Mississippi River

Wisconsin PSC/DNR Draft Environmental Impact Statement Echoes Concerns of Unneeded Transmission Line Harming Driftless Area

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:
Dave Clutter, Driftless Area Land Conservancy, (608) 692-2153, Dave@driftlessconservancy.org
George Meyer, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, (608) 516-5545, georgemeyer@tds.net
Judith Nemes, Environmental Law & Policy Center, (312) 795-3706, JNemes@elpc.org

Wisconsin PSC/DNR Draft Environmental Impact Statement Echoes Conservation Groups & Natural Resource Experts’ Concerns of Unneeded Huge Transmission Line Harming Scenic Driftless Area

State report identifies harmful impacts, need for huge transmission line questioned

Dodgeville, WI – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ and Public Service Commission’s just-released draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) confirms many of the same vital natural resources concerns over American Transmission Company’s (ATC) proposed huge Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line and 17-story high towers already voiced by local conservation groups and leading natural resources experts. The proposed transmission line would cut a wide swath through the Driftless Area’s scenic landscapes, conservation lands, parklands, key waterways, and other natural resource treasures. This is the wrong place for a huge transmission line, which, in any case, is not needed for electricity reliability.

According to Driftless Area Land Conservancy Executive Director David Clutter: “The Driftless Area is a nationally significant landscape that should be protected. We appreciated that Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources’ draft EIS recognized many of the same potential harms we and others identified that a massive transmission line and its 17-story high towers would inflict upon this unique treasure in the Midwest.”

A top-rate team of Wisconsin’s leading natural resources experts presented their concerns in written comments filed in January with the Wisconsin Public Service Commission and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Their comments were submitted on behalf of the Driftless Area Land Conservancy and the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation by the Environmental Law & Policy Center, which is serving as their public legal counsel.

George Meyer, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and former Director of Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources, said: “The Driftless Area and specifically the locations that would be harmed by the Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line provide critical habitat for fish and wildlife. State, federal and local governments have invested many millions of dollars in lands for fish and wildlife habitat, public access and recreational purposes including hunting, fishing, trapping, biking, hiking and birdwatching which generate scores of millions of dollars into the local and state economies. The value of these public lands will be significantly degraded by the construction of the proposed Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line.”

Howard Learner, Executive Director at the Environmental Law & Policy Center and one of the attorneys for the Driftless Area Land Conservancy and the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation said:  “The Driftless Area is the wrong place for a huge transmission line, which is not needed for reliability in any case as electricity demand is flat and there is already surplus power. The proposed costly transmission line is yesterday’s misguided way to meet future energy needs for people and businesses in Wisconsin.  There are better, cleaner, and more flexible solar energy, storage, wind power and energy efficiency resources in southwest Wisconsin that would create jobs and economic growth here instead of subsidizing out-of-state energy including fossil fuel generation.”

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Reuters: ELPC’s Learner Says EPA Rollback of Clean Water Rule Imperils Safe Clean Drinking Water

Reuters
EPA and Army Corps seek to rescind clean water rule
June 27, 2017
By Valerie Volcovici 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers released a proposal on Tuesday to repeal the 2015 Clean Water Rule, the latest move by the Trump administration to unwind environmental regulations put in place under former President Barack Obama.

The agencies are working to rescind the rule, known as the Waters of the United States rule, and reinstate the language of the rule before it was changed in 2015.

“We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said.

In 2015, EPA and the Army Corps issued what they called the Waters of the United States rule to clarify which bodies of water should be regulated under the Clean Water Act.

The act, passed in 1972 and last amended in 1987, is intended to protect the nation’s waters from pollution.

In February, President Donald Trump said during the signing of an executive order calling for a review of the rule that the act should apply only to navigable waters that affect interstate commerce.

Some lawmakers from states with large rural areas praised the move.

“Out of state D.C. bureaucrats shouldn’t impose regulations that hurt Montana farmers, ranchers and landowners,” said the state’s Republican senator, Steve Daines.

Environmental groups criticized the move, saying it ignores public input and would put parts of the country like the Midwestern Great Lakes at risk.

“This foolish rollback of clean water standards rejects years of work building stakeholder input and scientific data support, and it imperils the progress for safe clean drinking water in the Midwest,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

READ MORE

 

PRESS RELEASE: Trump Administration’s Clean Water Rollbacks Threaten America’s Drinking Water

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 27, 2017
Contact: David Jakubiak

Trump Administration’s Clean Water Rollbacks Threaten America’s Drinking Water
Pausing Clean Water Standards Wrong For the Great Lakes Region and America

CHICAGO – The Trump Administration EPA’s repeal of Clean Water Rule announced today will threaten progress made to protect the Midwest’s vital lakes, rivers and streams, including the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basins.

