ISSUES

Press Release: Five-year Anniversary of Fuel Economy & Pollution Reduction Standards Affirms Rules Still Sound and Sensible

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Five-year Anniversary of Fuel Economy and Pollution Reduction Standards Affirms Rules Still Sound and Sensible

Recent EPA announcement to re-open review of common sense pollution reduction standards could cost people more at the gas pump, increase pollution harming health, and reduce America’s technological innovation leadership and global competitiveness 

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER         

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

Howard Learner, ELPC’s Executive Director, said in connection to the five-year anniversary of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation establishing joint fuel economy and pollution reduction standards for vehicle Model Years 2017-2025:

“Five years ago, the EPA and U.S. Department of Transportation issued fuel economy and pollution reduction standards for American automakers that are still sound and sensible today,” Learner said. “The standards EPA and DOT rolled out in 2012 ensure that America’s new cars and light trucks will use less oil and emit fewer greenhouse gases through 2025.

“Despite the success of Clean Car standards, the Trump administration is working to roll them back. Earlier this year, EPA determined its standards remained achievable and cost effective, but the agency has now taken the misguided step of reopening that review. DOT is also working to weaken its fuel efficiency standards. A rollback of the joint standards threaten to shift America into reverse and put U.S. car manufacturers behind in the global competition for cleaner, fuel efficient cars.

“Keeping the joint standards in place that were set five years ago will continue to drive innovation, maintain the American auto industry’s competitiveness, boost jobs in the Midwest, and save Americans money at the gas pump. Across the Midwest there are more than 150,000 jobs in 480 facilities engaged in making cleaner vehicles. Let’s keep the cleaner car job sector growing.”

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PRESS RELEASE: Trump’s Clean Power Plan Repeal & Replace Falls Flat

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:
Judith Nemes, ELPC | 312-795-3706 or JNemes@elpc.org
David Miller, Ohio Environmental Council | 614-487-7506 or dmiller@theoec.org
Jennifer Caddick, Alliance for the Great Lakes | 312-445-9760 or jcaddick@greatlakes.org

Midwest Environmentalists’ Statement: Trump’s Clean Power Plan Repeal & Replace Falls Flat
Clean Energy Economy Moving Forward, Climate Change Solutions Vital

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER, Executive Director, Environmental Law & Policy Center; HEATHER TAYLOR-MIESLE, Executive Director, The Ohio Environmental Council; and JOEL BRAMMEIER, President & CEO, Alliance for the Great Lakes.

Today U.S. EPA proposed to repeal and weaken the Clean Power Plan. This proposal, which will be filed in the Federal Register on Tuesday, would apparently limit the reductions that owners of old coal must make to actions strictly within the “fence line” of the plants. That would result in less pollution reductions and missed opportunities for progress. Below, find statements from Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC); Heather Taylor-Miesle, Executive Director, Ohio Environmental Council; and Joel Brammeier, President & CEO, Alliance for the Great Lakes.

Howard Learner, Executive Director, Environmental Law & Policy Center

“The Trump Administration’s climate action repeal and replace proposal is a public subsidy for old coal plants to emit more pollution. It misses sensible opportunities to boost clean energy and avoid pollution in ways that make economic sense.

“The economics of avoiding carbon pollution through wind power, solar energy and energy efficiency are stronger than ever. Clean energy technology is advancing and moving forward.

“Across the Midwest, ELPC is working with local stakeholders to help create jobs generating clean power while cutting carbon pollution, improve air and water quality, and protect public health and defend the Great Lakes from the growing threats of climate change.

“It’s time for Midwest governors and mayors act and accelerate real climate change solutions. The benefits of the clean, modern economy are too good to pass up and too important to delay even as the Trump Administration bypasses the economic benefits of the clean energy future.”

