Wort 89.9 FM: The Driftless Area’s proposed ATC line’s affect on Wisconsin Residents

Wort 89.9 FMOctober 10, 2016
By A Public Affair

How will the American Transmission Company’s proposed Cardinal-Hickory Creek power line affect Wisconsin residents? What are the benefits of the new power line? Will rates go up for Wisconsin citizens? This power line is meant to follow a route from northeastern Iowa, on or near the Hickory Creek, and across the Mississippi River, through southwestern Wisconsin’s Driftless Area to the Cardinal substation in Middleton.

Listen to the A Public Affair episode here.

ELPC Examines Impacts of Proposed ATC Power Line


September 29, 2016

Scientific Scrutiny
By Denise Thornton and Doug Hansmann

Environmental Group Examines Impacts of Proposed ATC Power Line

A Chicago environmental legal advocacy group is scrutinizing the Driftless Area west of Madison and the damage that could be done there with construction of a high-voltage American Transmission Company power line.
The ATC project would carry electricity from Dubuque County, Iowa, to Middleton along 500 steel towers, each one 10 to 15 stories tall.

The Environmental Law and Policy Center has led a number of successful advocacy campaigns designed to protect natural resources throughout the Midwest. In 2003, the group led the effort to get a court order that halted accelerated logging in Wisconsin’s Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, safeguarding 22,000 acres of forestland.
One of the tactics that makes the center successful is its Science Advisory Council. Susan Mudd, the group’s senior policy advocate, says, “Each scientist contributes pro bono advice and connects us with other experts and research that relates to our work.”

One of these experts is Don Waller, a UW-Madison professor of botany and environmental studies. “This Driftless Area Project and the transmission corridor is a new approach,” Waller says. “Instead of just focusing on one issue, we are looking at the range of threats now and in the future for a particular region and how those threats can be addressed in an effective and collaborative way.”

Read More at http://isthmus.com/news/news/environmental-group-examines-impacts-of-proposed-atc-power-line/


Dodgeville Chronicle Interviews Howard on Driftless Area Work

Dodgeville Chronicle

September 22, 2016

Chicago Environmental Law Group Tours Potential Power Line Routes in Iowa County

By Denise Thornton and Doug Hansmann

On Monday a busload of two dozen Chicagoans toured some of the most scenic spots in Iowa County, but these were no ordinary tourists. They were board members and staff of the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC), a major Midwest public interest environmental legal advocacy and eco-business innovation organization.

Their route took them along the two proposed corridors for the American Transmission Company (ATC) high voltage power line.

ELPC’s staff of attorneys, policy advocates, finance advisors, communications experts and organizers take on issues concerning climate change, clean energy, clean air, clean water, transportation and special places of environmental interest. It is the last category that brought them to southwest Wisconsin.

Working with the Driftless Area Land Conservancy (DALC), a 15-year old Dodgeville-based land trust that has helped protect 6,000 acres of natural land from development, ELPC opposes the installation of the proposed high-voltage line that would carry electricity between Dubuque County, Iowa and Middleton, Wisconsin, adding about 500 steel towers to the landscape of southwest Wisconsin, each one standing 10 to 15 stories tall. The proposed line is slated to pass through some of Iowa County’s most fragile environments and places of great natural beauty.

The tour began at Brigham County Park looking out over the countryside beyond.

“The Driftless Area is an area where continental glaciers over the past two million years never touched the landscape,” explained David Clutter, executive director of DALC to the tour group.

ATC has proposed two possible routes for the transmission lines, which were marked in blue on the maps handed to the ELPC staff, board members and guests.

“This whole landscape is a very special place, but the transmission lines would come right through,” said Clutter, “either on the north side of Brigham Park or the south side.”

Mark Mittelstadt, a forester and DALC board member added, “We have heard a height of 150 feet for the power lines. The trees are about 75 feet tall, so the transmission towers would be standing well above the top of the woodlands.”

