Indiana

Christian Science Monitor: Battle Over the Clean Water Rule; What’s at Stake?

Christian Science Monitor

Battle over the Clean Water Rule: What’s at stake?

By Amanda Paulson

Just who gets to regulate America’s many seasonal streams and wetlands?

That’s a question that has long been contentious.

At the end of June, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt formally proposed revoking the Obama-era Clean Water Rule, also known as the “Waters of the US” rule, or WOTUS.

Mr. Pruitt was acting on an executive order signed by President Trump back in February. And depending on whom you talk to, the move to repeal the rule is either an environmental disaster that opens up America’s waterways to pollution and development and puts Americans’ drinking water at risk, or a common-sense action that gets rid of a rule particularly despised by many farmers, ranchers, and developers and returns regulatory authority to states.

Q: What is the rule?

The term “Waters of the United States” comes from the landmark 1972 Clean Water Act. The 2015 Clean Water Rule was designed to provide long-sought guidance on just which “navigable waters” fall under federal jurisdiction and are covered by the protections in that act.

Some waters, including permanent rivers and streams, clearly meet the definition. But many wetlands, seasonal streams, and ditches don’t necessarily qualify: They’re not connected to US waterways much of the time, even though they may ultimately feed into them.

In a 2006 US Supreme Court ruling to determine the jurisdiction, Rapanos v. United States, the court was split. Four conservative justices, led by Justice Antonin Scalia, offered a constrained definition that includes only “relatively permanent bodies of water.” Justice Anthony Kennedy concurred, but added that it should also include wetlands and intermittent streams that have a “significant nexus” to those waters – an opinion that has largely governed decisions since.

The Clean Water Rule carried over existing exemptions for things like agriculture and ranching. It has never taken effect, as lawsuits from states (including one involving Mr. Pruitt when he was Oklahoma attorney general) are working their way through the courts.

Q: What change is the EPA proposing?

The rule the EPA has put forward – currently in the 30-day comment period – would mean going back to the standards used 10 years ago. Since the Clean Water Rule is currently under a stay, it wouldn’t actually change practice on the ground.

There’s also some question about whether the repeal is fully legal – and it’s likely to be challenged in court. The EPA “can’t declare that within 30 days it’s going to stop following the law and ignore the standards that have been adopted” through long-standing administrative procedure, says Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, which supports the Clean Water Rule.

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Crain’s Chicago Business: House Panel Rejects Trump’s Great Lakes Cuts

House Panel Rejects Trump’s Great Lakes Cuts

By Greg Hinz

With a big assist from a bipartisan pair of lawmakers from Ohio, it looks like plans by the Trump administration to slash funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative are on the way to being derailed.

As previously reported, Trump proposed cutting the program—which pays for everything from sewage treatment plants in Milwaukee and water-permeable concrete in Uptown to electronic barriers to keep Asian carp out of Lake Michigan—a whopping 97 percent. Trump aides said that and other kinds of spending have to go to make room for tax cuts to stimulate the economy.

​ But yesterday, GOP Rep. David Joyce and Democratic colleague Marie Kaptur, both from the Toledo area, convinced the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies to include the normal $300 million in the pending fiscal 2018 federal budget.

The action is only “a first step,” said Howard Learner, head of the Environmental Law & Policy Center here. But the full appropriations committee likely will go along with the subcommittee, and traditionally so does the full House. It’s worth noting that House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin comes from a lakefront district.

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PRESS RELEASE: ELPC Commends U.S. House Committee’s Action to Fully Fund Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                          Contact: Judith Nemes                                                                                                                                                       ELPC Commends U.S. House Committee’s Action to Fully Fund Great Lakes Restoration Initiative 

 STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said in response to the U.S. House Appropriations Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Subcommittee acting to fully fund the $300 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in the FY 2018 Environmental Protection Agency’s budget:

“This is a big first step forward for protecting the Great Lakes and achieving full funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The U.S. House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee rejected President Trump’s zeroing out FY 2018 budget funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.  With bipartisan support, the Committee restored the full $300 million of funding for the sensible and successful Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).

“Since GLRI was launched in 2010, it has provided vital funding to protect and restore the largest system of fresh surface water in the world. GLRI projects also protect safe clean drinking water for 42 million people and support a $62 billion economy based on fishing, boating, and recreational activities.  That’s great value for all of us who live, work and play in and around the Great Lakes.

“Members of Congress across the Midwest heard loud and clear from their constituents that the Trump Administration’s completely eliminating GLRI funding in the FY 2018 is a bad idea.  We especially thank Representatives David Joyce (R-OH) and Marci Kaptur (D-OH) for their leadership in supporting the $300 million of appropriations for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative programs.

