CLEAN ENERGY

Coal Generation, Rate Increases, Energy Efficiency Addressed in Proposed Settlement as Alliant Rate Case Gets Underway

Coal Generation, Rate Increases, Energy Efficiency Addressed in Proposed Settlement as Alliant Rate Case Gets Underway

ELPC, IEC, and Sierra Club applaud proposed agreement, say more work remains 

DES MOINES, Ia — The Environmental Law & Policy Center, Iowa Environmental Council, and Sierra Club agreed to a proposed partial settlement in the Alliant Energy rate case being heard by the Iowa Utilities Board this week. The proposed settlement, joined by ten of the 14 intervening parties, including the Consumer Advocate and large energy consumers, addressed several key issues in the rate case, including energy generation from Alliant’s coal plants, rate structures impacting energy efficiency, rate increases and others.

Alliant Energy, a utility providing electric service to about 490,000 customers in Iowa, is seeking a rate increase and proposing a number of rate changes and new programs. The Iowa Utilities Board sets the rates for Iowa’s investor-owned utilities, including Alliant Energy, through information gathered during a contested rate case.

Alliant Receives Less Money Than Requested

Alliant was seeking to increase electric rates to cover a request of $203.6 million per year. As part of the proposed settlement, Alliant agreed to a reduced request of $127 million. The company will refund customers interim rate increases applied in 2019 to the tune of $7.5 million through the end of 2020. While customers will still see an increased bill, it will be a smaller increase than Alliant had sought.

Alliant also agreed to waive their fixed-bill plan, which sought to charge customers a fixed bill each month plus an administrative fee, but without any true-up at the end of the year to account for actual energy usage.

A Plan for Uneconomic Coal Plants

As part of the proposed settlement, Alliant Energy agreed to participate in a first-ever in Iowa comprehensive planning process for their generating fleet. This analysis will require Alliant to assess the economics of its coal plants compared to cleaner, home-grown energy options like solar, efficiency, wind, and battery storage.

An analysis conducted by expert witnesses in the case by IEC and ELPC found that Alliant’s coal plants are not economic and customers could save hundreds of millions of dollars by developing a plan to transition away from these plants. Additional expert analysis on behalf of Sierra Club found that retirement and replacement of Alliant’s coal plants could save customers more than $600 million. These analyses found that customers could be better served with cheaper, cleaner energy from renewables or open-market energy purchases.

“We are proud to have secured a commitment by Alliant to evaluate the economics of its remaining coal plants and integrate meaningful stakeholder input as part of the process. We are confident that this analysis will be the first step in moving Alliant away from dirty, expensive coal plants,” said Elizabeth Katt Reinders with the Sierra Club. “We look forward to working with Alliant on its transition off coal as they move from analysis to planning to action.”

Energy Choices for Customers

Alliant Energy agreed to discontinue their plan for applying a declining block rate in summer months. This type of rate structure reduces the cost per kilowatt hour as more energy is used, which discourages energy savings and encourages users to consume more power. Alliant’s proposed declining block rate also has an outsized negative impact on smaller individual customers who could not benefit from the rate structure.

The company also withdrew plans to increase some fees for customers with solar panels or other self-generation. “Customers who invest in their own renewable generation provide energy that benefits everyone. Their investment, while keeping their rates low, also benefits the utility by producing and supplying clean power that enhances grid stability,” said Kerri Johannsen with the Iowa Environmental Council.

Collaboration on the Path Forward

Alliant Energy agreed to an improved collaborative stakeholder engagement process with environmental and consumer groups as the company moves forward with grid investments and utility-owned distributed renewable energy projects.

“We look forward to a more robust and fruitful engagement with Alliant Energy. While we have been included in collaborative projects previously, there is an opportunity to better incorporate feedback and reflect it in decision-making processes. We are ready to get around the table to talk about what’s next,” said Josh Mandelbaum with the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

While the environmental groups are applauding the proposed settlement, the agreement was not comprehensive. Some issues remain unresolved. This week’s hearing at the Iowa Utilities Board will be an opportunity for parties to cross-examine witnesses and for the Board to gather further information. The proposed settlement agreement will not go into effect unless the IUB approves it in its final order in the rate case, which will come before the end of the year.

