on your list of priorities.

The same can be said for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, which has come into a lottery-type windfall as part of the Volkswagen lawsuit settlement.

While the national settlement allows for as much as 15 percent of a state’s allocated funds to go to electric vehicle infrastructure, the IEPA has opted to go a different route with the $108 million the state is getting from the Clean Air Act civil settlement, much to the chagrin of state-wide environmental groups.

Rebecca Judd, clean energy advocate for the Sierra Club’s Illinois Chapter, noted that Minnesota, Michigan and Ohio are all putting the maximum 15 percent of settlement funds into electric vehicle infrastructure.

“Sierra Club urges Illinois not to get left behind investing in a clean transportation future,” Judd said at a state Senate Environment and Conservation Committee hearing on the settlement funds last week. “The maximum 15 percent of the VW funds should be dedicated to light-duty EV infrastructure, along with additional pollution reduction through electrification of the transportation and public transit sector.

“Illinois EPA must ensure the VW funds are used to protect vulnerable populations and environmental justice communities from the impacts of air pollution by investing in transit agencies and a rapid transition to clean, zero-emission technology.”

The IEPA has proposed that 65 percent of the VW funds go to off-road efforts to reduce air pollution, such as new engines for Metra trains.

The $108 million windfall stems from Volkswagen AG and certain of its North American subsidiaries entering into a multi-billion settlement with the federal government for violations of the Clean Air Act. VW publicly admitted to installing “defeat devices” in certain diesel vehicles causing the vehicles to operate differently during emission testing compared to normal operation, circumventing federal vehicle emission standards.

In its plan for settlement funds, the IEPA proposes:

    • 20 percent of money ($21.7 million) going to on-road projects, such as replacing and repowering trucks and buses with diesel, alternative fuel or electric engines.
    • 10 percent ($10.8 million) for all-electric school buses, replacing diesel buses.
    • 65 percent ($70.6 million) to off-road projects, such as locomotives, ferries and tugs.
    • 5 percent ($5.4 million) for IEPA administrative expenses.

 

Susan Mudd, senior policy advocate for the Environmental Law and Policy Center, said the IEPA plan does not commit a single dollar to electric vehicle infrastructure. She said the mitigation plan puts short-term gains at the forefront.

“IEPA does not appear to have considered long-term benefits,” Mudd said.

She said by focusing so much money on off-road projects, the IEPA is missing the “immense on-road needs of urban transit riders in Chicago, Metro East and Downstate Illinois.”

“Many of our most vulnerable residents live in the state’s ozone non-attainment areas — Chicago and Metro East,” Mudd said. “IEPA has ignored, predominantly, their transit needs.”

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E&E News: Land of Lincoln Chases Low‑Income Solar Access

April 9, 2018
Land of Lincoln Chases LowIncome Solar Access
By Jeffrey Tomich

Illinois took a step last week toward shifting its portfolio to cleaner energy sources when state regulators signed off on the first long-term renewable energy procurement under the 2016 Future Energy Jobs Act.

The 179-page plan approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) authorizes the Illinois Power Agency to buy renewable energy credits to help jump-start more than 600 megawatts of new solar energy development, with specific carve-outs for community solar projects and arrays on brownfield sites.

But the 2016 law also tries to address concerns about ensuring that clean energy reaches low-income consumers. Income inequality is a challenge in Chicago but also in rural areas of southern Illinois.

The plan developed by the Illinois Power Agency sets aside $30 million for a Solar for All program that requires the state agency to procure renewable energy credits for solar projects to serve low-income consumers. The low-income funds are divided into four buckets for the development of on-site distributed generation, community solar projects, projects for public and nonprofit customers, and community solar pilot projects. In each category, 25 percent of funds is set aside for communities where income is a barrier or where environmental injustice has been an issue.

Under the program, developers would agree to sell renewable energy credits to the Illinois Power Agency, or the utility in whose service area the project is located, in exchange for an upfront payment that includes an incentive to bring projects to an underserved market.

Illinois joins other states, mostly along the coasts, that have been looking for ways to encourage and incentivize low-income solar development. For the most part, states are creating unique programs that account for their regulatory environment and the mix of energy companies operating in the state.

Obstacles to accessing solar power can be daunting. For low-income consumers, it’s upfront costs, financing and the fact that many rent instead of own their homes. Arguably, utilities and independent solar companies have been slow to nail down solutions to those barriers.