Howard Learner, executive director of ELPC, noted that The Nature Conservancy, a leading global conservation organization, has named the Military Ridge Prairie Heritage Area (95,000 acres of grassland landscape in Dane and Iowa counties) a priority area to protect because it provides habitat for declining species. With more than 60 prairie remnants, it is one of the highest concentrations of native grasslands left in the Midwest.

Read more at http://www.thedodgevillechronicle.com/main.asp?SectionID=1&SubSectionID=8&ArticleID=7448&TM=53601.61


Progress IL: Enviros rally & testify on clean energy justice issues in Chicago

Environmentalists from across the country were in Chicago Wednesday to testify before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about its proposed Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP).

CEIP is an optional component of the Clean Power Plan, which seeks to slash carbon emissions from existing U.S. power plants. The voluntary incentive program is meant to jump-start action to curb carbon pollution and help states comply with the Clean Power Plan.

CEIP seeks to reward early investment in energy efficiency and solar projects in low-income communities as well as zero-emitting renewable energy projects — including wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower — in all communities.

Participating states could use the emission allowances or emission rate credits distributed through the program to comply with the Clean Power Plan when it takes effect in 2022. The EPA, which released its updated CEIP plan in June, is proposing that the matching pool of allowances or emission rate credits be split evenly between low-income community projects and renewable energy projects.

Emma Lockridge, a leader with Michigan United and the People’s Action Institute, was among dozens of speakers from across the country who testified this morning in support of making CEIP mandatory and more comprehensive.

Lockridge and many other hearing attendees described themselves as living in frontline, environmental justice communities.

Continue Reading

Ecosystem Marketplace: ELPC’s Brad Klein Weighs in on Water Quality Trading Programs

Water Quality Trading: What Works? What Doesn’t? And Why Don’t We Know This Already?

By Kelli Barrett

July 22, 2016

Water utilities and NGOs around the world are using market-based mechanisms to clean regional water bodies and restore surrounding watersheds, but critics say the programs are unproven. Proponents counter: yes, they are, and the data exists to prove it!

For years now, North American cities like Denver and New York have been diverting water fees into forest conservation, while Kenyan flower-growers have been voluntarily paying upland farmers to develop terraces that slow runoff. Just this week, legislators in the Peruvian Capital of Lima authorized a program that will divert some of the city’s water fees into the restoration of ancient, pre-Incan canals high in the Andes to capture floodwater for the dry season. In addition to these “investments in watershed services” (IWS) programs, water authorities in the United States, New Zeeland, and Australia are experimenting with something called “water quality trading” (WQT), which aims to keep levels of fertilizer at scientifically acceptable levels by helping farmers implement conservation practices that reduce their agricultural runoff.

Each program is uniquely its own, but they all hinge on the premise that market-based mechanisms deliver better results and more flexibility by focusing on quantifiable, verifiable outcomes – either in terms of water quality or regularity of supply – rather than the rigid edicts of “command-and-control” regulation.

Last autumn, an organization called Food and Water Watch (FWW) challenged that assumption, at least as far as WQT is concerned, in a paper that re-labeled WQT as “pollution trading” and charged that it undermines the Clean Water Act (CWA) and puts US waterways at great risk – a contention that was promptly dismissed by WQT proponents like Brent Fewell and Bobby Cochran.

Fewell, a one-time senior official at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and founder of the law firm Earth and Water Group, penned a piece entitled “Food & Water Lies – FWW Stands in the Way of Environmental Protection” which derided the organization as being ideologically anti-market and anti-public private partnership, while Cochran, the Executive Director of the Oregon-based nonprofit Willamette Partnership, was a bit more forgiving.

“FWW did not do an independent assessment on water quality trading,” said Cochran, whose organization is active in the WQT space and often acts as an advocate for trading.

However, Cochran adds that proponents of trading aren’t producing objective content either.

And while the pro and con camps continue to argue, reams of hard data from dozens of pilot projects are sitting around just begging for a disinterested, scientific evaluation. Cochran, among other practitioners, suggest a third-party, independent review of this data to settle the debate over whether WQT is effective.


