CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

2018 Year End Report

ELPC has been protecting the Midwest’s environment and natural heritage for 25 years. In 2018, we expanded our team of skilled public interest attorneys, policy advocates and communications specialists. We remain focused on the strategic legal, policy and advocacy work that has made ELPC so effective. This work has never been more important and we look forward to more successes in 2019.

To learn more about our 25 years of successful environmental advocacy, download our 2018 End of Year report or view below.

Michigan approves first electric vehicle charging infrastructure program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Nick Dodge, Byrum & Fisk Communications, (517) 333-1606

Judith Nemes, Environmental Law & Policy Center, (312)-795-3706

Michigan approves first electric vehicle charging infrastructure program

Michigan Public Service Commission approves PowerMiDrive initiative to advance charging infrastructure in Michigan

LANSING – Michigan’s first electric vehicle charging infrastructure program, Consumers Energy’s PowerMiDrive initiative, was approved today by the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC). Charge Up Midwest, a coalition of organizations working to advance electric vehicles throughout the Midwest, worked closely with Consumers Energy and the MPSC as the pilot program was developed, and contributed to the proposed settlement agreement that preceded the MPSC’s order.

“We applaud the Public Service Commission and Consumers Energy for taking this important first step to advance electric vehicles in Michigan and keep our state on the cutting-edge of the rapidly changing mobility sector,” said Charles Griffith, climate and energy program director at the Ecology Center. “This program is the first of its kind in Michigan and will promote buildout of charging infrastructure, which is one of the key challenges facing electric vehicle advancement in Michigan.”

The PowerMiDrive pilot program has been in development for more than two years. Today’s decision at the MPSC is the culmination of a stakeholder workgroup process facilitated by the MPSC. The decision approves the initiation of a $10 million, three-year pilot program to support installations of EV charging infrastructure at homes and residences, multi-unit dwellings, workplaces, and other public locations, as well as fast-chargers along highway corridors. The program will utilize rebates and consumer education to encourage program participation, and encourage “off-peak” charging through the incorporation of time-of-use rates.  Today’s decision allocates an additional $2.5 million for the program from what was originally proposed by Consumers Energy.

“We want to make sure that the benefits of electric vehicles are available to everyone, including folks in apartment buildings or anyone that doesn’t own their own garage,” said Mark Nabong, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Consumers’ new program can help more people access electric cars as a clean, cheaper alternative to gasoline cars.”

Consumers Energy is not the only utility company with proposals to expand electric vehicle charging. DTE Energy currently has a $13 million pilot program for consideration before the MPSC. Michigan’s two major utility companies are taking significant steps to promote EV charging infrastructure in the state, and if DTE Energy’s proposal is approved, Michigan will have the most forward-looking electric vehicle charging program in the Midwest.

“Today’s decision puts Michigan on the road to cleaner air and a smarter grid by improving drivers’ access to our cleanest and cheapest fuel—electricity,” said Joe Halso, associate attorney with the Sierra Club.  “We look forward to more work with the Commission, Consumers Energy and stakeholders to implement PowerMIDrive and position Michigan as a leader when it comes to planning for an electric vehicle future.”

“The MPSC’s decision is a major win for Michigan utility customers who will benefit with lower rates because more charging will occur at night,” said Robert Kelter, senior attorney at the Midwest-based Environmental Law & Policy Center.

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Charge Up Midwest is a partnership of environmental and clean energy organizations actively working to increase electric vehicle deployment throughout the region in Illinois, Missouri, Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio. Visit www.ecocenter.org/charge-midwest to learn more.

 

Chicago Tribune Editorial: Should the Illinois Tollway keep spending this $25 million?

Should the Illinois Tollway keep spending this $25 million? 

By Editorial Board

Northern Illinois has its share of public works projects that have languished in the “planning stages” for years without ever seeing an inaugural bucket of concrete poured. Millions spent, nothing delivered. A third airport in Peotone comes to mind. So do the Iliana toll road and, for those with long memories, the Crosstown Expressway proposal of the 1960s and ’70s.

You probably can put the Route 53 extension on the same dusty shelf. Proposals for an expressway that would extend Route 53 into Lake County stretch back to the 1960s.

But now the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, the arbiter over which transportation projects get whatever federal funding is available for the region, has taken the Route 53 extension off of its priority list. When you say “no federal funding,” you’ve said a lot.