“The lending community has been a little slow to invest in projects where it’s understood the off-taker is low-income,” said Melanie Santiago-Mosier, program director for low-income solar at Vote Solar.

Vote Solar and Grid Alternatives, which was involved in proceedings before the ICC, developed a policy guide to help with the rollout of low-income programs. “I am very optimistic about the low-income program and how it’s rolling out,” Santiago-Mosier said.

Even the most vocal advocate of the Solar for All program, however, acknowledges that its lofty ambitions are rivaled by the challenges and work remaining to realize the program’s goals of creating a self-sustaining low-income solar market.

The plan approved last week addresses funding mechanics, incentive levels and program eligibility. Still, it’s unclear how many megawatts of low-income solar will be realized with the $30 million budget, or how quickly the first low-income solar projects will become a reality.

Participants from an array of community groups, policy advocates and solar developers working together to craft the program guidelines say there’s strong interest in Solar for All, but it will take some time.

MeLena Hessel, a policy advocate for the Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center, compares the job of crafting a low-income solar program from scratch to building a house. Many program details have yet to be developed, but she said the law provided a foundation and the plan approved by the ICC is like the framing.

Hessel said both the statute and the procurement plan are purposely flexible and not overly prescriptive.

“We’re still pretty new to figuring out how best to deploy low-income solar nationally,” she said. “Illinois is trying to walk a line that allows some market innovation while protecting customers and providing energy savings.”

“I think the IPA does a good job in the plan of marrying the practical with the legal requirements of the Solar for All program,” she said.

Among the key issues addressed by last week’s ICC order, it seeks to ensure that low-income energy consumers — not other parties — reap the savings. The law requires the Illinois Power Agency to develop the plan so that low-income customers see “reasonable” economic benefits. In its order, the commission noted that while it would be difficult to monitor actual savings, contracts and vendors should have to document and verify that end-users are seeing at least a 50 percent energy savings.

The plan approved by the ICC also specifically requires the administrator of Solar for All to provide guidance and education to program vendors, community groups, local governments and others on how to facilitate low-income solar projects and energy efficiency programs.

Solar for All vendors, too, must detail how they involve communities in their projects and how they coordinate projects with a separate job training requirement in the law.

The law requires Commonwealth Edison to spend $3 million in 2017, 2021 and 2025 to train installers for Solar for All and other renewable portfolio standard projects. The Chicago-based utility made good on the first-year funding in December.

Another provision requires companies participating in Solar for All to commit to hiring job trainees for a portion of their low-income projects.

As with the low-income solar procurement plan, many details remain to be finalized to ensure that the job training program achieves its goals, said Kimberly Wasserman-Nieto, executive director of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization in Chicago.

Little Village and other community organizations are working to provide critical “wrap-round” services to make sure segments of the population aren’t excluded because of language barriers or other challenges such as lack of transportation to job training programs that might otherwise get overlooked.

“For an environmental justice organization, this is where the work starts,” she said. “We’re excited, and we’re also realistic.”

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Crain’s Chicago Business: Keep Dynegy’s Downstate Coal Plans Open? New owner Vistra may have other ideas.

by Steve Daniels

When Dynegy, Illinois’ second-largest power generator, and the Rauner administration collaborated last year on a proposal to ease the state’s limits on emissions from the company’s coal-fired plants, the idea was to keep those financially pressured facilities open. Roughly a month after that, in late October, Dynegy announced a deal to sell to fellow Texas-based power company Vistra Energy. Now Vistra’s CEO is talking about closing Illinois plants even if the pollution-control changes are made.

So is the Rauner administration having second thoughts? No. It continues to support the changes, which are pending before the Illinois Pollution Control Board. That panel will hold hearings this month and is expected to act by summer.

Environmentalists harshly criticized the changes when they were unveiled last year. They said the new rules would permit Houston-based Dynegy to close facilities with costly pollution-control equipment in favor of running dirtier plants that are cheaper to operate.

Dynegy and the state countered that the new rules were designed to provide operational flexibility that the current ones don’t. But then, in late February, comments by Vistra CEO Curtis Morgan about Dynegy’s downstate fleet raised questions about whether the enviros had a point. Once the environmental rule changes “free up the assets,” he told analysts Feb. 26, “we’ve got a portfolio optimization exercise to do no different than what we did in Texas. And I think that may result in maybe shrinking the size of our generation. Whether that means we’re trying to sell assets or what, I don’t know yet.”