 

Heather Taylor-Miesle, Executive Director, Ohio Environmental Council

“With the decision to repeal the Clean Power Plan, the Trump Administration just put the health, safety, and security of all Americans at risk from worsening air pollution as a result of climate change. Keeping the Clean Power Plan makes sense for the environment and the economy. President Trump’s short-sighted decision means we will lose out on a $2.1 billion GDP increase and 20,000 jobs in Ohio.

“This brazen decision to dismantle our first and only federal limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants will result in dirtier air in Ohio, putting our children’s health at risk. With Lake Erie currently covered by a toxic algae bloom the size of 250,000 football fields, we don’t need our efforts to protect the health of Ohioans undermined by the Trump Administration.

“Refusing to address climate change is not an option. Storms are getting worse. Temperatures are on the rise. Algal blooms on Lake Erie and the Ohio River are getting larger. Rolling back the Clean Power Plan is the wrong decision. Now is the time for real solutions to this very real threat.”

 

Joel Brammeier, President & CEO, Alliance for the Great Lakes

“Climate change is making bad Great Lakes problems worse every day. A warming planet means more green slime and toxic algae in our lakes, more extreme storms that flood sewers and damage people’s property, and more habitat for pernicious invasive species. Cleaner energy is a critical contributor to leaving our Great Lakes protected for generations to come.”

Press Release: Senate Bill on Autonomous Vehicles Wisely Includes Study of Transportation Infrastructure & Environmental Impacts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 4, 2017

 

Senate Bill on Autonomous Vehicles Wisely Includes Study of Transportation Infrastructure & Environmental Impacts

ELPC commends leadership of Senators Duckworth and Schatz for co-sponsoring study amendment to bill 

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee today adopted an amendment on safety standards for autonomous vehicles that requires the U.S. Department of Transportation to conduct a much-needed study on how autonomous vehicles will impact transportation infrastructure and the environment.  Senators Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Brian Schatz of Hawaii co-sponsored the amendment.

“Let’s better understand how driverless vehicles can be designed and deployed to help solve highway congestion and air pollution problems, and guide policy actions,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Chicago-based nonprofit.  “The Environmental Law & Policy Center commends Senators Duckworth and Schatz for their leadership on the amendment providing for a thorough study of the impacts of autonomous vehicles on our transportation, environment and energy systems.”

“I’m proud the Senate Commerce Committee unanimously passed our amendment to educate the public about how self-driving vehicles will impact traffic congestion, pollution levels and the environment,” said Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). “This legislation will help pave the way for safer, smarter, more efficient transportation systems in America.”

“A U.S. Department of Transportation study will soon begin to address the broad array of policy challenges and opportunities presented by autonomous vehicles,” said Learner.

The study will include a broad look at how autonomous vehicles will impact a wide range of issues including the transportation infrastructure, the environment, energy needs, congestion, vehicle miles traveled and land use. The amendment calls for launching the study within 60 days of the bill’s passage into law.

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Chicago Tribune: Pollution could increase as Rauner EPA moves to rescue coal plants

By Michael Hawthorne

September 27, 2017

In a move that could lead to dirtier air in Chicago and other downwind communities as far away as New York, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration is pushing to overhaul stringent limits on lung-damaging pollution from some of the last coal-fired power plants in Illinois.

Proposed amendments to state rules would scrap limits on the rate of pollution from a fleet of eight coal plants in central and southern Illinois owned by Dynegy Inc. Instead, the state would impose annual caps on tons of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emitted by the fleet — a subtle but significant change that could stall or reverse efforts to reduce Dynegy’s contributions to smog, soot and acid rain.

Drafted with extensive input from the company’s Chicago-based attorneys, the proposed pollution caps are significantly higher than what Dynegy’s fleet emitted during each of the past two years, according to a Tribune analysis of federal pollution data.

Alec Messina, director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, said the goal is to keep the financially struggling coal plants open by giving Houston-based Dynegy more flexibility to operate individual generating units, several of which are not equipped with modern pollution controls. Before joining the Rauner administration, Messina worked as a lobbyist for a trade group that represents the company’s interests in Illinois.