Press Release: Federal Court Decision Protects Michigan’s Sylvania Wilderness Area in the State’s Upper Peninsula

June 15, 2016

Contact: Judith Nemes (312) 795-3706JNemes@elpc.org

Federal Court Decision Protects Michigan’s Sylvania Wilderness Area in the State’s Upper Peninsula
Key decision for protecting lakeshores and other wilderness places

Marquette, Mich. – A Federal District Court judge this week ruled in favor of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, its clients and the U.S. Forest Service to allow restrictions on the use of noisy gas-powered motorboats in the tranquil Sylvania Wilderness Area in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

The decision by Federal Judge R. Allan Edgar enables the U.S. Forest Service to continue enforcing a section of the Michigan Wilderness Act (MWA), which provides that the Sylvania Wilderness should be administered and protected as a pristine area in accordance with the provisions of the Wilderness Act of 1964. ELPC represented Sylvania Wilderness Cabins, Friends of Sylvania, and the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition in the suit.

“Judge Edgar’s commonsense decision makes clear that the pristine Sylvania Wilderness should be protected from the noise and disruption of motorboats,” says Jennifer Tarr, ELPC Staff Attorney.

The court concluded: “Based on the plain language of the relevant sections of the Wilderness Act and the MWA, it is clear that Congress intended that the U.S. Forest Service would regulate motorboat usage to the extent necessary to preserve the nature and character of Sylvania.”

In addition, the ruling stated: “the Plaintiffs in this case had no pre-existing right to use motorboats on the lake. They purchased the property in 2010 – 23 years after Congress enacted the MWA, and 14 years after Amendment Five had been in effect.”

A homeowner on Crooked Lake in the Sylvania Wilderness of Michigan challenged the U.S. Forest Service’s amendment to the Michigan Wilderness Act of 1987 that enabled the government to protect that area in accordance with the Wilderness Act of 1964.

“This is an important victory in the court that sets a precedent for protecting the Sylvania Wilderness Area and the other wild and special places around the Great Lakes and Midwest,” says Howard Learner, ELPC’s Executive Director.




Remembering ELPC Photographer James Linehan

JimI want to let ELPC’s “extended family” know the sad news that photographer James Linehan, who worked closely with ELPC, passed away on May 29th after a long illness.  Jim was 50 years old and lived in Chicago and in Wisconsin’s Northwoods.

Jim was a fine friend, great outdoorsman and wonderful photographer. Jim photographed a series of images of the Midwest’s special wild and natural places that ELPC succeeded in protecting and saving, and his photographs have been on display in ELPC’s office for many years. Some of these photos are included below.

Jim’s love of the outdoors was reflected in his photography. He was an accomplished ice climber, fly fisherman and paddler. Jim did much more than enjoy the outdoors; he lived and loved the outdoors.

ELPC, with curator David Travis, will be showing a special exhibit of Jim’s great Midwest landscape and wildlife photos. We have been working with Jim over the past few months to plan this retrospective photo show.

Jim was a great friend and colleague for ELPC. We will all greatly miss Jim and his work in many ways to preserve the Midwest’s natural environment.



ELPC’s Andy Olsen Joins Solar Groundbreaking in Wisconsin


David Jakubiak

Wisconsin Co-op Breaks Ground for New Solar
Small Rural Electric Cooperative Leads the Way in the Badger State

The Environmental Law & Policy Center’s Andy Olsen joined Richland Electric Cooperative for the ground breaking on the first of 12 solar farms developed as part of the Dairyland Power Cooperative solar initiative launched earlier this year. Richland Electric Cooperative’s project includes 500 kilowatts of solar generating capacity under Dairyland’s solar project. Another 100 kilowatts has been added under Richland’s Transition Energy community solar project which was announced last month.

“We commend Richland Electric Cooperative for going above and beyond the historic solar development announced by Dairyland Power Cooperative in February,” said Andy Olsen, Senior Policy Advocate of the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Madison. “Modern, affordable solar power technology is here and is ready to serve the members of Richland Electric Cooperative.”

For more details on the announcement, visit the Dairyland Power Press Room.

