Great Lakes Today: Big Week of Great Lakes News

Wrapping up Big Week of Great Lakes News
By Elizabeth Miller

Over 100 advocates for the Great Lakes are in Washington D.C. this week, lobbying Congress to continue its bipartisan support on issues including pollution clean-up and drinking water protection.

This year’s Great Lakes Day is similar to last year’s – it has a lot to do with making sure the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative receives full funding – $300 million a year. Trump’s latest budget proposal cuts that number down to $30 million.

The Healing Our Water – Great Lakes Coalition also has a list of priorities to mention in meetings with members of Congress – they include strengthening conservation programs in the new Farm Bill and protecting the Great Lakes from invasive species.

Alicia Smith of Toledo, Ohio’s Junction Coalition says members of Congress have been receptive to their concerns and comments, but she wants to bring those conversations back home.

“It’s one thing to have these conversations [in Washington],” said Smith. “But it’s more important for us to be able to take information like the Farm Bill back to the people who may not have the privilege of being here.”

Junction Coalition will host a meeting March 19 to share what Smith and others learned.

Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a plan to combat harmful algal blooms. The plan has two parts – a summary of what Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are doing, as well as an outline of what federal agencies are doing.

This is part of an agreement between the U.S. and Canada made in 2012 to reduce phosphorus in Lake Erie’s western basin by 40 percent by 2025. Canada released its plan last month.

The National Wildlife Federation’s Gail Hesse says the U.S. plan is an improvement on last year’s draft, but there’s still something missing.

“The NGO community I believe is looking for a bit more in terms of accountability,” said Hesse. “What I mean by that is how do we answer the ‘what if’ questions? What if we don’t hit those benchmarks and targets, and what if the projections do not hold up for what we expect them to be?”

Another report out this week looks at water infrastructure and equity in the Great Lakes. Released by the U.S. Water Alliance, the report points out nine strategies important to the region. The report also presents real-life examples of communities improving their water system — from helping struggling utilities to addressing lead in water.

I asked Crystal Davis from the Alliance for the Great Lakes if there is room for full Great Lakes Restoration funding and the billions need to fix our region’s water infrastructure.

“There should be,” said Davis. “I know that may come at the expense of other programs, but it is time to prioritize what is important to the greatest amount of people.

“When you talk about water, it is worth the investment. This is a growing issue, it’s affecting our youth, it’s affecting our senior citizens, it’s affecting every segment of the population.”

Meanwhile, oral arguments took place this week as part of a lawsuit against the U.S. EPA.

The Environmental Law and Policy Center and Advocates or a Clean Lake Erie brought the lawsuit last year. At question is whether western Lake Erie should be declared an impaired watershed under the Clean Water Act.

The organizations say Ohio has not been taking responsibility for addressing the algae bloom problem, and that EPA needs to step up and label western Lake Erie as impaired.

That determination triggers a long process that includes finding sources of pollution and limiting the amount sources can pollute.

“It all comes back to accountability,” said Madeline Fleisher, an attorney for the environmental law center. “We’ve been suing U.S. EPA about making sure the impairment determination happens because that’s step one under the Clean Water Act.”


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


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.


Toledo Blade: ELPC Continues Push for EPA to Declare Lake Erie Open Waters Impaired

Environmentalists Make Renewed Push for U.S. EPA to Declare Western Lake Erie Impaired
By Tom Henry |

Now that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reversed itself on the western Lake Erie impairment issue, environmentalists are pressing for a court ruling that would commit state and federal officials to impose tough new rules on farms and other sources of algae-growing runoff that flows into area waterways.

In a 25-page memorandum filed in U.S. District Court in Toledo this week, the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center is imploring Senior Judge James G. Carr for a ruling that would force the U.S. EPA to declare the Ohio portion of western Lake Erie impaired within 30 days — thereby making it consistent with action taken by Michigan in 2016.