State standards would still be tougher than federal requirements, Messina said, and company spokeswoman Meredith Moore noted emissions could still increase if the state’s rate-based limits were kept in place.

But if a state rule-making panel approves the proposed changes, expected to be formally introduced this month, the new limit on sulfur dioxide would be nearly double what Dynegy’s existing fleet emitted last year and higher than every year since 2012, according to the Tribune’s analysis. The cap on nitrogen oxide emissions would be 79 percent higher than what came out of the smokestacks in 2016.

In an Aug. 25 letter to the state EPA, Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office questioned why the new regulations are necessary unless Dynegy plans to operate its dirtier coal plants more frequently and its cleaner plants less often.

The proposed pollution caps are set so high that the state would end up encouraging Dynegy to pollute more, Madigan’s office said.

“We want to make sure the public is getting the full benefit of the pollution standards the company agreed to meet,” James Gignac, Madigan’s environmental counsel, said in an interview. Changing the standard now could roll back years of progress, he said.

Dynegy also secured a provision that would keep the pollution caps fixed at the same amounts — 55,000 tons of sulfur dioxide and 25,000 tons of nitrogen oxide annually — even if it decided to shut down individual generating units or scuttle entire plants.

An EPA draft would have automatically tightened limits on Dynegy’s fleet to reflect plant closures, according to emails obtained by the nonprofit Environmental Law and Policy Center and shared with the Tribune. Chicago attorney Renee Cipriano, a former Illinois EPA director who represents Dynegy and other companies she once regulated, lined out or replaced language in the state’s draft, the emails show.

“We are making those types of tweaks to the rule language, so hopefully they address your issues,” Dana Vetterhoffer, an EPA attorney, responded in a May 31 email to Cipriano. “OK great,” Cipriano wrote back four minutes later.

Howard Learner, the environmental group’s president, said the changes would allow Dynegy to avoid installing pollution controls at its dirtiest plants and turn off the equipment at others.

“The company’s strategy is to run these plants on the cheap for as long as possible, like an old Chevy beater,” Learner said. “If the Rauner administration goes ahead with this, they’re effectively passing on the health costs of Dynegy’s pollution to the rest of Illinois and beyond.”

Moore, the Dynegy spokeswoman, said in an email to the Tribune that swapping the state’s current system for caps on the fleet’s emissions “would mean real environmental benefits.”

The EPA director echoed the company’s comments. “For the first time there is a cap on this fleet. That’s a big deal,” said Messina, who took over the state agency last year after serving as a top aide in Rauner’s office. He previously was a lobbyist for the Illinois Environmental Regulatory Group, an association that represents industries subject to state pollution regulations.

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Senate Bill to Safely Test Autonomous Vehicles: Vital First Step to Adoption

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Judith Nemes

Senate Bill to Safely Test Autonomous Vehicles: Vital First Step to Adoption
ELPC calling for study to explore impact on roads, public transportation, land use and the environment

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 a U.S. Senate bill introduced to develop safety standards and testing for automated vehicles:

“Testing autonomous vehicles for safety is a vital first step,” said Learner. “Self-driving vehicle technology will be transformative and that requires a smart implementation strategy beyond just safety considerations.

“ELPC believes a comprehensive study is needed to analyze how the deployment of autonomous vehicles will impact our highways, urban streets, public transportation, land use, energy consumption and the environment. We need to be looking ahead so money isn’t spent on infrastructure that isn’t needed or fixing problems that could be avoided.

“Understanding and addressing these issues now can advance a better and smarter deployment of self-driving vehicles that fulfill the vision for this technology.”

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Indianapolis Star: ELPC Pushing Indiana Agency to Allocate Portion of $41M VW Settlement Funds to Electric School Buses

IDEM’s unusual comment process for spending $41 million Volkswagen settlement
September 25, 2017
By Emily Hopkins

Indiana is poised to receive $41 million, its share of a $2.7 billion settlement federal regulators reached with Volkswagen after it was learned the German automaker cheated emissions tests for over half a decade.