Unbowed, the Illinois Tollway is forging ahead with a $25 million environmental study launched last year to help officials determine if the proposed toll road is needed to handle growth in Lake, northern Cook and eastern McHenry counties. The 25-mile extension would link up Arlington Heights in Cook County to Grayslake in Lake County, and widen a stretch of Route 120.

So while the already dim prospects for the project have grown ever dimmer, the Illinois Tollway is still spending the $25 million. Why?

Tollway officials say they hope this study will help bring finality to a half-century debate: Should this project be built or not? The officials say the study is examining a wide geographic area and not just the Route 53 corridor. Conceivably, the Route 53 extension or some other notion — improved arterial roads? — could emerge as a potential solution for the area’s traffic snarls. CMAP then could return the Route 53 extension or a replacement project to its priority list.

The question is whether those two “coulds” justify continuing to spend the $25 million. The Tollway by itself arguably can provide all the finality it wants: If CMAP is downgrading this idea, we’re finished spending money on it.

The Tribune’s Mary Wisniewski quotes former Tollway Director Bill Morris, of Grayslake, as calling the agency “irresponsible” for spending millions of dollars on yet another environmental study. Last year the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer advocacy organization, listed the Route 53 project, which if ever built would carry a price tag of $2.65 billion, on its roster of the nation’s most wasteful highway boondoggles.

Still, the proposed extension has always had influential friends. They include the Illinois Economic Policy Institute, a think tank whose board members represent the construction industry and labor unions — entities that stand to profit if the extension ever gets built. Proponents of the extension argue it would bring jobs and commerce to Lake County.

But for now the proposal to extend Route 53 is going nowhere.

Here’s free-of-charge advice for the directors of the Tollway:

Your chairman, Bob Schillerstrom, says the environmental study is in its early stage. Yes, your staff sincerely thinks spending this $25 million could — emphasis ours — eventually lead to some project that CMAP would rule eligible for federal funding. But to those of us who pay the tolls, that sounds like a $25 million hope that the study will justify spending gazillions on new concrete.

With all of that, why not give the Route 53 extension — or any new derivative of it — a well-deserved rest? Why not declare any such project comatose for now? Why not revive it if and when the localities involved agree on whatever road improvements they desire?

And why not admit that continuing to spend the $25 million doesn’t bring finality to this long debate. It only perpetuates it.

Iowa DOT announces more than $3 million in available funding for electric school buses

November 26, 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Kerri Johannsen, 515-244-0123 ext. 208

Peter Gray, 312-629-9400

Iowa DOT announces more than $3 million in available funding for electric school buses

Iowa school districts can apply now for VW settlement funding to purchase electric school buses

DES MOINES, IA — Iowa school children may soon breathe easier thanks to $3.15 million in funding for cleaner school, shuttle, and transit buses recently announced by the Iowa Department of Transportation. School districts that apply by Jan. 18 will be eligible to receive funding.

Iowa DOT is accepting grant applications for the first round of funding created by the Volkswagen Diesel scandal lawsuits. Iowa will receive a total of approximately $21 million to replace dirty diesel vehicles and equipment as a result of the settlements.

While multiple bus technologies are eligible for funding, the Environmental Law & Policy Center and the Iowa Environmental Council advocated for the funds to be used for electric school buses because they will create long-term savings for taxpayers while protecting children’s health and reducing air pollution. The operating cost of electric school buses is roughly half that of diesel buses due to lower fuel and maintenance costs. Investing VW settlement funds in electric buses will advance this emerging vehicle technology and help Iowa jump-start the transition to a cleaner transportation system.

Pollution from school buses has been shown to negatively affect children’s health and is a major source of school children’s exposure to black carbon. Diesel exhaust exacerbates asthma, the most common chronic health condition among U.S. children.

“Electric school buses make sense for our children’s health and our school districts’ budgets,” said Steve Falck, senior policy advocate for the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “The Department of Transportation is making a smart move by helping put electric school buses on the road in Iowa.”

“School districts want the savings and clean air benefits that electric school buses create,” said Kerri Johannsen, energy program director with the Iowa Environmental Council. “This first round of funding will kick-start a new technology that creates long-term savings for Iowa communities.”

Multiple states are piloting programs that use electric school buses as a source of flexible energy storage to improve electric grid stability. Across the Midwest, more than $20 million in funding for electric school buses has been announced — Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio have all dedicated funds from the VW settlement to invest in electric school buses. Information on the Iowa funding opportunity is available at the program website, https://www.iowadot.gov/vwsettlement.