A previously announced delay of coal plant pollution rules further threaten American drinking water, as well as water used for boating, swimming, fishing and growing food.


“The Trump Administration’s attacks on safe clean drinking water standards will allow more pollution of the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River watersheds harming public health and fish and wildlife habitat,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

The Trump Administration’s action today rolls back clean water standards that define which waterways are protected by the Clean Water Act. The standard recognized that our water resources are so interconnected that in order to protect our celebrated waterways – the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes – it’s necessary to protect the backyard brooks, community creeks and steady streams that feed them.

“This foolish rollback of clean water standards rejects years of work building stakeholder input and scientific data support, and it imperils the progress for safe clean drinking water in the Midwest,” Learner said. “We can’t afford to go backwards when it comes to reducing pollution of community rivers, lakes and streams.”

Last month, the Administration said it would indefinitely delay regulation of toxic pollutants that coal plants can dump into waterways, such as arsenic, chromium, lead, and mercury. In the five years before the standard, for example, the Havana Power Station in Illinois dumped more than 1,000 pounds of lead into the Illinois River. In the same period, Ohio’s Cardinal Power Station dumped 11,500 pounds of arsenic into the Ohio River and Indiana’s Petersburg Generating Station dumped 5,800 pounds of arsenic and 1,100 pounds of lead into the White River.

“Let’s make it safe to eat the fish we catch in Midwest rivers, lakes and streams.  Allowing coal plants to keep discharging toxic pollutants collected into local waterways is dangerous and short-sighted,” Learner said. “The Ohio River and White River provide drinking water for millions of people. State health departments along these waterways have advisories warning people about eating fish caught in these rivers. Rather than rolling water protections backwards, we should move forward to protect our vital resources.”

Take action to defend the Clean Water Rule and the Toxic Water Rule!

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Press Release: Un-Mucking Illinois’ Waterways: Court Settlement Should Reduce Algae Pollution in Rivers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Un-Mucking Illinois’ Waterways: Court Settlement Should Reduce Algae Pollution in Rivers

CHICAGO (January 19, 2017) – Environmental groups have settled long-running litigation against the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) over pollution from three of its Chicago-area sewage treatment plants. The agreement requires the parties to work together to curb phosphorous discharges from the plants that are fueling algae blooms and lowering water quality in the Chicago River system and downstream waters as far away as the Gulf of Mexico.

The Chicago River system is much cleaner as a result of investment in clean water infrastructure and the Clean Water Act. However, an overload of phosphorus and other nutrients from wastewater plants continues to pollute these waters. The settlement approved today by MWRD’s Board of Commissioners, resolves a pair of lawsuits targeting the District’s phosphorus pollution as a violation of the federal Clean Water Act. To address the problem MWRD has agreed to upgrade pollution controls at its largest wastewater plants by 2030. The parties have also agreed to form a joint committee to hire scientists and engineers who will identify problematic places in the Chicago River system and come up with a plan to eliminate algal and plant issues. The District has also agreed to extensive monitoring of phosphorus-related problems in the downstream Lower Des Plaines River, as well as a study to determine the feasibility of a tenfold reduction in the MWRD’s phosphorus discharge limit, in line with more stringent limits set elsewhere in the country.

“Our local waters have been a poster child for the national problem of phosphorus pollution, but now we have a chance to be a model for the solution,” said Ann Alexander, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “If you can fix this in a waterway with a reputation like the Chicago River, it means you can clean up any river. This settlement puts us on a path that can signal an urban river renaissance nationally.”

The Illinois EPA will play a key role in addressing the situation, implementing an enforceable requirement in the District’s discharge permits for its three Chicago-area plants. Attorneys for the environmental organizations expressed confidence that the state Agency, which was extensively involved in the settlement discussions, intends to do so promptly. The Illinois EPA has separately agreed to conduct extensive monitoring of algae-related pollution in the downstream Illinois River.

Jack Darin, Director of the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club, said, “This is a major breakthrough in the decades-long effort to restore the Chicago River system to a healthy waterway that supports wildlife, recreation, and economic development in our communities. New pollution controls will make significant reductions in nutrient pollution, the largest remaining pollution problem in these waters, and create good jobs modernizing our water infrastructure. We are excited to partner with MWRD and area communities in implementing this historic agreement in the years to come.”