But just how the state plans to spend that money is a mystery thanks to what some contend is a process that thus far has been neither transparent nor open to public input.

In at least 38 states, residents can find information about the settlement on their government’s website. In some cases, they may even be able to submit their own suggestions into whether the funds should be used for electric transit, hybrid vehicles, or any of the 10 ways the Environmental Protection Agency has identified to fight pollution.

But Hoosiers who want a say in how Indiana spends its share of the pot might want to try to snag a meeting with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s Commissioner Bruno Pigott.

“While other states have chosen to accept public comment in a web-based manner, Indiana has chosen to reach out to stakeholders in a more personal way with one-on-one meetings with interested parties and presenting on meeting agendas of interested parties,” IDEM’s Deputy Director of Communications Tara Wolf told IndyStar via email. “[Pigott] has been meeting one-on-one with many interested stakeholders since he came into office in January.”

If that seems like Hoosier Hospitality to some, others see it as a series of closed-door talks outside of the public’s view.

To be clear, there is no requirement for states to solicit public comment before the legal process to get the funds has begun. And Wolf assured that the time will come when Hoosiers can comment on a draft plan.

Still, some are concerned that Indiana is behind several states who have chosen to be proactive. Some states solicited public feedback as early as last fall, and a handful of states have already published drafts of their proposals online. Minnesota, for example, has received hundreds of comments and responses to an online survey and held more than a half dozen public meetings to discuss how the funds should be spent.
“We just thought it was the right thing to do,” said Rocky Sisk, State Program Administrator for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. He said that many people have different perspectives on the issue, but that the meetings have been instrumental in shaping their plans.

“Those are the things we feel very confident about doing now that we’ve had public input,” Sisk said.

Before states submit their plans, they’ll have to take part in a legally technical process determined by the settlement. First, states will have to announce which agencies will manage the funds in their respective states. Many states have already done this, often choosing one of their environmental departments.

Indiana has not formally announced which agencies will handle the funds. According to those familiar with the issue, it could be a group of three to five agencies, and the general assumption is that IDEM will take the lead. IDEM’s Wolf said that the Indiana agency handling the funds will be announced once the “trust effective date” is finalized, which will set deadlines for states to have their plans drafted. It’s at that point that the state will ramp up its public outreach.

“A draft Beneficiary Mitigation Plan for public comment will be posted on our website and the public will have ample time to submit comments,” Wolf said. IDEM would not disclose which groups or individuals the agency had met with, but Wolf said that it “has spoken to any group or individual who has requested information.”

The money being paid to states by Volkswagen is one of a series of criminal and civil penalties levied against the automaker. The company was found to be in violation of the Clean Air Act when it came to light that Volkswagen had cheated on emissions testing of some of its diesel vehicles. About half a million cars in the U.S. were allowed to emit pollutants “at levels up to 40 times the standard” set by the EPA. Nitrogen oxides, or NOx gases, are a byproduct of burning diesel fuel and have the potential to cause asthma and other respiratory health issues. The mitigation trust fund is meant to address those NOx emissions.

At least one organization is not waiting on IDEM to start promoting its plan. This summer, the Environmental Law and Policy Center conducted an electric bus tour across four states where they hope settlement money could be used to replace diesel school buses with electric ones.

“Children are especially vulnerable [to diesel fumes] because their lungs are not yet developed, and the particles make their way through the nose, into the blood stream and cause all sorts of problem,” said Susan Mudd, Senior Policy Advocate at ELPC, noting that more than half of public school children in Indiana are transported by bus.

Mudd has been impressed with efforts by other states in the region. She remarked on the several public meetings held in Minnesota, and the “priority county” map produced by Ohio’s EPA.

“Indiana has not stepped forward yet,” Mudd said, “but we’re hopeful.”

Kellie Walsh, executive director of the Greater Indiana Clean Cities Coalition, said that when the mitigation trust fund was announced, her phone was ringing off the hook.

“Folks were like, ‘When is money going to be on the street?'” said Walsh. “Sorry guys, that’s not how this works.”