Late last year, Irving, Texas-based Vistra announced it would close three large coal-fired plants in Texas—removing more than 4,000 megawatts of capacity and eliminating about 850 jobs.

A Vistra spokesman says Morgan has no further comment while the Dynegy acquisition is pending. Federal regulatory approval came April 4, and the deal is now slated to close April 9, Vistra disclosed in an April 5 filing.

Dynegy’s eight downstate coal-fired plants generate up to 5,476 megawatts—enough power for 5 million homes or more—and employ about 1,000. Four of the eight plants have “scrubbers,” expensive systems that remove much of the sulfur from emissions.

Dynegy CEO Robert Flexon has pressed Illinois policymakers to provide relief in various forms. He also opposed in vain a 2016 state law that provided $235 million of yearly subsidies over a decade to rival Exelon to keep two nuclear plants open, including one in Clinton that competes directly with his downstate plants.

“I hate shutting anything down,” Flexon says in an interview. “We’re in the business of generating power. The impact (shutdowns) have on communities and your own employees—we do everything we can not to shut down a plant.”

He says Dynegy has hired business consultancy McKinsey to help find efficiencies to maintain the fleet. He says Vistra has committed to keep McKinsey on, which he says indicates a desire to keep plants open.

GENERATING CASH FLOW

Another issue undermining Dynegy’s case for looser environmental restrictions is that its downstate Illinois operations remain profitable on a cash-flow basis. Company executives have told the Illinois Pollution Control Board that downstate Illinois is posting operating losses. That’s true on paper, but it’s only because Dynegy has written down the value of its plants to the tune of nearly $900 million in the past two years. Those are noncash write-downs. Leave those out, and downstate has produced free cash flow of more than $100 million in each of the past two years, according to Securities & Exchange Commission filings.

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PRESS RELEASE: Illinois Senate Hearing Spotlights Weaknesses of Illinois EPA’s $108 Million VW Settlement Proposal Crafted Behind Closed Doors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 6, 2018

 

 Illinois Senate Hearing Spotlights Weaknesses of Illinois EPA’s $108 Million Volkswagen Settlement Proposal Crafted Behind Closed Doors

Public health & environmental groups call for greater transparency in deciding how VW funds are allocated  

CHICAGO – A Friday Illinois Senate Committee hearing on the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s $108 million Volkswagen settlement proposal highlighted speakers who emphasized the need for greater transparency and called for dramatic changes for how those funds should be spent.

The Senate Environment and Conservation Committee convened a hearing in Chicago that featured public health and environmental groups urging more of the VW funds in IEPA’s draft proposal be allocated to projects that provide the greatest long-term public health benefits.   Speakers criticized IEPA for failing to hold a single public meeting and instead conducting meetings behind closed doors.

“Illinois EPA’s plan demonstrates the flaws of drafting without public input,” said Susan Mudd, Senior Policy Advocate at the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “The draft plan misses the opportunity of tapping $108 million to jumpstart the transition to a clean transportation and air quality future for Illinois.”

“By crafting a secret plan behind closed doors with no public hearings, Illinois EPA failed to address long-term health threats from climate change,” said Brian Urbaszewski, Environmental Health Director for Respiratory Health Association. “Zero-emission transportation for Illinois’ school children and people using bus transit should have been given top priority in spending VW funds. We need electric vehicles to both eliminate smog and soot and reduce health threats from an increasingly unstable climate.”

Senators on the committee recently sponsored two separate bills targeting IEPA’s VW planning process. Sen. Cristina Castro introduced a bill that calls for the state agency to hold public meetings and include more participants in drafting the plan. Sen. Heather Steans’ bill requires more electric vehicles to be included in the VW plan.

One bright spot in the plan is a $10 million carve-out for electric school buses. Children are among our most vulnerable population. Every day more than a million Illinois public school students ride on polluting diesel buses and investing in zero-emission school buses is a wise use of VW funds.

Public health and environmental advocates also recommended IEPA designate fewer dollars for off-road vehicles and allocate greater sums for municipal transit buses and electric vehicle charging stations that can improve public health for more people in the state.

“The public was harmed by VW’s emission deception,” said Jen Walling, executive director at the Illinois Environmental Council. “The public should have had a chance to weigh in on the VW settlement funds prior to the draft plan being released. We are grateful to the Senate Environment committee for beginning a public, open conversation on this topic.”

Groups advocating for IEPA to devise a better VW plan include: Illinois Environmental Council, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Respiratory Health Association, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council and the American Lung Association.