The hearing is open to the public and the media and is taking place in the Varied Industries Building at 3000 E Grand Ave in Des Moines starting at 8:00 am daily.

View the case docket at https://efs.iowa.gov/efs/ShowDocketSummary.do?docketNumber=RPU-2019-0001

View the logistics for the hearing at https://efs.iowa.gov/cs/groups/external/documents/docket/mdax/odgz/~edisp/1883271.pdf

IL Supreme Court Declines to Hear ComEd Appeal, Allowing Solar Programs to Expand to 570,000 Illinois Rural Co-Op and Municipal Electric Utility Customers

Contact: Paul Dailing, Pdailing@elpc.org, (312) 795-3701

Illinois Supreme Court Declines to Hear ComEd Appeal, Allowing Solar Programs to Expand to 570,000 Illinois Rural Co-Op and Municipal Electric Utility Customers

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

The Illinois Supreme Court denied Commonwealth Edison’s petition for leave to appeal the Appellate Court’s May 2019 decision, thereby ending the utility’s legal challenge to the expansion of solar programs throughout Illinois. ELPC Executive Director Howard Learner said:

“This was the last legal impediment to expanding new solar programs to 570,000 residential and business customers in areas served by municipal utilities and rural electric cooperatives,” Learner said. “Now all Illinoisans can gain the environmental and economic benefits of distributed solar generation, and low-income and community solar programs.”

ELPC attorneys represented a clean energy coalition that included the Natural Resources Defense Council and several Illinois solar companies in the litigation to defend the Illinois Power Agency’s and Illinois Commerce Commission’s approval of these new Illinois solar programs.

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Proposed Consent Decree Edwards Coal Plant Would Help Community, Environment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Paul Dailing, pdailing@elpc.org, 312-795-3701

Proposed Consent Decree Edwards Coal Plant Would Help Community, Environment

Environmental Law & Policy Center attorneys represented the plaintiffs in case resulting in record award in an opacity citizen suit

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

In response to the announcement Monday of a proposed consent decree that, subject to regulatory approval, will result in the retirement of the Edwards plant and the payment of $8.6 million to fund community projects in the Peoria area. Attorneys from the Environmental Law & Policy Center served as outside counsel for plaintiffs the Sierra Club and Respiratory Health Association (RHA) in a Clean Air Act lawsuit brought, along with Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), against Illinois Power Resources Generating, LLC (IPRG), an affiliate of Luminant, in 2013.

In response, ELPC Executive Director Howard A. Learner said:

“This consent decree, if approved, will result in cleaner air and better public health for people in Peoria and the surrounding region as the highly polluting Edwards coal plant is retired in 2022. Moreover, the consent decree provides for $8.6 million of projects to benefit the region,” Learner said. “ELPC is proud of our legal work in this case to enforce the environmental laws and protect healthy communities.”

In response, Brian Urbaszewski, RHA’s Director of Environmental Health Programs, said:

“We are glad we were able to craft a resolution to this legal case that provides certainty on future emissions from the Edwards plant and will also direct funding to benefit Peoria-area residents,” Urbaszewski said. “The steadfast legal work by ELPC and the other plaintiffs’ counsel helped ensure funds provided by the consent decree will be directed to public health improvements, directly benefitting sick and vulnerable area residents.”

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Community and Environmental Organizations Push Michigan Public Service Commission to Reject DTE’s Long-Term Energy Plan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

LANSING, MI – Environmental and community organizations today are calling for Michigan’s Public Service Commission to reject the proposed long-term energy plan from DTE following testimony from experts revealing how DTE’s plan will hold back a transition to cleaner, more affordable energy. Experts ranging from energy economists, renewable experts, and health professionals submitted testimony detailing significant flaws in DTE’s proposal.

Advocates argue that the plan would unnecessarily increase costs, rely too heavily on fossil fuels that should be retired much earlier, increase racial and economic inequity, and not invest enough in the clean energy resources that customers are increasingly demanding. Environmental and community organizations also call for a more transparent, fair, and inclusive planning process that would hold the state’s utilities accountable to Michigan customers.