 

To read the full article, please click here

IREC: ELPC Helping Jumpstart Community Solar in Cook Co.

Case Study: Cook County Jumpstarts Community Shared Solar
September 18, 2017
By IREC Editors

The national community solar market was beginning to experience a notable growth spurt in 2014, as more states, utilities and communities were turning to the model as a way to enable multiple customers to access and share the benefits of a single solar project, ultimately expanding access to solar for more consumers. The state of Illinois, however, remained “off the map” and lacked both a statewide community solar policy and voluntary utility programs.

Recognizing the opportunity and potential, especially in the county’s densely-populated, urban environment, Illinois’ Cook County Department of Environmental Control jumpstarted community shared solar in the state and across the Midwest with a Department of Energy SunShot Initiative Solar Market Pathways award, Cook County partnered with the City of Chicago, Elevate Energy, the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC), the local investor-owned utility ComEd, and technical consultant West Monroe Partners to overcome the education, information and market barriers to community solar and demonstrate replicable community solar models through pilot projects within the county.

Stakeholder engagement was key to the success of the project, resulting in buy-in from diverse stakeholders early in the process, and sustained interest in the project throughout.

IREC has supported the Solar Market Pathways project since 2015, serving as member of the Technical Assistance team in partnership with the national coordinator, the Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC).

To read the full case study, click here

Letter to the Editor Indianapolis Star: Indiana Should Buy Electric School Buses

Indiana should buy electric school buses
September 14, 2017
by Dr. Stephen Jay and Janet McCabe

In Indiana, school has been in session since early August and an estimated 650,000 children in communities across the state are climbing onto about 13,000 big yellow school buses every day. Unfortunately, many of these buses are still powered by dirty, diesel engines that cause asthma attacks.

The good news is that a healthier ride to school may be possible starting as soon as next year. That’s because Indiana will soon have the opportunity to use funds from the Volkswagen settlement to purchase clean electric school buses.

Over the course of nearly seven years, Volkswagen sold close to 600,000 diesel cars in the United States with engines programmed to trick emissions standards, contributing many tons of extra pollution to the environment. As part of a national settlement, the company is providing nearly $3 billion to states to support pollution-reducing projects. Indiana’s share of that is about $41 million. Governors and state agencies can spend these funds on a variety of options to reduce air pollution, including buying electric school buses to replace the aging dirty diesel fleet.

There are three reasons why doing so makes sense:

First, more children breathing easier. Nearly 9% of Hoosier children suffer from asthma, a disease that leaves their lungs susceptible to irritation from fine particles, nitrogen oxides, and other air pollutants in diesel fumes. These fumes seep into the cabins of school buses and trigger asthma attacks. Researchers at the Universities of Michigan and Washington have found that diesel school buses are responsible for millions of missed school days each year. Because children’s lungs are still developing, exposure to diesel pollution makes them an especially vulnerable population to lung diseases.

Second, healthier communities. A diesel bus driving around our cities and towns emits a chemical cocktail right at ground level, near our schools, playgrounds and homes. The average school bus makes 85 stops per day. With an electric school bus, there’s no danger from idling engines, because no emissions come out of the tailpipe. In fact, there isn’t a tailpipe at all.

Third, a more robust energy grid. As states shift to power grids that will increasingly draw from renewable sources, zero emission school buses can provide extra benefits. Because school buses operate according to school schedules, they can recharge their batteries overnight, when demand for energy is low and they don’t have to compete with other energy consumers on the grid. During peak demand times, such as hot summer days, electric school buses can serve as local battery packs to provide extra juice back to the grid when it’s needed most. That reduces the demand on all energy sources providing power to the grid and creates a more sustainable power system with more clean energy as the source. Ideally, electric school buses should be powered at night with renewable energy sources.

Electric school buses are not science fiction. There are already more than 100 on the road today in North America, and American companies known for their diesel technology, including Columbus-based Cummins, have announced investments in electric technologies for school buses. On a recent Midwest tour that included stops in Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, bus drivers and children loved trying out a quiet and clean electric school bus.