Volkswagen was ordered to set aside billions in mitigation settlement funds after installing devices in diesel vehicles sold in the U.S. that cheated federal emissions testing.

The public is encouraged to submit comments to EPA.VWSettlement@illinois.gov about how VW funds should be spent. The deadline for submitting comments is April 20.

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Illinois Commerce Commission Approval Puts State on the Path to Strong Renewable Energy Growth, Fixes Concerns from Proposed Order

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: David Jakubiak

Illinois Commerce Commission Approval Puts State on the Path to Strong Renewable Energy Growth, Fixes Concerns from Proposed Order

Long Term Renewable Resource Procurement Plan Sets Stage for Job Creation, Investment in Wind, Solar Energy; Programs Will Bring Clean Energy to Underserved Communities

A roadmap for renewable energy development in Illinois was approved today by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), and should help the state accomplish many of the promises outlined in 2016’s landmark energy policy.

“This Plan and Illinois’ modernized renewable energy policy put our state on the map as one of the nation’s solar leaders,” said Senior Attorney Brad Klein. “We thank the Illinois Power Agency for their work to develop a plan that will benefit all Illinoisans, and we thank the ICC for addressing shortfalls in the proposed order to pass a strong plan that will drive renewable energy development.”

The Illinois Power Agency’s (IPA) Long-Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan outlines how the state will accomplish its goal of 25 percent renewable energy by 2025, prioritizing the building of new wind and solar projects. The Plan establishes standards for the solar programs created by the 2016 law, including community solar and the Illinois Solar for All program, which will develop solar benefitting low-income communities.

“The Environmental Law & Policy Center’s analysis shows that through 2030 this plan will lead to the development of enough solar energy and wind power to provide electricity to more than 825,000 homes,” said Policy Advocate MeLena Hessel.. “We’re excited because this plan takes important steps forward to ensure greater access to solar energy through the community solar and Illinois Solar for All programs.”

One highlight of the Plan is the creation of a community solar program. Community solar allows business and residential customers to benefit from solar energy even if they can’t put solar panels on their own property.

“With every policy the devil is the details, and after the law passed, we needed a strong plan to drive growth in wind and solar in Illinois,” Hessel said. “This plan is a solid step forward.”

ELPC is pleased the ICC reversed a provision in the Proposed Order that would have excluded projects built in municipal utilities and rural electric co-ops from participating in the rooftop, community solar and Illinois Solar for All programs.

“We worked closely with solar developers, environmental and consumer groups, and low-income advocates to ensure communities throughout the state achieve the promise of renewable energy,” Hessel added. “We commend the Commission for recognizing the need to expand access to these programs.”

The first two procurements under the Plan, which will be for utility-scale wind and brownfield solar development, are planned for this summer. The Plan’s solar programs will launch after the IPA hires a Program Administrator. The IPA will next update the Plan in 2019.

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EnergyWire: ELPC’s Learner Finds No Support for Coal Plant Bailout in ICC Report

EnergyWire

Governor Requests More Analysis of Downstate Power Market

By Jeffrey Tomich

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) is asking state regulators to further analyze potential policy options to ensure there’s ample generating capacity to meet electricity demand in the southern half of the state.

In a letter to the Illinois Commerce Commission chairman yesterday, Rauner adviser Mischa Fisher asked ICC staff for an updated snapshot of “resource adequacy” in downstate Illinois following a pair of workshops on the issue.

The letter also asked the commission staff for an “evidence-based assessment” of comments received by the commission by early April as well as to provide a “technical understanding” of potential policy solutions.

Fisher’s letter was in response to a 164-page report of ICC’s proceedings to study the downstate power market. The report, made available yesterday, made no recommendations. It simply summarized comments from more than three dozen parties that participated.

While the ICC doesn’t regulate power prices in Illinois, which restructured its retail electricity market two decades ago, Rauner asked the commission to evaluate concerns raised by power plant owners and the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) about the region’s ability to keep the lights on.

MISO, in fact, triggered the study with a May 1, 2017, letter from CEO John Bear to the governor and legislative leaders noting that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rejected a proposal to overhaul the capacity market in the southern part of the state and that “additional action is needed in downstate Illinois to maintain reliability.”

Generator Dynegy Inc., which owns a half-dozen coal-fired power plants in central and southern Illinois, has for years warned that MISO’s capacity market didn’t incentivize investments needed to keep power plants running or attract new ones.