The full case filing including testimony can be found here: https://sforce.co/2KMZROU.

The following are reactions from environmental, conservation and community organizations on DTE Energy’s proposed Integrated Resource Plan: 

“DTE has an opportunity to embrace a clean energy future for Michigan, but by submitting a plan that fails to seriously look at solar and wind power, battery storage, energy efficiency and demand response, it did not give itself that chance,” said Margrethe Kearney, a senior attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “This plan holds onto the old way of doing business, outdated strategies that don’t give DTE the flexibility to integrate clean, cost-effective renewables that benefit both Michigan’s economy and the environment.”

“We need a plan that puts people first, with health, affordability and community power at the forefront,” said Jackson Koeppel, Executive Director of Soulardarity. “DTE’s proposal is a transparent attempt to push the cost of their bad investments and abysmally poor management onto the low-income communities and communities of color they have been dumping pollution and rate hikes on for their entire career. DTE is intentionally ignoring community solar and other local solutions because they care more about how much money their investors will make next quarter than the lives of the millions of people they claim to serve.”

“DTE’s plan is supposed to be a vision for powering homes and businesses across the state. Instead, it’s left Michigan’s environmental justice communities feeling stripped of power,” said Michelle Martinez, statewide coordinator for the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition. “If we want real climate justice, the process must change, must be inclusive, and must hold DTE accountable.”

“DTE’s IRP treats both carbon emissions and cost impacts on ratepayers as an afterthought, instead of a priority that needs to be addressed,” said Alexis Blizman, Policy Director at the Ecology Center. “DTE must expand energy efficiency, as well as include greater investments in clean, renewable energy, like wind and solar, to protect ratepayers against both the harmful impacts of continuing the use of fossil fuels, as well as the price volatility of natural gas. The Commission should reject DTE’s proposed IRP and send them back to create a plan that protects both people and planet.”

“DTE’s IRP is consistent with a century-old monopoly stuck in traditional solutions,” said John Richter, Policy Analyst at Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association. “DTE has proposed utility-owned wind parks in just enough quantity to meet their legal obligations and the demands of their largest customers for green energy. While the GLREA welcomes the proposed renewable energy facilities, the assumptions formed in the overall plan are faulty and mired in the past. This plan needs substantial revision.”

“DTE’s current proposal to keep coal online for the next 20 years will have vast and far-reaching implications on the health, safety, and well-being of families across Michigan,” said Kindra Weid, RN and Coalition Coordinator of MI Air MI Health.

“Integrated resource plans are incredibly important for mapping out our energy future. It’s critical that the plans the MPSC ultimately approves are based on sound analysis,” said Charlotte Jameson, energy policy and legislative affairs director of Michigan Environmental Council. “DTE submitted a plan riddled with flaws that bias the outcome away from clean, renewable energy. These errors are clear to see, especially when you compare their plan with the one Consumers Energy submitted. As intervenors charged with protecting Michigan’s environment and residential ratepayers, we will continue to weigh in on each step of this IRP process to make sure we get the best outcome for Michigan’s residents.”

“DTE’s long-range plan fails to rein in exploding electricity costs that are burdening families and businesses,” said Lisa Wozniak, executive director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “Michiganders are seeing the negative effects of climate change every day — from flooded basements and farm fields to spreading algae in the Great Lakes and scorching droughts. It is time for DTE to move aggressively toward clean, renewable energy instead of delaying investments in solar and wind power and opening new, expensive gas plants.”

“DTE’s plan yet again shortchanges their customers’ clean energy future in favor of more expensive fossil fuels,” said Ariana Gonzalez, senior energy policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “They clearly ignored the massive tide of criticism from their last proposal that led to a billion-dollar gas plant. This is why we must set a precedent in this case to ensure clean, safe and affordable energy for all.”

