Victory! Final Clean Water Standard Will Protect Streams and Wetlands

Meme---Clean-Water-Rule-VictoryToday the Obama Administration issued new clean water standards that are an important step forward to protect safe drinking water and healthier community rivers, lakes and streams in the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds.

ELPC and many of our allies across the nation have worked to achieve these new standards for many years. These standards have been informed by public input, are well grounded in the law, and are based on sound science.

This is a big deal. Water resources are so interconnected that in order to protect our celebrated waterways – the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes – we also need to protect the backyard brooks, community creeks and steady streams that feed them. That’s what these new clean water standards accomplish.

Now let’s work with EPA and people and businesses in Midwest communities to advance these sensible clean water standards and make them work well going forward.

USA Today: Environment may get bigger stage at Iowa Caucuses

DES MOINES, Iowa — Hot-button issues such as clean power, water-quality regulations and renewable fuels are expected to get a bigger stage in the 2016 Iowa Caucuses, as environmental activists put more pressure on presidential contenders to address controversial issues such as climate change.

But experts still expect that concerns about saving the planet likely will play second, third and possibly even fourth fiddle to issues such as jobs and the economy, heath care and national security. The key, they say, may be to link the environment to popular measures such as wind and solar energy that can create jobs while also reducing America’s carbon footprint.

“If you’re a candidate that’s looking for a way to talk about the environment, Iowa provides a perfect road map for that,” said Josh Mandelbaum, the Des Moines attorney for the Environmental Law and Policy Center. “You can stay away from the most polarizing issues and talk about areas where in Iowa you have bipartisan support” such as wind energy.

Republican presidential hopefuls so far have typically said that the federal government has been too heavy-handed with regulation and expressed little support for government incentives to develop alternative energy sources. Democratic hopefuls such as Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders have been more outspoken in their support.

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Omaha Public Radio: Report Finds More than 4000 Iowa Employees Working in Energy Supply Chain

More than 100 companies from across the state of Iowa are working in the wind and solar energy supply chain.

That’s according to a report recently released by the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

Howard Learner, Executive Director, says Iowa is helping to power the world through renewable energy businesses that build wind machines and solar panel equipment.

Learner says what’s interesting is the number of businesses across Iowa that are involved in making the equipment, designing and doing the engineering work for wind farms, handling the legal work and making component parts.

“So it’s good for manufacturing jobs as well as being good for construction jobs at the wind farms. It’s good for economic development in both in rural areas where the wind farms go up and in the manufacturing hubs like Cedar Rapids or Newton where the blades and other equipment is being made.  And it’s good for the environment by leading to cleaner air and cleaner water for everybody.”

Learner says Iowa has been a leader in wind power for a long time.  He says wind supplies 27% of the electricity generation in Iowa.

Midwest Energy News: Wind and solar supply chains thrive in Midwest states

Wind and solar energy support about 30,000 jobs at about a thousand companies in Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa, according to a series of reports released by the Environmental Law & Policy Center over the past two weeks.

The reports show the jobs created not only by the manufacture of wind turbine components, the building of wind farms and the installation of solar panels, but also in related businesses from banking to making cables and glass.

“We continue to be impressed by the robustness and the diversity of these jobs,” said ELPC executive director Howard Learner. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all. There are headquarters and manufacturing and construction jobs, retrofitting jobs, legal and insurance jobs, design and engineering, it’s really a diverse mix of skills for all types of companies.”

The ELPC is a member of RE-AMP, which publishesMidwest Energy News.

The supply chains have remained robust even as wind and solar have faced policy uncertainty at the state and federal level.

The ELPC and other groups say the renewal of the federal Production Tax Credit is crucial to future wind development and its supply chain impacts. The Siemens wind turbine blade plant in Fort Madison, Iowa laid off more than 400 of its 660 employees in 2012 because of uncertainty over the PTC. Many of those workers were rehired when the PTC was extended, the ELPC report notes, but now the credit is again in limbo.

Meanwhile the federal Investment Tax Credit which supports solar installations is in effect through 2016, with proponents hoping for a renewal.

In all three states and across the Midwest, federal grants under the USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) pay up to a quarter of the cost for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects at farms or small rural businesses. In 2014 Congress authorized continued funding of $250 million for five years.