Then, according to the ELPC and its client, Toledo-based Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie, the agencies should be compelled to do an extensive, fingerprint-like analysis to discover exactly where the basin’s phosphorus and nitrogen is coming from on a site-by-site basis.
It would be unlike any ever done before, and would be followed up with a major crackdown on the pollution to get to the root of the problem once and for all, the groups argue.

Their request is a supplement to a 188-page motion the two groups filed immediately after the U.S. EPA reversed itself on Jan. 12, when the federal agency conceded in a letter to Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler that it erred in going along with his agency’s plan to keep Ohio’s portion of western Lake Erie off its 2016 biennial list of impaired water bodies.

The U.S. EPA said in that letter it revisited the issue and — 14 months later — determined Ohio’s 2016 biennial report was “incomplete and thus not fully consistent with the requirements” of the federal Clean Water Act and U.S. EPA regulations.

In their latest filing, ELPC attorney Madeline Fleisher told Judge Carr she remains concerned the U.S. EPA is playing a shell game and trying to stall until the next biennial reporting period this fall. The judge has previously stated he would like to rule on this case this spring, before the 2018 algae season begins.

“The remedy for an admittedly illegal delay is not more delay,” Ms. Fleisher wrote for the opening sentence of her memorandum.


U.S. News & World Report/AP: US Agency Reverses Course on Lake Erie Toxic Algae Decision


U.S. Agency Reverses Course on Lake Erie Toxic Algae Decision

By JOHN SEEWER, Associated Press

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants Ohio to do another review of Lake Erie to determine whether it should be declared impaired by toxic algae blooms that have become a recurring threat in recent summers.

The agency in a letter to Ohio’s environmental director said it was reversing an earlier decision that had agreed with the state’s assessment that the western end of Lake Erie should not be listed as impaired.

The EPA’s reversal issued last week didn’t go as far as ordering the lake to be designated as an impaired watershed. Instead, it said the state’s list of impaired waters was incomplete and didn’t properly evaluate the lake’s waters.

Several environmental groups have sued the EPA saying the lake should be classified impaired because algae blooms are preventing the waters from meeting basic quality standards. The designation could pave the way for increased pollution regulations in the shallowest of the Great Lakes.
Michigan proposed in 2016 designating its portion of Lake Erie as impaired, but Ohio resisted doing the same for its entire section.

Craig Butler, director of Ohio’s Environmental Protection Agency, said the state will do the review but needs more details from the federal agency. It remains unclear, he said, is what the standards are that should trigger an impaired designation for the lake’s open waters.

Butler said the U.S. EPA earlier told the state that it doesn’t have a way to gauge the algae’s impact. He said the state is working with university researchers to come up with such a measurement standard.

“We have never said that Lake Erie doesn’t have problems,” Butler said.

Algae outbreaks have fouled drinking water twice since 2013 and are a threat to fish and wildlife. Last year’s bloom stretched along the shores of Ohio, Michigan and Ontario, Canada, and was among the largest in recent years.

Scientists largely blame phosphorus-rich fertilizer runoff from farms and municipal sewage overflows for feeding the algae growth.

Backers of listing the lake as impaired hope it will bring increased regulations on how farmers fertilize their fields and dispose of livestock manure.

The U.S. EPA’s change of course is welcome but doesn’t ensure adequate protection for the lake, said Howard Learner, president of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, which sued over Ohio’s refusal to designate its western section as impaired.

The federal agency should order Ohio to immediately develop plans known as “total maximum daily loads,” which would impose specific limits on phosphorus flows into the lake, Learner said. Instead, the U.S. EPA appears willing to wait for a new state evaluation due in April.

“They seem to be kicking the can down the road,” Learner said.


E&E News: In Reversal, EPA Yanks Approval of Ohio’s Lake Erie Assessment


In Reversal, EPA Yanks Approval of Ohio’s Lake Erie Assessment
By Ariel Wittenberg

U.S. EPA says it no longer approves of Ohio’s decision to omit parts of Lake Erie from a list of impaired waters that environmentalists say is critical to reducing toxic algae blooms there.