“DTE’s peaker fleet, which is primarily used to meet heavy loads on hot summer afternoons, contain some of the oldest units of their type still in operation,” said Sean Gallagher, Vice President of State Affairs at the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “DTE failed to provide any analysis on its peaker fleet and simply proposes to run its aging fossil fuel units for another 20 years.  By contrast, we analyzed how these failing units could be successfully and reliably replaced with clean, reliable solar + storage assets. The Michigan Public Service Commission should require DTE to analyze a move to cleaner peaking resources to reduce costs, lower emissions and expand solar deployment.”

“Instead of protecting clean water, clean air, and our communities, DTE chooses to invest in their pocketbooks by doubling down on expensive, polluting fossil fuels,” said Theresa Landrum, Detroit resident and activist with Sierra Club. “We call on the Michigan Public Service Commission to reject DTE’s polluting energy plan.  Alternatively, we ask the MPSC to require them to design a plan that protects Michiganders and those living in the most heavily impacted communities by investing in cheaper and cleaner renewable energy sources, efficiency programs, and storage technology.”

“DTE’s plan to keep relying on coal plants for the next two decades fails to account for the health, climate, and financial impacts of burning coal,” said Shannon Fisk, Managing Attorney of Earthjustice’s Coal Program. “DTE overestimated the costs of replacing coal plants with renewables, storage, and efficiency because the company relied on flawed and outdated assumptions, instead of actual market data. Michiganders would benefit most, in terms of cost and health, from aggressive replacement of coal plants with cost-effective and reliable clean energy.

“DTE’s plan favors its own expensive power plants over a truly robust process to ensure cleaner and more affordable energy for Michigan customers. I’ve seen utility commissions reject resource plans for far less egregious missteps,” said Joe Daniel, senior energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “DTE overestimated the cost of renewables, underestimated the benefits of efficiency, all the while ignoring risks associated with the way it operates its existing fleet of coal-fired power plants. The Michigan Public Service Commission should send this plan back to the company and insist that DTE take seriously its obligation to fairly evaluate all resource options, especially earlier investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency.”

“Solar and other clean energy options have quickly become some of America’s lowest cost resources, and every Michigander should be able to benefit from these affordable, healthy, homegrown options. Instead, DTE is trying to double down on polluting gas and get away with offering only a very small utility-controlled green power program that will cost customers a premium when it should be delivering savings,” said Will Kenworthy, Midwest Regulatory Director with Vote Solar. “This expensive plan will put solar out of reach for many low-income families, seniors on fixed incomes, environmental justice communities and others who shouldn’t be shut out from the clean economy, which is why we’re joining together with allies today to urge a stronger, healthier and more resilient path forward for DTE.”

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Wisconsin PSC Will Approve Unnecessary High-Voltage Transmission Line that Will Permanently Damage the Driftless Area

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:

David Clutter, Dave@driftlessconservancy.org, 609-692-2153

Chuck Tenneson, Charles@driftlessconservancy.org, 608-930-3252

George Meyer, georgemeyer@tds.net, (608) 516-5545

Wisconsin PSC Says Will Approve Huge Unnecessary High-Voltage Transmission Line that Will Permanently Damage the Driftless Area

There Are Better Clean Energy Solutions and Alternatives for Wisconsin

Dodgeville, WI – Today, the Wisconsin Public Service Commissioners met and voted to approve moving forward to issue a written decision approving the proposed costly Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line that would cut a wide swath through Wisconsin’s scenic Driftless Area natural resources and communities.

David Clutter, Executive Director of the Driftless Area Land Conservancy, said: 

“The Driftless Area Land Conservancy is very disappointed in today’s decision by the PSC Commissioners to approve this unneeded 120-mile transmission line with 17-story towers that would create irreparable and permanent damage to the scenic Driftless Area. The Commission’s own staff testified that this transmission line is not the most economical option in most modeling scenarios. It’s not needed for energy demand nor reliability to keep the lights on. We expect that this decision will be challenged before federal and other state agencies, and in the courts if necessary.

Dane County, Iowa County, and many municipalities and school districts throughout Southwest Wisconsin opposed this unneeded transmission line. Furthermore, all of the state legislators of both parties and two members of Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation expressed serious concerns regarding the construction and maintenance of this transmission line.