The ELPC released its Iowa report on March 5, just before a major agricultural summit in Des Moines where Republican presidential hopefuls discussed their views.

Learner said renewable energy and the federal tax credits will likely be an issue in the presidential election, and the special role that Iowa plays is notable since public support for wind power in Iowa is strong.

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Win! SCOTUS Finds that Amtrak has Legal Authority to Set On-Time Performance Standards

March 9, 2015

Contact: David Jakubiak, (312) 795-3713 or

SCOTUS: Amtrak Has Legal Authority to Set On-Time Performance Standards

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today affirming Amtrak’s power to create on-time performance standards could get slumping Midwest arrival times back on track.

“This is a good Supreme Court decision that should help rail passengers across the country,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, which filed an amicus curiae brief in the case. “For every passenger who has been delayed for hours in Northwest Indiana or outside of Cleveland while oil tanker cars slog by, today’s court decision can be an important step forward.”

The Association of American Railroads challenged a federal law that allows Amtrak to help set on-time performance standards for railroads, arguing that Amtrak is a private company rather than a government entity. The Supreme Court, agreeing with the Department of Transportation and ELPC, held that Amtrak is more like a government entity.

The DC Court of Appeals had struck down a provision of the 2008 rail reauthorization bill that instructed the Federal Railroad Administration and Amtrak—consulting with the Surface Transportation Board, freight railroads, states, rail labor, and rail passenger organizations—to develop metrics and minimum standards for measuring Amtrak passenger train performance and service quality.

“Today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling settles that legal question,” Learner said. “Amtrak is a government entity. Given this ruling, the existing on-time performance standards should be enforced and passenger rail should again be given priority.”

In an amicus curiae brief filed by ELPC, on behalf of itself and the National Association of Railroad Passengers, All Aboard Ohio and Virginians for High Speed Rail, ELPC found that on-time arrival rates had suffered since the appeals court ruling. In 2012, Amtrak achieved a nationwide on-time performance rate of 83 percent. Since the standards were invalidated by the Court of Appeals, on-time performance fell to an abysmal 42 percent.

While this is a major victory for Amtrak passengers across the nation, the Supreme Court’s ruling does raise the possibility of a lengthy court fight should the Association of American Railroads seek to continually litigate other issues around on-time performance.

“The highest court in the land has spoken and we hope is that freight railroads will move forward as a partner to improve passenger rail service across America,” added Learner.


E&E: Republican presidential hopefuls gather at Iowa ag summit

Wind energy advocates are urging presumptive 2016 presidential candidates to back key industry incentives at a Iowa summit this weekend.
The Environmental Law & Policy Center and League of Conservation Voters yesterday said they hope to see presidential candidates attending the Iowa Agriculture Summit voice support for the wind production tax credit and other pro-wind policies.
ELPC yesterday also issued a report yesterday touting the economic benefits of wind power, which provides 27 percent of electricity in Iowa. Candidates would do well to remember that wind energy is a “pocketbook issue” in Iowa, ELPC Executive Director Howard Learner said.
“Iowa has a long history of bipartisan support for clean renewable wind power even as it’s controversial in Washington, D.C.,” Learner said.
Many Republican presumptive presidential candidates are expected to speak tomorrow at the first Iowa Agriculture Summit. Iowa agribusiness leader Bruce Rastetter organized the event, which will take place in Des Moines and will feature 20-minute interviews with each potential candidate about agricultural and renewable energy issues.

Among the confirmed guests: former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former New York Gov. George Pataki, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Donald Trump and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
A host of Iowa politicians are also scheduled to attend.

Several presumptive Democratic candidates were invited, but none accepted. The speakers will be addressing an audience of businesspeople, farmers, food processing and agriculture businesses, legislators and students, according to event organizers.

Learner said that it will be important for candidates to stake out a position on the tax credit, which provides producers of wind with a $23-per-megawatt-hour incentive.

“I’d be relatively confident that, if not on Saturday, as the candidates make their way across Iowa, they will be asked for their views on extension of the production tax credit,” he said.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who will be speaking at the summit, wrote the original wind production tax credit in 1992. Congress allowed the tax credit to lapse at the beginning of the year, and industry supporters hope to see a longer-term extension or phaseout of the credit included in a comprehensive tax reform or a package extending several renewable energy tax incentives.