Last fall, a legislative committee heard testimony on a Dynegy-backed bill that would require the state to take over capacity procurement for consumers in the southern half of the state who buy energy from alternative suppliers (Energywire, Nov. 8, 2017).

Critics including consumer groups and environmental advocates panned the bill as a Dynegy bailout and said downstate Illinois has ample generating capacity.

The groups pointed to a June report by MISO and the Organization of MISO States, a group of utility regulators in MISO’s footprint, that showed southern Illinois with a surplus of capacity over the next five years.

What’s more, they say, the Future Energy Jobs Act, signed by Rauner in 2016, will spur development of additional wind and solar generation and energy efficiency investments (Energywire, July 13).

“Illinois is a net exporter of electricity, has a surplus of generation and clean wind power and solar energy and, energy efficiency resources are taking off,” Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said in a statement yesterday. “There is no justification for a consumer-funded bailout of Dynegy’s uneconomic old coal plants.”

MISO, in its comments to the ICC, maintained that action is necessary to “ensure long-term investment in electric resources.” But the grid operator suggested there’s no crisis brewing.

“The short-term resource adequacy outlook is positive for Illinois,” MISO said.

PRESS RELEASE: Environmental Groups Urge Ohio River Commission to Resist Weakening Clean Water Protections, Maintain Pollution Control Standards

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Environmental Groups Urge Ohio River Commission to Resist Weakening Clean Water Protections, Maintain Pollution Control Standards

Safe clean drinking water could be threatened for millions

Columbus, OHIO — A coalition of environmental groups from states along the Ohio River is calling for a multi-state commission to resist weakening clean water protections along the 900-mile long river. The decision to scuttle 60-year-old protections would impact millions of people in the states of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

A majority of commissioners appointed to the Ohio River Valley Sanitation Commission, known as ORSANCO, is proposing revisions to its core mission that would eliminate key Pollution Control Standards and withdraw ORSANCO from the responsibility of ensuring consistent water quality throughout the Ohio River. ORSANCO was created as an interstate water pollution control agency in part to ensure pollution dumped into the Ohio River in one state doesn’t have a negative effect on the waters of another state.

Environmental groups submitted comments to ORSANCO opposing the proposal to eliminate ORSANCO’s water quality standards during a public comment period that ended February 24.

“ORSANCO commissioners walking away from their crucial oversight role will set the stage for a ‘race to the bottom’ in controlling pollution in the Ohio River,” said Madeline Fleisher, Senior Attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center, one of the groups that submitted comments. “We can’t afford to lose the one watchdog in charge of making sure the entire Ohio River is safe and clean for more than four million people who rely on it for their drinking water.”

“The proposed action by ORSANCO jeopardizes water quality achievements and threatens interstate cooperation to control and continue to reduce Ohio River pollution,” said Rich Cogen, Executive Director at Ohio River Foundation and Chair of the Watershed Organizations Advisory Committee for ORSANCO.

“Every person deserves to turn on their tap and know their drinking water is safe,” said Kristy Meyer, Vice President of Policy at the Ohio Environmental Council. “The Ohio River is critical to the local economy and the quality of life in the region which is why ORSANCO should be strengthening its water quality standards, rather than rolling back protections.”

“Sixty years ago, states bordering the Ohio River had the vision to work together to put in place clean water protections that allowed the Ohio River to successfully support industry and commerce, as well as provide clean drinking water for people and a home for fish and wildlife,” said Gail Hesse, Great Lakes Water Director for the National Wildlife Federation. “This foundation of cooperation for a sustainable river has served the region well, and to scuttle it now would be irresponsible.”

“The idea of ORSANCO abandoning their oversight of uniform pollution control standards flies in the face of why the Commission was established in the first place,” said Angie Rosser, Executive Director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition. “This move would undermine the ability of the Ohio to recover as a healthy river system.”

“The Ohio River is a critical natural resource with communities investing and generating millions of dollars in riverfront development and recreation,” said Jason Flickner, the Lower Ohio River Waterkeeper Director and Hoosier Chapter Sierra Club board member. “Now is not the time for ORSANCO to relinquish its important work setting pollution limits.”

“We still believe it is a very good idea for ORSANCO to ensure pollution dumped into the Ohio River doesn’t have a negative impact on waters of other states – especially in light of spills from recent times – like the MCHM spill in 2014,” said Robin Blakeman, Project Coordinator of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. “Such petrochemical product spills are likely to be more, not less common in the future, especially if the massive Appalachian Petrochemical Storage Hub project becomes reality very close to the Ohio River.”