“Unfortunately, the House Subcommittee also carries out the Trump Administration’s harsh EPA budget cuts that will compromise the EPA’s ability to advance healthier clean air and protect safe, clean drinking water protections that are vitally important to our health.   The American people deserve better protection than that for our core clean air and clean water values.”

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PRESS RELEASE: Midwest Environmental Groups Sound Alarm on Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Cuts & Line 5 Issues

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                          Contact: Judith Nemes

July 6, 2017                                                                      

 

Midwest Environmental Groups Sound Alarm on Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Cuts & Line 5 Issues

ELPC & Groundwork Gathering in Traverse City Urge Attendees to Fight Back Against Trump Administration’s War on the Great Lakes 

TRAVERSE CITY, MI. – Michiganders gathered in Traverse City today to hear two Midwest environmental leaders present strategies to push back on threats to the progress of restoring the Great Lakes and safe clean drinking water. They focused on countering the Trump Administration’s proposed complete elimination of $300 million in funding for the bipartisan-supported Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in the FY 2018 budget, which has provided $2.2 billion for about 3,000 projects since its inception, and persuading Michigan policymakers to decide on an alternative to the dangerous Line 5 pipeline.

“President Trump won his election in the pivotal Great Lakes states, but his misguided policies and practices amount to a War on the Great Lakes,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Midwest-based Environmental Law & Policy Center. “The Trump Administration is eliminating funding for the sensible and successful Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, rolling back Clean Water standards and reconsidering the additions to the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron. The Trump Administration doesn’t seem to understand how much Michiganders care about protecting the Great Lakes where we live, work and play, and which provides safe clean drinking water for 42 million people.”

Hans Voss, Executive Director of Traverse City’s Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities and a leader in the campaign to protect the Great Lakes from an oil spill from the Line 5 pipeline, urged attendees to comment this month on safer alternatives proposed by the State Pipeline Safety Advisory Board.

“The time for state decision-makers to study and debate what to do about the Line 5 pipeline is over,” said Voss. “Now is the time for citizens to speak up and push for lawmakers to shut down the pipeline once and for all.”

The gathering took place at the Bluewater Event Center in Traverse City.

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Reuters: ELPC’s Learner Says EPA Rollback of Clean Water Rule Imperils Safe Clean Drinking Water

Reuters
EPA and Army Corps seek to rescind clean water rule
June 27, 2017
By Valerie Volcovici 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers released a proposal on Tuesday to repeal the 2015 Clean Water Rule, the latest move by the Trump administration to unwind environmental regulations put in place under former President Barack Obama.

The agencies are working to rescind the rule, known as the Waters of the United States rule, and reinstate the language of the rule before it was changed in 2015.

“We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said.

In 2015, EPA and the Army Corps issued what they called the Waters of the United States rule to clarify which bodies of water should be regulated under the Clean Water Act.

The act, passed in 1972 and last amended in 1987, is intended to protect the nation’s waters from pollution.

In February, President Donald Trump said during the signing of an executive order calling for a review of the rule that the act should apply only to navigable waters that affect interstate commerce.

Some lawmakers from states with large rural areas praised the move.

“Out of state D.C. bureaucrats shouldn’t impose regulations that hurt Montana farmers, ranchers and landowners,” said the state’s Republican senator, Steve Daines.

Environmental groups criticized the move, saying it ignores public input and would put parts of the country like the Midwestern Great Lakes at risk.

“This foolish rollback of clean water standards rejects years of work building stakeholder input and scientific data support, and it imperils the progress for safe clean drinking water in the Midwest,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

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Trains News Wire: ELPC’s Brubaker Comments on Great Lakes Basin’s $151 Net Worth

Trains News Wire
Great Lakes Basin’s Net Worth was $151 in 2016
Railroad Promoter has Accumulated Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars in Expenses with No Income
June 26, 2017
By Richard Wronski

CHICAGO — Officials with the private corporation seeking to develop a new $2.8-billion railroad to bypass Chicago congestion said it had a net worth of $151 at the end of 2016, according to a filing with federal regulators.

Great Lakes Basin Transportation Inc. listed $802,000 in accounts payable for its current liabilities in 2016. Equity included $473,573 in stockholder investment but a negative $71,878 in retained earnings and net income of a negative $1,203,445, according to the statement.

In an accompanying statement, the Crete, Ill.,-based company said it had no net income in 2016. The company listed $401,544 in investment revenue from stock sales in 2016, but nothing was left after expenses. The largest category was $312,828 for consultants, followed by $66,360 for legal expenses.

The balance sheet and income statement was filed June 21 by Great Lakes Basin with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, which had requested the information earlier this month.