At issue is Ohio’s 2016 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report, which found shorelines and areas of Lake Erie near drinking water intakes were impaired, but not its open waters.

EPA’s initial approval of the report in May was dubbed a “rubber stamp” by environmental groups. They responded with a lawsuit.

Now, the agency is withdrawing that approval, saying it has re-evaluated the report and “determined that the submission is incomplete and thus not fully consistent with the requirements of Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act and EPA’s regulations.”

In a letter to Ohio regulators, EPA’s newly confirmed Office of Water assistant administrator, David Ross, said the state did not fully consider all of the readily available data on nutrient pollution in the open waters of Lake Erie that fall within the state’s boundaries.

“The EPA acknowledges that the EPA Region 5 previously approved Ohio’s 2016 List in full,” Ross writes. “The EPA, however, is now exercising its inherent authority to reconsider prior decisions in order to ensure conformity of this action to the applicable statutory and regulatory requirements with respect to the open waters of Lake Erie within Ohio’s boundaries.”

The letter comes just three months after the federal government filed a response to the litigation from the Environmental Law & Policy Center and Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie, saying the groups “fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”

An EPA spokeswoman declined to comment further on the letter to Ohio and the ongoing case, saying, “EPA does not comment on pending litigation.”

Designating a body of water as impaired means the state and federal government must design action plans and restore the waters to a healthy quality.

Those actions could involve setting a “pollution diet,” or total maximum daily load (TMDL), for phosphorus and nitrogen entering Lake Erie.

In their lawsuit, the groups argued that devising action plans for parts of the lake, rather than all of it, would not fully address the algae bloom problem there.

Madeline Fleisher, an ELPC attorney, called Ross’ letter a “vindication” because EPA is conceding it was wrong to approve Ohio’s analysis.

But, she said, that’s not enough to end the lawsuit. “The EPA letter admits that they were wrong, but it essentially says, ‘We are not going to do anything about it,'” she said.
Fleisher noted that EPA is now asking Ohio to resubmit a new evaluation by April 9, essentially asking the state to redo its analysis in its regularly scheduled 2018 water quality report.

That request is contrary to EPA’s own regulations, Fleisher says, which require the agency to do its own evaluation of impairment designations it disagrees with.

“If a state has not gotten it right, then kicking it back to them for a do-over may not take things farther,” she said.

ELPC and Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie have asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio to make a ruling in the case requiring EPA itself to assess whether the open waters of Lake Erie are impaired.

“What really matters is actually solving the problem Lake Erie is suffering from, and this letter is not sufficient to do that,” Fleisher said.


Toledo Blade: Federal EPA reverses course in Lake Erie impairment issue


By Tom Henry

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reversed itself on the western Lake Erie impairment issue, admitting it was wrong to approve a Kasich administration plan that has fundamentally kept the status quo of voluntary incentives for agricultural runoff intact.

While stopping short of agreeing it should immediately designate the lake’s open water as impaired, the federal agency said in a Jan. 12 letter to Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler it has reevaluated the state’s submission from Oct. 20, 2016, and determined it is “incomplete and thus not fully consistent with the requirements of Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act and EPA’s regulations.”

It further stated the Kasich administration’s submission did not adhere to its obligations to assemble and evaluate all data and information about nutrients in Lake Erie within the state’s boundaries.

Howard Learner, executive director of Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center, told The Blade on Tuesday morning the U.S. EPA’s reversal is a significant development that should lead to court-ordered action for the lake and the Toledo metro region’s 500,000 people who depend on it for drinking water.

“The effect of what’s going on here is the U.S. EPA has confessed error on the merits of the case,” Mr. Learner said. “The U.S. EPA is recognizing the factual reality that western Lake Erie water is impaired by [agricultural] pollution.”