Funds from the Volkswagen settlement are expected to be released in the coming months. Governors putting VW money towards electric school buses would drive the market forward and costs down. School buses represent the largest category of mass transportation in our country, larger than transit and rail combined. We urge Indiana to help move this market to zero emissions and demonstrate leadership for health, the environment, our energy future, and most importantly, our children.

 
Dr. Stephen Jay
Professor of Medicine and Public Health; past founding chair, IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health

Janet McCabe
former U.S. EPA’s Acting Assistant Administrator for Office of Air and Radiation; senior law fellow at the Environmental Law & Policy Center

Press Release: ELPC Commends Full Funding for Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SEPTEMBER 14, 2017

ELPC Commends Full Funding for Great Lakes Restoration Initiative 

House Rejects Trump Administration’s Zeroing Out FY 2018 Budget for this Successful Program 

 

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER

Executive Director, Environmental Law & Policy Center

 

CHICAGO – Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said in response to the U.S. House of Representatives’ approval of full funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) as part of the fiscal year 2018 budget:

“The Environmental Law & Policy Center commends the bipartisan legislators who worked together to reject the Trump Administration’s cuts and provide full funding of $300 million for the successful Great Lakes Restoration Initiative,” Learner said. “This program has supported more than 3,000 sensible projects to protect and restore the Great Lakes since 2011. That’s great value for all of us who live, work and play in the Great Lakes. We urge the U.S. Senate to include full funding as it considers the budget.”

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WVIK (NPR) INDIANA: ELPC’s Janet McCabe Part of Indiana Climate Leadership Summit

WVIK 90.3 FM  Indiana (NPR)

Public Officials, Environmental Advocates Talk Climate Change

By Nick Janzen

Mayors and public officials from 18 Indiana communities, as well as environmental advocates, business leaders, and young people met in Indianapolis Wednesday to talk about ways Indiana can adapt to impacts from climate change at the second annual Climate Leadership Summit.

Jim Poyser, the executive director of Earth Charter Indiana and the event’s organizer, says he sees bipartisan support on the local level for action on climate change.

“Now, that makes me happy, because I’m tired of thinking about party. I’m tired of wondering what somebody’s ideology is,” says Poyser.

Poyser says since the first Climate Leadership Summit last year, three Indiana towns have passed youth-led climate resolutions: Carmel and Lawrence, which have Republican mayors, and Indianapolis.

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett says how well cities prepare for climate change will determine their future success.

“We are not exempt from the impacts our changing climate bring,” Hogsett says. “No one is.”

Scientists from Purdue and Indiana Universities said during presentations that those impacts include the number of days Indiana experiences above 90 degrees jumping from 20 to 74 by 2050; and that the Indiana climate could look more similar to that of east Texas by 2070.

Sixteen-year-old Cora Gordon helped pass the Indianapolis climate resolution, which calls for carbon neutrality in the city by 2050. She says the climate resolutions adopted around the state are a message directly from Hoosiers.

“Once we go up higher, once we talk to state people and show them that all these cities have passed climate resolutions, what the people of the state want, it’s what the people of the country want, and so I think that’s definitely something that politicians should keep in mind,” Gordon says.

Logansport Mayor Dave Kitchell says unlike Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, many small communities in Indiana don’t have the resources to invest in big, climate-friendly projects.

“We’re the crossroads of America,” Kitchell says. “But until we’re going to be the crossroads of fiscal sustainability and climate sustainability, we’re not going to convince the majority of the people in this state that this is what we have to do.”

Janet McCabe, a senior law fellow at the Environmental Law and Policy Center and a former Environmental Protection Agency assistant administrator under President Barack Obama, says clean energy and energy efficiency are two areas where municipalities can get the most bang for their buck on climate investments.

“It makes your houses more comfortable, it increases their value, it creates local job opportunities that can’t be imported,” she says.

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