Earlier this year, a majority of the Senate voted against reinstating the credit as an amendment to the Keystone XL pipeline approval legislation.

Daniel Weiss, senior vice president for campaigns at the League of Conservation Voters, said no potential Republican candidate has made a clear statement of support for extending the PTC. Three — Graham, Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who backed out of the summit at the last minute to attend a family wedding — have cast votes against its extension.

Weiss said that the League of Conservation Voters is looking for presumptive candidates to support the PTC over opposition by conservative groups linked to the billionaire Koch brothers.

“The question that ought to be asked of the candidates, or potential candidates who are coming to Iowa on Saturday, is: Do they agree with Iowa farmers and Iowa manufacturers … or will they join the Koch brothers to oppose its renewal?” he said.

Earlier this week, 24 agriculture organizations also called on presidential hopefuls to voice support for renewable energy.

“We urge the Iowa Ag Summit speakers, local and national, to acknowledge the critical role of renewable energy and to support enabling public policies that will allow it to contribute to a strong and vibrant rural economy,” the groups wrote. “Renewable energy development should be a priority of policymakers on both sides of the aisle.”

The letter was signed by the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union, 25x’25 Alliance, American Council on Renewable Energy, National Corn Growers Association and American Soybean Association, among others.

In January, ethanol backers launched a campaign called America’s Renewable Future to rally support for the renewable fuel standard ahead of the Iowa presidential caucuses. The campaign, which has key allies in Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) and Iowa renewable fuel groups, plans to host a reception in Des Moines tonight before the summit.

US News: GOP Hopefuls to Face Pressure on Tax Credit

Iowa isn’t just all about corn and soybeans anymore.

The Hawkeye State generates 27 percent of its electricity from wind, the most in the nation, according to the Wind Energy Foundation. It also boasts 4,000 industry-related jobs. And companies dole out millions in annual payments to farmers who agree to erect wind turbines on their land.

That’s why when nearly a dozen potential Republican presidential candidates drop into the first-in-the-nation caucus state for an agriculture summit this Saturday, they are likely to be pressed for their position on the federal wind production tax credit, which Congress allowed to expire last year.

The credit provided companies willing to embark on a new wind project 2.3 cents per kilowatt-hour of energy produced. Backers call the incentive vital to spurring growth in the renewable fuel industry; opponents dub it a handout to wealthy investors.

But in Iowa, it has the rare blessing of bipartisan support.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is the original sponsor of the credit. Republican Gov. Terry Branstad has lobbied for a federal extension. Even Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, is on board.

Yet last month, Grassley was just one of three GOP senators to back its continuation.

Environmental groups on the left see that vote, coupled with this weekend’s Republican forum, as an opportunity to box the 2016 hopefuls into a corner.

“Three of the people coming – Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Lindsey Graham and Sen. Marco Rubio – have all voted against extension of the production tax credit,” Daniel Weiss, senior vice president of campaigns for the League of Conservation Voters, noted on a conference call Thursday.

(Originally scheduled to attend the forum, Rubio, R-Fla., said he won’t make it due to a family wedding.)

Cruz has already indicated he opposes renewable fuel standards that provide subsidies that allow the government to “pick winners and losers.” It looks as if the freshman agitator will gamble with a stand on principle, advocating an unpopular opinion locally.

For others, it’s less clear.

In 2005, then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed into law legislation requiring the state to increase its renewable energy capacity, which helped make it the leader in wind power.

But when Perry ran for president in 2012, he indicated he opposed extending the wind tax credit.

Gov. Scott Walker’s 2011 proposal in Wisconsin to restrict where wind turbines could be built was seen as an attempt to erect “the biggest hurdle to wind farm development in the nation,” according to industry advocates.

And while former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has endorsed a goal of the U.S. producing 25 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2025, he hasn’t recently taken a specific position on the wind credit renewal.

There are political cross-pressures for the potential candidates to consider.

Americans For Prosperity, the free market group backed by David and Charles Koch, has lobbied strongly against the tax credit, calling it “corporate welfare.”