The letter, signed was shared on a federal holiday — Martin Luther King, Jr. Day — with the ELPC. The ELPC was preparing to meet a Tuesday deadline set by Senior Judge James G. Carr of U.S. District Court for a motion for summary judgment. The motion is 188 pages long.

The ELPC represents Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie, which was founded by activist Mike Ferner in response to the 2014 Toledo water crisis. The two groups sued the U.S. EPA several months ago over the lack of an impairment designation. The judge has indicted he wants that case resolved by this April or May, before the 2018 algae season.

“Courts shape remedies all of the time. The judge is in a position now to tell the agencies it’s time to step up to the plate,” Mr. Learner said. “It’s not permissible for agencies to violate the Clean Water Act by pretending the western basin of Lake Erie is not impaired when clearly it is.”

The U.S. EPA, which approved the Ohio plan to maintain the status quo May 19, wants all of the state’s remaining data on western Lake Erie nutrient pollution by April 9. The ELPC said in its motion for summary judgment it is seeking a more “expeditious resolution.”

Mr. Butler said the U.S. EPA told him prior to issuing the letter that it was reversing itself, and that the Ohio EPA is “working on developing a response.”

“We’ve never said there’s not a problem in the lake,” Mr. Butler said. “We think this designation as impaired or not doesn’t impact our path forward. Our commitment is as strong as it’s ever been. This is an ongoing, never-ending focus for us.”

Mr. Butler also revealed that the state agency’s reluctance to designate the lake as impaired goes beyond a desire to maintain the status quo. He said the U.S. EPA cannot define itself what exactly it takes for a body of water as large as western Lake Erie to be designated as impaired.

Mr. Butler characterized the ELPC’s push for an impairment designation as “an academic argument.”

He declined to predict how Judge Carr will rule.

A spokesmen for the U.S. EPA said their the agency planned to provide The Blade a response Wednesday.

Judge Carr has presided over several major environmental cases involving Lake Erie, including years of litigation on Ottawa River restoration efforts and the city of Toledo’s consent order with the U.S. EPA over sewage overflows.

Michigan declared its much smaller portion of western Lake Erie impaired in 2016.


Toledo Blade: Congressmen, ELPC, Demand Faster Action on Asian Carp

Congressmen Demand Faster Action on Asian Carp
by Tom Henry

Twenty-six members of Congress — including U.S. Reps. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green), Tim Walberg (R., Tipton), and Debbie Dingell (D., Dearborn) — have joined numerous other elected officials in demanding more aggressive action from the Army Corps of Engineers against destructive Asian carp threatening to enter the Great Lakes near Chicago.

A bipartisan letter submitted Friday said the congressmen are firmly holding the Corps to an early 2019 deadline for completing the most crucial report to date for a long-term fix, called the Brandon Road Lock & Dam Study.

It affects the future of the Brandon Road lock near Joliet, Ill., and the series of Chicago-area waterways that artificially connect the Mississippi River and Great Lakes basins. That connection, made in the early 1900s, has made it possible for invasive carp moving north along the Mississippi to someday enter the Great Lakes via Lake Michigan.

The letter, submitted on the final day the Corps was accepting formal comments to its tentatively selected plan, mirrors one submitted earlier by several U.S. senators from the Great Lakes area, including Rob Portman (R., Ohio) and Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.), co-chairs of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D., Mich.), and senators from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and New York who are members of that task force.

“Current estimates show it will take as long as eight years to have a barrier installed at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam — a time frame which is unacceptable,” Miss Kaptur said. “With the Asian carp on the doorstep of our region’s most vital natural resource, we have a small window of opportunity to stop this invasive species. Once the Asian carp are in the Great Lakes, it will be too late to stop the destruction they will cause.”

The Corps is looking at fortifying electric barriers and taking other measures to thwart the movement of carp and other exotics. But it has said it is unlikely to act on several measures before 2025, a timeline that senators and now congressmen have said is unacceptable.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, a 2018 gubernatorial candidate, likewise joined the fray late last week by telling the Corps in his formal comments that it should close the Brandon Road lock while also recognizing its obligation to meet previously agreed-upon deadlines.