Milwaukee Business Journal: Study to consider adding more round-trips on Amtrak Hiawatha line

The state this summer could hold hearings on the proposal to add three more round-trips a day to the Hiawatha passenger rail line between Milwaukee and Chicago.

The rail service run by Amtrak currently has seven round trips each weekday, and has seen strong ridership. It logged 804,861 rides in 2014, an 8.5 percent increase over 2009. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is preparing a study of increasing the number of daily trips to 10, said Arun Rao, Wisconsin DOT passenger rail manager.

A draft of the study could be made public this summer, prompting public hearings in late summer and potential federal sign-off later this year, Rao said. If federal officials approve that plan, the state will become eligible to apply for federal money for the additional routes, which likely would be operated by Amtrak.

Bloomberg: Harvesting Sunshine More Lucrative Than Crops at Some U.S. Farms

For more than a century, Dawson Singletary’s family has grown tobacco, peanuts and cotton on a 530-acre farm amid the coastal flatlands of North Carolina. Now he’s making money from a different crop: solar panels.

Singletary has leased 34 acres of his Bladen County farm to Strata Solar LLC for a 7-megawatt array, part of a growing wave of solar deals that are transforming U.S. farmland and boosting income for farmers.

Farmland has become fertile territory for clean energy, as solar and wind developers in North America, Europe and Asia seek more flat, treeless expanses to build. That’s also been a boon for struggling U.S. family farms that must contend with floundering commodity prices.

“There is not a single crop that we could have grown on that land that would generate the income that we get from the solar farm,” said Singletary, 65.

The rise in solar comes as the value of crops in the Southeast — with the exception of tobacco — has dropped. Cotton prices have fallen 71 percent in the last five years. Soybeans are down 33 percent and peanuts have slipped 16 percent.

Solar companies, meanwhile, are paying top dollar, offering annual rents of $300 to $700 an acre, according to the NC Sustainable Energy Association. That’s more than triple the average rent for crop and pasture land in the state, which ranges from $27 to $102 an acre, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department.

The economic incentives spurring solar will be discussed at a Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference in New York starting April 4.

“Solar developers want to find the cheapest land near substations where they can connect,” said Brion Fitzpatrick, director of project development for Inman Solar Inc. of Atlanta. “That’s often farmland.”

Developers have installed solar panels on about 7,000 acres of North Carolina pasture and cropland since 2013, adding almost a gigawatt of generating capacity, according to the NC Sustainable Energy Association. Georgia has added 200 megawatts on fields and cleared forests over the same period, much of it farmland, according to the Southface Energy Institute of Atlanta.

The number of megawatts developers can generate per acre of farmland varies, based on weather patterns, size of the panels and contours of the land. On Singletary’s farm, Strata Solar installed 21,600 panels, each about 6 feet by 3 feet (1.8 meters by 914 centimeters). Combined, they can power as many as 5,000 local homes.

Long-Term Contracts

Farmers typically lease a portion of their land, signing 15- to 20-year contracts with developers who install the panels and sell the power to local utilities. In rare cases, farmers have leased their entire property to solar companies.

Singletary signed a 15-year lease in 2013, with two 10-year extension options, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina-based Strata sells the power to Duke Energy Corp. He declined to disclose financial terms.

Government incentives have played a key role in the spread of solar farms built on real farms. North Carolina granted developers tax credits equal to 35 percent of their projects’ costs though a program that expired at the end of 2015, helping make the state the third-biggest U.S. solar market. In Georgia, the Public Service Commission passed a bill in 2013 requiring the state’s largest utility, Southern Co.’s Georgia Power, to buy 525 megawatts of solar by 2016. Both policies sent companies scouring for open space to build.

Solar panels have buoyed tax bases in impoverished rural counties, said Tim Echols, a member of the Georgia Public Service Commission. They also let farmers diversify their income with revenue that’s not subject to markets or unpredictable weather patterns.

‘Stable Income’

“Solar and wind farms have become a new stable income stream for farmers — and they don’t fluctuate with commodity prices,” said Andy Olsen, who promotes clean energy projects in rural areas for the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center.

Continue Reading


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

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

Donate Now