“When the federal government props up failing energy industries by giving them special handouts, Americans end up footing the bill,” AFP President Tim Phillips said last year.

So with conservatives split on the policy, Saturday’s forum could present a tricky choice for the hopefuls: Side with Iowa Republicans or align with the Koch brothers.

“I’d be relatively confident that, if not Saturday, as the candidates make their way across Iowa, they will be asked their views on the extension,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

Report: Iowa Renewable Energy Sector Has 100+ Supply Chain Businesses and Provides 4,000+ Jobs

New Environmental Law & Policy Center Report Released as National and State Leaders Gather for 2015 Iowa Ag Summit

Report PDF:

Interactive & Embeddable Google Map:


DES MOINES – More than 100 Iowa businesses in the wind power and solar energy supply chain are providing more than 4,000 jobs to people across the state who are manufacturing, financing, designing, engineering, building, installing and maintaining renewable energy projects here and across the nation, as detailed in the  Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC)’s study released today. The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) joins in the report’s release to underscore why politicians attending this weekend’s Ag Summit should support renewable energy policies that benefit farmers and rural communities.

“The upcoming Ag Summit participants should recognize how Iowa is a national leader in wind power development, which provides additional income for farmers and creates jobs and economic development in Iowa’s rural communities,” said ELPC Executive Director Howard A. Learner. “Iowa has a well-trained workforce that is building the renewable energy equipment used around the world. People say Iowa feeds the world; now Iowa is helping power the world, too.”

“The report shows that clean energy means Iowa jobs.  The politicians at the Iowa Ag Summit should join Sen. Grassley and Gov. Branstad in supporting the federal Production Tax Credit for wind electricity to benefit farmers,” said Daniel J. Weiss, Senior Vice President for Campaigns, League of Conservation Voters.  “The visiting suitors must reject conservative organizations’ efforts to kill the wind industry in Iowa and across the nation.”

ELPC’s report identified 75 wind power supply chain companies and 47 solar energy supply chain. The businesses were identified through ELPC’s analysis of data from several industry groups and then contacted individually to confirm their supply chain role.

For businesses involved in the installation and construction of wind power and solar energy projects, increased renewable energy development results in new business and increased economic activity in the communities where they operate.

“Heartland Energy Solutions and other Iowa businesses in the renewable energy industry are working hard to innovate and develop new technologies to bring down our energy costs,” said Charlie Sharp, President and CEO of the Mount Ayr-based wind turbine manufacturer. “Supportive policies not only help my business but also bring clean, affordable energy to the state. Iowa should continue leading the way.”

Policies that support renewable energy development also help Iowa farmers, who can gain revenues from wind turbines on their property and can reduce their utility bills by installing solar panels.

“I really believe that the more policies that can be developed to promote more growth in wind power and solar power is helping our landowners, helping our communities and making Iowa a national leader in something that’s really exciting ,” said Mark Kuhn, a Floyd County Supervisor and area farmer who has wind turbines on his property. “This is about developing our own natural resources – the wind and the sun.”

The ELPC report’s findings also offer insights into the types of businesses driving Iowa’s growing renewable energy sector. For example, the average size of a renewable energy supply chain business in Iowa is 37.7 employees.

Because Iowa is a relatively “small state,” the average Iowa supply chain business  is quite large.  The major wind equipment component manufacturers in Iowa employ large numbers of people,” said John Paul Jewell, Research Coordinator at the Environmental Law & Policy Center.


Good News! Amtrak funding approved by U.S. House

Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to authorize $8 billion in Amtrak funding. While the U.S. Senate still needs to consider the matter, this vote is a victory for ELPC and allies, who have been fighting back against anti-Amtrak amendments – including one introduced earlier this week that would have eliminated all funding for Amtrak, effectively ending all long-distance and state Amtrak train service.

Almost 700 ELPC followers and thousands of others throughout the country wrote to their Members of Congress with a clear message: Americans want a strong national train network and elected officials who support. This grassroots support played a huge role in securing today’s bipartisan vote.


Learn more about today’s vote in this article from The Hill.

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

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

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

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

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

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

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

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

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

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

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

Donate Now

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

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

Donate Now

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

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

Donate Now

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

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

Donate Now

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

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

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