While the Corps has tentatively selected a plan that uses electrical fences, noise, and water jets to keep out invasive species, Mr. DeWine and the large contingent of congressional members believe that doesn’t go far enough — especially after reports in June of a silver Asian carp found 9 miles from Lake Michigan, beyond the electric barriers.

The attorney general said the Corps should implement the lock closure alternative, which will be the most effective and cheapest to construct.

The Chicago-area decision affects Ohio because Lake Erie is the epicenter of the Great Lakes region’s $7 billion fishery, valued at more than all commercial and recreational fishing in U.S. waters along the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and the Gulf of Mexico.

More fish are spawned and caught in Lake Erie than the other four Great Lakes combined.

Researchers have said Ohio’s tourism and recreation industries would greatly suffer if Asian carp found their way to western Lake Erie.

Mr. DeWine also encouraged the Corps to work on plans for a multibillion-dollar, complete hydrologic separation of the Mississippi River and Great Lakes basins to block the spread of Asian carp.

A contingent of five major environmental groups — the Alliance for the Great Lakes, the Environmental Law & Policy Center, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Prairie Rivers Network, and the Illinois chapter of the Sierra Club — also demanded a more aggressive response from the Corps via 21 pages of joint comments submitted Friday.

“Now is the time for all effective and necessary action steps,” Howard Learner, executive director of the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center, said. “Further delays risk Asian carp getting into Lake Michigan while the Army Corps is fiddling. Prevention solutions now are wise investments.”


Great Lakes Now: ELPC’s Learner Tells US Army Corps to Stop Fiddling, Act Fast on Asian Carp Report

Pace of Asian Carp Plan “taking far too long”
Michigan Senators Critical of Timetable

by Gary Wilson

The debate about how to stop Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes hit another milestone last week as the Army Corps of Engineers’ extended comment period on a potential solution came to a close.

The controversy is now in its second decade.

The opportunity to comment was expanded to accommodate a previously unscheduled session in New Orleans. The extension angered Michigan Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters who say the “process is taking far too long.”

The Corps has been seeking public input on its plan, known as the Brandon Road Lock study, since September. If implemented, the plan would provide a suite of options to keep carp out of the Great Lakes.

in a letter to the Corps, Stabenow and Peters questioned why the New Orleans meeting wasn’t scheduled earlier.

The Brandon Road Lock, 50 miles from Lake Michigan, near Joliet, Illinois, is thought to be a choke point for stopping Asian carp.

But the final Army Corps report isn’t due until August of 2019, and Stabenow and Peters want that date moved up by eight months to January.

The senators expressed frustration that the Trump administration had delayed release of the report early in 2017.

Illinois Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti called for the report to be delayed in a column published in the Chicago Tribune in early 2017. Shipping interests in Illinois have lobbied against the Army Corps plan.

In their letter, Stabenow and Peters also questioned the Corps’ economic analysis of the impact of Asian carp on the Great Lakes.

“The (Army Corps) should not ignore the impact of Asian carp on several important industries – including recreation and tourism – or the economic impacts to the other Great Lakes besides Lake Erie,” the senators wrote.

Lake Erie’s fishery is the largest in the Great Lakes and thought to be the most vulnerable to an Asian carp invasion.

In a similar letter to the Army Corps, 28 members of the U.S. House from the Great Lakes region called for the original project timeline to be followed.


Input from environmental groups followed previously held positions but also sought to spotlight economic impacts.

Howard Learner said in a statement released to Great Lakes Now that the Army Corps’ proposals are a “starter.”

But Learner said they are “short of what’s needed to avoid the economic and ecological disaster if our public officials don’t prevent Asian Carp from entering the Great Lakes.”

He accused the Corps of “fiddling,” which would lead to additional delays.