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The Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) is the Midwest’s leading public interest environmental legal advocacy organization. We develop and lead successful strategic environmental advocacy campaigns to protect our natural resources and improve environmental quality. Our multi-disciplinary staff employs a teamwork approach using legal, economic analysis, public policy advocacy and research, and communications tools to produce successes that improve both our environment and our economy. Learn more at ELPC.org.

The Iowa Environmental Council (IEC) is an alliance of diverse organizations and individuals working together to protect Iowa’s natural environment. Founded in 1995, it is the largest and most comprehensive environmental coalition in the state. Through education, advocacy and coalition building, the Council raises awareness, generates action and creates large-scale change that makes Iowa a better place to live, work and explore. Learn more at iaenvironment.org.

Sierra: Volkswagen’s Cheating Scandal Could Have a Silver Lining

August 29, 2018

Volkswagen’s Cheating Scandal Could Have a Silver Lining 
By Edward Humes

 

To the delight of environmental organizations and child health advocates, school bus replacement has emerged as an early favorite in a number of state plans. Tamara Dzubay, a clean energy specialist at the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago, has been working with school districts in the Midwest for the past two years, encouraging them to apply for the VW funds. Dzubay says she and her colleagues looked for diesel-replacement projects that delivered the most in terms of pollution reduction, public health effects, cost-effectiveness over the life cycle of a vehicle, benefits to a vulnerable population (the VW-funded projects are supposed to have a social and environmental justice component, favoring populations that have historically suffered most from emissions), and market-transformation potential. She says that nothing hits all those criteria better than the electrification of the nation’s 480,000 mostly diesel-powered school buses.

“Electrifying school buses really stood out as the best opportunity,” she says. “It’s the largest fleet, more than two times that of transit buses and rail combined—it’s actually the largest category of mass transportation. And it’s also transporting the most vulnerable population. Kids are most susceptible to the negative health impacts of diesel pollution because their lungs are still developing. Those that ride school buses are exposed every single day.”

The market for electric school buses has lots of room to grow. Nationwide, there are now only 160 electric buses, at a cost per vehicle of $230,000 (including charging system) versus $109,000 for diesel buses. Dzubay says the electric school bus market is where electric transit buses were seven years ago. Increased sales have driven transit-bus prices down by 40 percent, so their lifetime costs are now several hundred thousand dollars lower than those of their diesel counterparts. Significant investments of VW money in electric school buses should drive their prices down in the same way, Dzubay says. And even at current prices, electric buses become cheaper than diesel 12 years into their 16-year life spans.

Clean buses could be even cheaper if the states coordinated their purchases, but spending has been fractured. Illinois plans to dedicate $10 million of its $109 million share to electric school buses; Missouri is setting aside $12 million out of $41 million for cleaner buses, with no fuel type specified. Oklahoma will spend 20 percent of its $21 million on nondiesel buses. California, which gets the largest payout from the mitigation trust—$423 million—is devoting $130 million to zero-emission buses of all types, with school buses receiving up to half that amount, according to the state’s draft plan.

READ FULL ARTICLE

Daily Herald: In Transit: App for Route 53 Extension Feedback Takes Flak

September 3, 2018

In Transit: App for Route 53 Extension Feedback Takes Flak 
By Marni Pyke

If the Founding Fathers had used Poll Everywhere at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia — would the final result be a better Constitution?

It might have depended on how fast they could type.

Illinois tollway consultants are using Poll Everywhere, a web-based audience participation system, at meetings with a group of local officials and others advising the agency on whether to extend Route 53 into Lake County.

The question has roiled Lake County for years, dividing residents over weighty problems like right of way, traffic, pollution and cost.

At a meeting Thursday, those divisions extended to use of the smartphone app to conduct the meeting, with some opponents of the new highway saying the technology is silencing their voices.

“I am extremely frustrated with how the tollway has engaged the stakeholders overall,” said Mayor Joseph Mancino of Hawthorn Woods, which could be bisected by a Route 53 extension. “Not only is the application unstable at best, it severely limits our input and quite frankly is a bit insulting to the stakeholders who are forced to use it.”

The tollway “wants to be able to parse through and say, ‘this is what people said,’ but that’s not what you do at a meeting where you want to have stakeholder participation,” stakeholder and Environmental Law and Policy Center chief Howard Learner said.