Numerous Wisconsin environmental, agricultural, grassroots citizen and consumer protection groups opposed this transmission line. Thousands of Wisconsin residents submitted written comments and testified at public hearings in opposition to this destructive proposed project.

The direction the Commissioners’ seem to be taking is contrary to Wisconsin state law. Their decision is not supported by expert witness testimony, the PSC’s own staff testimony or thousands of members of the public.

Wisconsin needs to transition to renewable energy and we can do so without damaging the natural areas and special places of our Driftless Area. There are better clean energy solutions and alternatives for Wisconsin. The PSC’s decision will result in higher utility rates in Wisconsin and across the Midwest, and will allow ATC and ITC to condemn private land through eminent domain.

The Driftless Area Land Conservancy hopes that the Commissioners will reconsider their apparent decision before entering a final order in this case. Upon reviewing the final order, the decision will be appealed if the Commission’s decision stands.

 

George Meyer, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, said: 

“The Wisconsin Wildlife Federation is extremely disappointed with the Public Service Commissioners’ decision to issue a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the Cardinal-Hickory Creek high-voltage transmission line.

The Driftless Area is a truly unique landscape and home to a large number of valuable and heavily used Federal, State and local recreational areas. There has been a substantial amount of public and private investment in the natural resources and the recreational facilities of the Driftless Area including hundreds of small businesses that derive their income based on the resulting tourism economy.

The construction and maintenance of the proposed line and very high towers will have significant and undue adverse impacts on environmental values, including land and water resources. The Wisconsin Wildlife Federation will continue to challenge this destructive transmission line before federal and other state agencies, and in the courts if necessary.”

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ELPC Joins Coalition Suing to Overturn Trump Administration’s Misguided Affordable Clean Energy Rule

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Paul Dailing, (312) 795-3701, pdailing@elpc.org

Environmental Law & Policy Center Joins Coalition Suing to Overturn Trump Administration’s Misguided Affordable Clean Energy Rule

Trump plan doesn’t address climate change by reducing carbon pollution from coal plants

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

The Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) today joined a coalition of public interest environmental groups asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to overturn the Trump Administration’s Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, which replaces the Obama-era Clean Power Plan with a plan that fails to comply with the Clean Air Act and urgent need to reduce carbon pollution from coal plants. ELPC Executive Director Howard A. Learner said:

“The Trump Administration’s ACE Rule is misguided policy, moves our nation backward in solving climate change problems, and misses opportunities for economic growth and innovation in the global shift to renewable energy,” Learner said. “The Environmental Law & Policy Center is joining in challenging the ACE rule because it’s on the wrong side of history and we owe it to future generations to keep our country on track to a cleaner, smarter future.”

The groups filed a petition requesting the appeals court to review and overturn the Trump Administration’s EPA ACE rule. The groups include ELPC, Appalachian Mountain Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Clean Air Council, Clean Wisconsin, Conservation Law Foundation, Environmental Defense Fund, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club.

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ELPC Condemns Ohio HB6 passage out of Senate Energy & Public Utilities Committee

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

Environmental Law & Policy Center Condemns House Bill 6 Passage 
“House Bill 6 will Cause Higher Bills and Higher Pollution for Ohio”

STATEMENT BY ROB KELTER
SENIOR ATTORNEY, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

“House Bill 6 represents a giant leap backwards for Ohioans, moving the state away from a potential clean energy future and staying stuck in its dirty energy past. This Bill bails out the economically uncompetitive First Energy Solutions nuclear plants and OVEC coal plants, pares back renewable energy legislation, and eliminates energy efficiency after 2020.

Worst of all, this legislation claims to save customers money by reducing the energy efficiency charge on customers’ bills to pay for the power plant bailouts. The reality is that when you reduce efficiency costs you increase the amount of money that customers have to pay for generation by far more than what you save. Energy efficiency is not an additional charge on top of generation, it replaces generation. Hence, customers will now pay to bail out nuclear plants, pay to bail out coal plants, and their monthly bills will increase even more because the utilities will replace low-cost efficiency with higher-cost generation.  House Bill 6 will now mean higher bills and higher pollution – a lose-lose proposition for Ohio consumers.”