BREAKING: ELPC Joins EDF, OEC Ask Ohio Supreme Court to Block FirstEnergy Bailout


December 1, 2017




Groups Challenge FirstEnergy Bailout at Ohio Supreme Court
Joint statement from EDF, OEC and ELPC

COLUMBUS –  The Ohio Environmental Council, Environmental Defense Fund, and Environmental Law & Policy Center today appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio’s (PUCO) bailout for utility giant FirstEnergy. Last year, the PUCO approved a plan to provide FirstEnergy with more than $600 million over a three-year period in no-strings-attached subsidies for its uneconomic coal and nuclear plants.

Since the PUCO’s ruling Ohioans have already paid over $120 million of the $600 million bailout to FirstEnergy. While FirstEnergy will keep the money they’ve already collected even if the Supreme Court overturns the PUCO’s ruling, we are filing our appeal to the Supreme Court to protect Ohio ratepayers from further unjustified bailout payments.

“Last year, when Ohio regulators tried to hand FirstEnergy $4 billion to keep its outdated, uneconomic power plants operating, federal regulators came to the rescue and blocked the deal. But the utility giant is relentless and devised a new bailout plea that didn’t require federal oversight, which state regulators quickly rubber-stamped. We are confident the Ohio Supreme Court will recognize Ohioans should not be responsible for FirstEnergy’s bad business decisions, and overturn the $600 million bailout.”

  • Dick Munson, Midwest Policy Director, Clean Energy, Environmental Defense Fund

“With an abundance of renewable energy opportunity in the Buckeye State, it doesn’t make sense that our state regulators agreed to raise Ohioans’ electric bills to subsidize plants that are old and expensive. These consumer-funded subsidies distort trends in the market that would otherwise be pushing electric utilities to innovate, creating cleaner, more efficient generation options. I’m confident that the Ohio Supreme Court will side with the customers, ensuring a cleaner, prosperous future for all.”

  • Trish Demeter, Vice President of Policy, Ohio Environmental Council

“We are challenging this bailout because it raises electric bills for Ohio families to pay off FirstEnergy’s shareholders, and provides no benefits to customers. Instead of bailing out failing coal plants, we should help lower customer bills and pollution through energy efficiency.”

  • Madeline Fleisher, attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center



Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org), a leading international nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law, and innovative private-sector partnerships. Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, and our Energy Exchange blog. 

Ohio Environmental Council (theoec.org) The Ohio Environmental Council is the state’s most comprehensive, effective and respected environmental advocate for a healthier, more sustainable Ohio. Our experts work daily to restore, protect, and strengthen the quality of life for families and communities—from the air we breathe and the water we drink to the food we eat and natural resources we enjoy.

Environmental Law & Policy Center (elpc.org) is the Midwest’s leading public interest environmental legal advocacy organization. We develop strategic campaigns to protect natural resources and improve environmental quality. Our multi-disciplinary staff employs teamwork approaches using legal, economic, and public policy tools to produce successes that improve our environment and economy.


Toledo Blade Editorial: There is More than One Strategy for Lake Erie


When you really, really want to be sure your pants won’t fall down, you go with the belt-and-suspenders strategy: You put on a belt, but in case a belt is not going to be enough to keep your pants up, you’ve got your suspenders.

The same can be said for strategies to clean up the pollution that is causing toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie, says one of the environmental lawyers suing to force the federal government to designate the western basin of the lake impaired under the terms of the Clean Water Act.

While it is great that Ohio’s state environmental officials are pursuing research and voluntary pollution-control measures to reduce the amount of algae-feeding phosphorus flowing into the lake, if those approaches don’t deliver results, the Clean Water Act will.

Madeline Fleisher of the Environmental Law and Policy Center made the analogy at this year’s Great Lakes Water Conference at the University of Toledo.

There must be more than one strategy — and more than one path of action — to save Lake Erie.

Joining her on a panel at the conference was Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s Karl Gebhardt, a former Ohio Farm Bureau lobbyist who is Gov. John Kasich’s point man on lake issues.


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