Indiana

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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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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Courthouse News Service: Thirty-one States Fight Clean Water Rule

(CN) – Attorneys general from 31 states asked the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers to delay implementation of a Clean Water Act rule for at least 9 nine months for judicial review.
The rule defines “Waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act. The states claim it asserts federal jurisdiction over streams, wetlands and other water bodies previously considered to be under state jurisdiction.
The EPA cited the need for clean drinking water and clean water as an economic driver as the impetus for its new rule, and Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 in which justices disagreed about which waters were covered by the Act.
“About 117 million Americans – one in three people – get drinking water from streams that lacked clear protection before the Clean Water Rule,” the EPA said in a May 27 statement about the new rule. “The health of our rivers, lakes, bays, and coastal waters are impacted by the streams and wetlands where they begin.”

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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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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.

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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.

 

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