Great Lakes Basin also filed a list of its 10 top shareholders, led by Frank Patton, the chairman, who controls slightly more than 87 percent. Patton founded and managed Portfolio Dynamics, a software company, according to a company biography on Great Lakes Basin’s website.

The next largest shareholder, with five percent, is James T. Wilson, the vice chairman. Wilson worked for 18 years for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, and 20 years as a railroad industry consultant, according to his biography.

The disclosure followed the board’s rejection of Great Lakes Basin’s claim that its list of principal stockholders was “highly confidential” and should not be released.

Great Lakes Basin officials seek authority from regulators to build and operate a 261-mile rail line around the Chicago area from southeast Wisconsin and northwest Illinois to northwest Indiana.

The line is intended to relieve Chicago’s rail congestion and would interchange with each major rail line operated by the six Class I carriers serving Chicago, along with six regional railroads, at 26 points.

The proposed project has drawn extensive grass-roots opposition, according to filings with the board. Opponents include at least six groups from at least four Illinois counties, the Illinois Farm Bureau and six county farm bureaus, and the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center.

Kevin Brubaker, deputy director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, pointed to the disclosure that Great Lakes Basin claimed a net worth of $151.

“That’s enough to buy about ten used railroad ties,” Brubaker said in a statement to Trains News Wire. “It is hard to imagine how they will demonstrate financial fitness to the Surface Transportation Board.”

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Journal Gazette, Ft Wayne, IN: Environmental Advocates Make Electric School Bus Tour Stop In City

The Journal Gazette

Fort Wayne, Indiana

Buzz About Electric Bus
Environmental Advocates Make Tour Stop in City

June 19, 2017

By Frank Gray

 

A partnership of environmental groups brought an electric school bus to Fort Wayne on Tuesday as part of a four-state tour advocating for electric vehicles.

There are only about 100 electric school buses on the road today, and they cost about $300,000 each, three times what a regular school bus costs. But as the buses become more common, the price is expected to come down, said Susan Mudd, senior policy advocate for the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

Indiana is getting $41 million from a settlement with Volkswagen for cheating on emission tests, and the center wants the state to use that money to subsidize the cost of electric school buses. The center also hopes that electric utilities will help subsidize the cost of the buses.

While advocates say electric school buses will keep children from being exposed to diesel fumes, they also point out that electric buses can save between $5,000 and $12,000 a year each in fuel and maintenance costs.

The buses also accelerate better and are quieter, which means children on the bus are also quieter, Mudd said.

An electric bus can get 60 to 80 miles per charge, Mudd said, meaning one can make a day’s run on one charge, or that they can be recharged during the school day if a bus route is longer.

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ABC News Ch 6 Indianapolis: ELPC & Charge Up Midwest Stop in Indy on 4-State 6-City Electric School Bus Tour

ABC News Channel 6
Indianapolis
June 19, 2017

Electric School Bus Midwest Tour Stops in Indy

WATCH IT HERE

 

Politico: ELPC Hires Janet McCabe, Obama-era Acting EPA Air Chief

Politico 

McCABE LANDS AT CHICAGO-BASED GREEN GROUP

Janet McCabe, the Obama-era acting EPA air chief who helped mastermind the Clean Power Plan and oversaw various other key regulations, will join the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center as a senior law fellow, she confirmed to ME. In an email to the ELPC staff yesterday, executive director Howard Learner notes McCabe will work part-time from her native Indianapolis starting May 15. Learner added: “These are extraordinary times, and we are adding top-rate talent to keep building ELPC’s ‘top of our game’ team to play both winning offense and defense. The best defense is a good offense. I am excited to be working together with Janet McCabe to play to win in the changed political circumstances.”

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E&E News: ELPC Hires Former US EPA Air Chief Janet McCabe

Obama-era Air Chief Lands at Green Group
By Kevin Bogardus

Janet McCabe, who helped craft President Obama’s Clean Power Plan at U.S. EPA, has landed at a prominent environmental group.

McCabe is joining the Environmental Law & Policy Center as a senior law fellow. She starts at the Midwestern green law and policy group May 15 and will be based in Indianapolis.

In an interview with E&E News, McCabe said she was looking forward to working with ELPC.

People: Comings and Goings
“I’m really excited about this opportunity and want to remain active in these discussions about public health and the environment,” McCabe said.

Howard Learner, executive director of ELPC, said the group was thrilled to bring someone with McCabe’s clout on board, considering the challenging political times for the environmental movement.

“Janet is terrific, and she is one of the nation’s leading clean air attorneys,” Learner said.

“Certainly her knowledge, experience and savvy in developing the Clean Air Act standards during the last administration will give us strong insights into what strategic actions we should take going forward in protecting public health and the environment.”

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