 

READ FULL ARTICLE

Trump Administration Reboot of Fuel Economy & Pollution Standards is Misguided Step Backwards While Global Competitors Keep Moving Forward

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Trump Administration Reboot of Fuel Economy and Pollution Standards is a Misguided Step Backwards While Global Competitors Keep Moving Forward

U.S. EPA Acting Administrator Wheeler continuing Pruitt agenda that will cost people more at the gas pump, increase pollution & reduce America’s technological innovation leadership

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

In response to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to rewrite the Clean Car Standards, which proposes to freeze fuel economy and emissions standards at 2020 levels through 2026, ELPC Executive Director Howard Learner said:

“The Trump Administration’s misguided decision to weaken clean car standards threatens to put U.S. automakers behind in the global competition for cleaner, fuel efficient cars and will hit consumers hard in the wallet when they fuel up,” Learner said. “The standards U.S. EPA and DOT issued in 2012 are driving technological innovation, ensuring that America’s cars use less foreign oil and emit less carbon and other toxic air pollution.

“The existing standards would have saved families up to $122 billion at the pump, saved more than 12 billion barrels of oil and kept 6 billion metric tons of dangerous carbon pollution out of the atmosphere. If left in place, these standards would have continued to drive innovation and job growth across the Midwest and beyond. Trump’s EPA and DOT weakened standards would needlessly put a cleaner environment and our children’s future in the backseat.

“Unfortunately, Acting EPA Administrator Wheeler is following in the faulty footsteps of Scott Pruitt instead of resuming the EPA’s statutory mission to protect public health and the environment. The Trump Administration is turning back the clock on the current clean car standards that drive technological innovation and spur manufacturing jobs of the future for the Midwest auto sector.”

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Energy News Network: Q&A: Midwest Partnership Pushing to Expand EV Infrastructure in Region

July 9, 2018

Q&A: Midwest Partnership Pushing to Expand EV Infrastructure in Region

By Kevin Stark

Charge Up Midwest is a coalition of seven of the Midwest’s largest environmental groups banded together to advocate for electric vehicle deployment across the Midwest.

Rob Kelter, a senior attorney at the Environmental Law and Policy Center, says the partnership — a pooling of legal and advocacy resources — creates an opportunity for a greater impact.

Charge Up is pressing utilities to expand charging infrastructure and advocating for money from the $2.8 billion Volkswagen emissions cheating settlement to be spent on electric school buses and public transit, which can play a key role in kickstarting electric vehicle deployment.“In both commission forums and state legislatures, the environmental community is undermanned,” Kelter said. “We don’t have the resources that we need to always effectively advocate for our policies. And in this situation, with Charge Up Midwest, we are all working together.”

The group includes the Environmental Law and Policy Center, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Clean Fuels Ohio, Great Plains Institute, the Ecology Center, and Fresh Energy. (The Energy News Network is an editorially independent publication of Fresh Energy.)

Kelter sat for an interview to discuss the initiative, outline Charge Up’s vision for electric vehicles in the region, and discuss what that could mean for the smart grid. The interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Q: The hope with electric vehicles is that they can help balance the grid and be a benefit for everyone. The fear is that utilities won’t be ready for that influx of electric vehicles when they really come on. Are utilities in the Midwest ready for what’s coming?

Right now, we’re nowhere near any kind of number of vehicles on the grid that would cause any kind of problems for the utility systems. In other words, there’s no upgrades needed right now to transformers or the distribution system or anything like that for electric vehicles. And we’re a very long way from that. But, if done right, we don’t think that you’re going to need a whole lot of improvements to the grid as much as you need to develop policies that encourage customers to charge their vehicles at night. We think most people will do that. We do need to make sure that that customers get price signals, where they can get great savings from charging their vehicles off peak.

READ FULL ARTICLE

Crain’s Detroit Business: DTE Proposes Rate Increases, Electric Vehicle Plan

July 6, 2018

DTE Proposes Rate Increases, Electric Vehicle Plan

By Jay Greene

DTE Energy Co. has filed a $328 million rate request with the Michigan Public Service Commission that includes a $13 million pilot program for electric vehicle charging stations that could be the largest in the Midwest.

The proposed electric rate increases would average 9.1 percent for residential customers, 4.3 percent for many commercial users and 4.5 percent for schools, colleges and universities. The rates, if approved by the commission, would take effect in May 2019.