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Rejecting President Trump’s Claims of Protecting the Environment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Judith Nemes, 312-795-3706, jnemes@elpc.org

Environmental Law & Policy Center Rejects President Trump’s Claims of Protecting the Environment    

“The Trump administration’s anti-environmental policies are moving the Midwest backwards not forwards”

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

ELPC Executive Director Howard Learner said in response to President Trump’s remarks today attempting to defend his environmental record at a White House gathering:

“President Trump’s damaging attacks on clean water stand in stark contrast to any claims of protecting the Great Lakes. The visible toxic algae blooms and green slime plaguing Lake Erie and other waterways in recent years are visual evidence that the Trump administration’s anti-environmental policies are moving the Midwest backwards not forwards. His administration tried to eliminate or slash the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative three times from the federal budget, but it was reinstated after bipartisan pushback from Great Lakes leaders in Congress.”

“The Midwest is experiencing the impacts of climate change now. The Trump administration’s rollbacks of protections necessary to address the climate crisis threaten Midwesterners and the Great Lakes which millions depend on for safe drinking water, recreation and tourism, and economic opportunities. President Trump’s desperate effort to tell a story about his environmental record at a White House gathering does not erase his ongoing war on the Great Lakes.”

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IL Pollution Control Board Advances Controversial Coal Pollution Rule for Vistra Energy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Pollution Control Board Advances Controversial Coal Pollution Rule for Vistra Energy

Environmental and Community groups’ welcome Pritzker improvements to Rauner pollution rule but call for stronger pollution reduction plans from Administration

CHICAGO – Today, the Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB) approved a rulemaking initiated in 2017 under the Rauner Administration that allows Vistra Energy, the Texas-based owner of Illinois largest coal plant fleet, greater flexibility to operate its plants with less stringent, state pollution standards. Since proposed, the revisions to one of Illinois’ signature air pollution standards, known as the Multi-Pollutant Standard (MPS), generated significant public opposition across the state and drew greater speculation on the close ties Rauner’s IEPA Director had with polluting industries though important improvements were made to the original proposal by both the IPCB and new IEPA leadership under the Pritzker Administration, environmental and community groups continue to seek stronger standards.

The new emissions caps change the existing standards based on emissions rates to a total tonnage standard which environmental and community advocates argue is less protective and will allow Vistra to shutter plants with pollution controls while continuing to operate its dirtiest plants without installing modern pollution controls. Those advocates contend that this could result in some communities seeing greater pollution from the plants that remain open and continue to operate without modern pollution controls. Notable improvements in the final approved proposal include lower emissions caps than originally proposed by Rauner’s IEPA, cap reductions if Vistra seeks to shutter or sell power plants, and a requirement to retire 2,000 MWs of its Illinois coal generation by the end of 2019.

The approval comes on the heels of yesterday’s federal rollback of the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan. The alternative plan, dubbed the “Dirty Power Plan” by advocates, is little more than a giveaway to the coal industry. With rollbacks at the federal level, state action becomes all the more important and advocates urge the Pritzker administration to take stronger action.

 In response to the IPCB’s decision, the Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Illinois Environmental Council, Illinois Peoples’ Action, Metro East Green Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, Illinois Sierra Club, Respiratory Health Association, Prairie Rivers Network, and Union of Concerned Scientists issued the following joint statement:

“We’re pleased to see that important improvements to this rulemaking were won today by the thousands of Illinois residents who spoke out in opposition to this ill-conceived rule from the Rauner Administration and Vistra Energy. However, as President Trump continues to rollback federal environmental protections, Illinois should be leading with far more aggressive pollution standards on power plants instead of granting greater flexibility to a Texas fossil fuel corporation.

“We welcome Vistra Energy’s commitment to retire some of its Illinois plants–that it has said for years were likely to retire–but the new standards still allow Vistra to close plants with modern pollution controls and continue running its dirtiest plants without any modern upgrades which will leave frontline communities in Illinois at risk.