Environmental groups that submitted comments to ORSANCO include: Environmental Law & Policy Center, Ohio Environmental Council, National Wildlife Federation, Kentucky Waterways Alliance, Ohio River Foundation, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, Three Rivers Waterkeeper, Sierra Club, Hoosier Environmental Council and Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

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PRESS RELEASE: Illinois EPA VW Settlement Plan Drafted Without Promised Public Hearings

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency VW Settlement Plan Drafted Without Promised Public Hearings

 Plan Fails to Maximize Zero Emission Transportation

In response to the release today by the Illinois EPA of a draft plan for the use of $108 million allotted to the State of Illinois under the Volkswagen cheating scandal, environmental and public health groups issued the following statement:

“In May 2017, environmental and public health groups met with IEPA Director Alec Messina to urge transparency and public engagement in the preparation of the state’s VW mitigation plan. Director Messina assured us the agency would hold 12 public hearings across the state. Unfortunately, not a single meeting has been held. Instead, we have a plan that was developed behind closed doors,” said Jennifer Walling, Executive Director of the Illinois Environmental Council. “This is an extraordinary opportunity for Illinois to invest $108 million in clean transportation infrastructure, but we are very concerned about the lack of transparency and believe the agency’s plan fails to maximize opportunities to benefit public health and cleaner air. We prefer the public hearing and allocation strategies outlined in legislation that has been introduced in Springfield. As opposed to IEPA’s secretive process thus far, the proposed legislation would fully involve the public and immediately jump start the electrification of the transportation sector.”

Brian Urbaszewski, Director, Environmental Health at Respiratory Health Association, stated:Diesel pollution triggers asthma attacks and increases cardiovascular disease; it puts seniors in the hospital and causes children to miss school days because they are home sick. With clean electric vehicles including cars, school buses and transit buses already on the roads, it’s extremely disappointing the state isn’t maximizing the opportunity to transition to such clean vehicles that would improve the health of everyone. Illinois should focus on fully committing to non-polluting electric vehicle solutions.”

“With $108 million on the table, Illinois is positioned to dramatically increase its electric vehicle infrastructure and accelerate the viability of electric vehicles in our state. But this proposal diminishes that opportunity,” said Toba Pearlman, Clean Energy Advocate with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We strongly urge the agency to reconsider and seize this opportunity.”

Susan Mudd, Senior Policy Advocate with the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said: “The one bright spot in the plan is IEPA’s commitment to electric school buses that protect children. Fewer kids across the state will be exposed to harmful diesel emissions that can trigger asthma attacks, interfere with children’s ability to learn and result in missed school days.”

IEC’s Walling added: “In addition to the lack of a public process, the IEPA plan does not do enough to create the greatest long-term benefits and protect those most vulnerable.”

Lead sponsors of legislation in Springfield that would require public input in the process and that would require the funding to advance the electrification of transportation also responded to the proposal.

“The Volkswagen settlement presents a great opportunity for Illinois to improve our transportation infrastructure, especially for transit and electric vehicles. For Illinois to make the most of this opportunity, it is essential that all stakeholders are allowed to provide meaningful input into how these funds are spent, and that there is a transparent process for public engagement,” said State Sen. Cristina Castro (D-Elgin). “It’s for these reasons, that I am proud to sponsor SB3103, which would require the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to establish a task force that  includes all stakeholders in development of the state’s mitigation plan.”

State Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) also called for a plan that maximizes investment in electric vehicle infrastructure.

“While we cannot undo the harm done by the added pollution Volkswagen knowingly permitted, this settlement provides Illinois with an opportunity to improve public health by reducing pollution going forward,” Sen. Steans said. “SB3055 would direct the maximum allowable amount of money under the terms of the settlement to electric vehicle charging stations. Additional investments in electric buses for public schools and electric fleets for municipalities will make our air cleaner by replacing polluting vehicles with non-emitting ones immediately, and make it easier for Illinoisans to switch to electric vehicles in the long term.”

“The crimes committed by Volkswagen caused real harm to Illinois drivers and to our air quality, and the public deserves an opportunity to guide how these settlement dollars are invested for maximum public benefit by electrifying our transportation system,” said Jack Darin, Director of the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter.  “Illinois EPA’s proposal to turn a deaf ear to public input and subsidize fossil fuels with these dollars is decidedly un-electrifying.”

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