DTE said it needs the increased rates to continue to improve its distribution and generation system.

If the commission approves DTE’s rate request, an average residential customer’s electric bill may increase by $9.42 per month. For example, a residential customer using 400 kilowatts per month would pay $6.24 more under the new rate plan, or $71.71 per month.

DTE stated that the $328 million rate increase is $196 million lower than it would have been because of federal tax reform.

DTE’s proposed EV pilot — called Charging Forward — includes an investment of $13 million over three years to develop charging stations in residential, commercial and fleet areas; rebates to support some 32 “fast” chargers, 1,000 Level 2 commercial chargers and 2,600 home smart chargers; and customer education.

There also would be a requirement that customers enroll in a rate that changes by time of day to qualify for smart charging rebate.

Robert Kelter, a senior attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Chicago, said the state of Michigan and the MPSC should create policies to encourage DTE and other utilities to set policies that encourage charging cars at night, which could lower electric rates for all.

READ FULL ARTICLE

PRESS RELEASE: Charge Up Midwest Welcomes DTE Energy Electric Vehicle Pilot Program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Judith Nemes

Charge Up Midwest Welcomes DTE Energy Electric Vehicle Pilot Program  

Program could push mass EV adoption, offer huge boost to EV charging infrastructure in Midwest 

Lansing, MI. – The largest electric vehicle charging infrastructure pilot in the Midwest was proposed by DTE Energy today as part of the utility’s latest rate case to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC). Environmental organizations across the Midwest welcomed the proposal as a positive step towards making Michigan a clean transportation leader.

“DTE Energy’s Charging Forward proposal will go a long way toward filling the electric vehicle charging infrastructure gaps that create barriers to EV adoption,” said Charles Griffith, Climate and Energy Program Director at the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor. “The proposal also incentivizes EV charging to occur during times of day when there is excess capacity on the grid, helping to reduce costs for all electricity customers and reduce pollution for Michigan residents.”

“The state of Michigan and MPSC need to take charge – pun intended – and make sure smart policies are set that encourage the development of the electric vehicle market,” said Robert Kelter, Senior Attorney for the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “If Michigan sets the right policies that motivate customers to charge their cars at night, all Michigan utility customers will benefit from lower rates.”

DTE’s proposed EV pilot includes:

  • $13 million over 3 years, for investments in residential, commercial and fleet EV charging infrastructure
  • Rebates to support approximately 32 “fast” chargers, 1,000 Level 2 commercial chargers and 2,600 home smart chargers
  • Requirement that customers enroll in time-of-use rate to qualify for smart charging rebate
  • Focus on workplace and multi-unit dwelling for Level 2 charging
  • Customer education and outreach program

“Lots of potential electric vehicle customers are locked out of the market because they live in apartment buildings that don’t have a place to plug in, but DTE’s new pilot program will add charging stations where they are sorely needed,” said Max Baumhefner, Senior Attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This program will help those who don’t live in single-family homes access electricity as a cleaner, cheaper alternative to gasoline.”

DTE’s proposal arrived on the heels of the recent $7.5 million Consumers Energy EV pilot program proposal, and AEP Ohio’s $10 million pilot program approved in April by the Ohio Public Utilities Commission. DTE’s service territory currently includes about 10,000 zero-emission vehicle owners, or about double the current number of owners in Consumers Energy’s territory.

“Michigan and the Motor City need to take bold action to put us on a path to a clean car future,” said Sierra Club Associate Attorney Joe Halso. “DTE’s proposal is a step in the right direction.  We would like to see a program that maximizes the public health and electricity grid benefits that we know electric cars can deliver.”

An M.J. Bradley & Associates report commissioned by Charge Up Midwest on the impact of more electric vehicles in Michigan found expanding electric vehicles could save Michigan families, drivers and electricity customers billions of dollars over the next three decades. The report also found there is significant potential for growth for electric vehicles in Michigan.

Read DTE’s proposed plan HERE

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Charge Up Midwest is a partnership of environmental and clean energy organizations actively working to increase electric vehicle deployment throughout the region in Illinois, Missouri, Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio. Through Charge Up Midwest, organizations seek to engage with a broad range of stakeholders to support actions that increase investment in electric vehicle infrastructure, create a more resilient and low-carbon grid, expand education of the public and policymakers about the benefits of electric vehicles, and otherwise accelerate the production, sales and access to electric vehicles in the region for all Midwest residents.

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