“As these out-of-state coal corporations continue to demand coal bailouts from state regulators and legislators, it’s critical that the Pritzker Administration and Illinois officials step up with stronger leadership to deliver more aggressive pollution reductions from aging power plants and plans to invest in Illinois coal workers and communities that will inevitably be left behind by these out-of-state corporations.”

 

 

 

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IL Pollution Control Board Finds NRG Energy’s Subsidiary Responsible for Polluting Groundwater with Toxic Coal Ash

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Illinois Pollution Control Board Finds NRG Energy’s Subsidiary Responsible for Violating Illinois Groundwater Standards with Toxic Coal Ash Contaminants

Environmental groups’ lawsuit hailed as a historic victory for clean water in four communities; puts state coal plant operators on notice

CHICAGO – Today the Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB) agreed with environmental groups in their lawsuit against Midwest Generation, LLC, a subsidiary of NRG Energy, alleging that four of its coal power plants contaminated groundwater with harmful chemicals found in coal ash. The pollution at those four coal power plants, located in Waukegan, Joliet, Pekin, and Will County, put the densely populated communities around the plants at risk. This is a major victory in a case started in 2012 by the environmental groups (Sierra Club, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Prairie Rivers Network, and Citizens Against Ruining the Environment).

The IPCB agreed with the groups’ claim that the contaminants from coal ash at the power plants, including arsenic, boron, sulfate, and other chemicals, routinely exceeded water quality standards and, thus, violated the Illinois Environmental Protection Act. The groups alleged that NRG Energy’s subsidiary Midwest Generation, which has owned or operated the four power plants since 1999, knew about coal ash contaminants both in and outside coal ash ponds and failed to prevent groundwater contamination.

The next step in this case will be a determination of remedy. The environmental groups will fight for the most stringent remedy possible, including a demand for removal of coal ash dumps at the coal power plants.

“Today is a huge victory for Waukegan residents who have fought for years to see corporations like NRG Energy held accountable for the toxic waste that has been illegally dumped on our Lake Michigan lakefront,” said Dulce Ortiz, Waukegan resident and Co-Chair of Clean Power Lake County. “The Pollution Control Board’s decision is a sharp rebuttal to NRG and Midwest Generation’s claims that they weren’t responsible for groundwater contamination from its dangerous coal ash waste. It’s critical that NRG is required to remove its toxic ash from our lakefront.”

“Today’s decision is a historic win for Citizens’ Against Ruining the Environment and Will County residents who have carried the burden of living next to NRG’s aging power plants and toxic coal ash waste for decades,” said Ellen Rendulich, Romeoville resident and Director of Citizens Against Ruining the Environment. “Our communities deserve to have this out-of-state corporation’s waste removed from these sites and NRG must be responsible for this clean up.”

“There is a moral obligation to ensure that polluters are held accountable for the impact they have on the groundwater of Illinois communities,” said Faith Bugel, Attorney for Sierra Club. “ The Board’s decision calls NRG out, and we urge the Board to impose a remedy that holds out-of-state companies accountable for cleaning up the pollution they dump in Illinois.”

“The Board’s decision affirms the broad scope of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act’s prohibition on water pollution and puts owners or operators of sites with coal ash on notice of their obligation to not pollute groundwater,” said Jeffrey Hammons, Attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “Companies that run afoul of Illinois’ groundwater quality standards due to their improper handling of coal ash do so at their own peril.”

“The owners of these plants tried to deny that the groundwater was contaminated, and they even tried to deny that they knew anything about all of the coal ash buried across their properties,” said Abel Russ, Senior Attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project, which represented Prairie Rivers Network before the Board. “The reality is that coal ash on their property continues to contaminate groundwater. We are pleased and grateful that the Board could see through the smokescreen, and that they chose to stand up for Illinois’ natural resources.”

“Today’s decision is an important step in holding polluters accountable for their coal ash messes,” said Andrew Rehn, Water Resources Engineer at Prairie Rivers Network. “NRG’s coal ash ponds at Waukegan, Joliet, Pekin, and Will County have been polluting our groundwater for years. We hope that the Illinois Pollution Control Board makes NRG remove the coal ash dumps on their property and store it in safe facilities.”

 

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