“This settlement signals a positive change toward improving the way permits are written to protect Illinois waters,” said Jessica Dexter, Staff Attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “We expect other dischargers to follow suit and be part of the long-term solution to rid algae overgrowth from our waterways.”

“Here in the Gulf region, the nutrient problem really hits home,” said Matt Rota, Senior Policy Director at New Orleans-based Gulf Restoration Network. “The MWRD has been a very real part of that problem – they’re the largest single contributor to the Gulf Dead Zone right here in our back yard. We’re very pleased that they’re now working with us to be part of the solution.”

“Our members love to paddle on our local waterways, but the disgusting, smelly algae that blooms every summer can really get in the way of their enjoyment,” said Kim Knowles, staff attorney with Prairie Rivers Network. “We’re glad to finally be headed toward a long term solution.”

One of the two lawsuits settled in the agreement, brought in 2011 by Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and Prairie Rivers Network, was a Clean Water Act citizen enforcement action alleging that the algae fueled by the District’s phosphorus was causing violations of water quality standards. The other lawsuit, brought by those organizations and three others – Environmental Law & Policy Center, Friends of the Chicago River, and Gulf Restoration Network –successfully challenged the MWRD’s Clean Water Act permits as inadequate to address the problem. Last year, an Illinois appellate court sent the permits’ phosphorus limits back to Illinois EPA for revision.

NRDC was represented pro bono by the law firm Baker & McKenzie, and the Sierra Club and Prairie Rivers Network were represented by solo attorney, Albert Ettinger.

“This settlement is the natural next step in advancing the health of the Chicago River system and essential to the impacted water bodies downstream,” said Margaret Frisbie, Executive Director, Friends of the Chicago River. “In recent years the river’s physical condition has improved dramatically and it is time to reduce phosphorus to better protect our burgeoning fish populations and other aquatic life at the same we make the river system more appealing to people who live, work, and recreate in, on, and along it.”

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Read Joint Statement with MWRD Here

 

The Rock River Times: ELPC’s Dexter Urges EPA to Uphold Clean Water Act

The Rock River Times

Illinois, Other Miss. River States Failing to Address Pollution Worries: Report
November 23, 2016

The Mississippi River Collaborative (MRC) today released a report that implores the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take specific actions to clean up nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in Illinois and nine other states, because those states have failed to make sufficient pollution reductions. The ten states that are the focus of the report all border the Mississippi River and send their pollution to the river and ultimately to the Gulf of Mexico.

The report, “Decades of Delay,” was prepared by MRC, a partnership of 13 environmental and legal groups, and assesses state progress in reducing the pollution that threatens drinking water supplies for millions of Americans and causes the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone.

The report finds that nitrogen and phosphorus continue to pose serious threats to Illinois waters, interfering with the public’s use and enjoyment, and threatening the health of people and aquatic life. Illinois lakes have been especially devastated by phosphorus pollution.

“EPA’s hands-off approach is simply not working in Illinois. Every summer our lakes and beaches are fouled by noxious, smelly and sometimes toxic algal blooms,” said Kim Knowles, Staff Attorney at Prairie Rivers Network.  “The state lacks a rigorous program for addressing this scourge.”

The report suggests six specific steps EPA can take to protect human health and water quality in state waters.  Recommendations include setting numeric limits of allowable nitrogen and phosphorus in state waters, assessing more waterways to determine the full extent and impact of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, and making sure states develop rigorous plans for reducing pollution and for procuring the funding needed to address this significant problem.

“For 20 years, we have been told the EPA and the states would address the nitrogen and phosphorus pollution that fouls our rivers and lakes and perpetuates the Gulf Dead Zone,” said Jessica Dexter, Staff Attorney, Environmental Law & Policy Center, an MRC member. “This report demonstrates the falsity of that claim. EPA should use the tools outlined in the report to uphold the Clean Water Act and get us on a path to clean rivers and streams.”

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Alton Telegraph: ELPC’s Dexter says EPA Should Follow Coalition Recommendations to Clean Up Rivers & Streams

Alton-Telegraph-LogoReport: Illinois Among States Failing to Manage Nitrogen and Phosphorous Pollution
November 18, 2016
By Alton Telegraph

ALTON — The Mississippi River Collaborative (MRC) today released a report that implores the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take specific actions to clean up nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in Illinois and nine other states, because those states have failed to make sufficient pollution reductions.

The ten states that are the focus of the report all border the Mississippi River and send their pollution to the river and ultimately to the Gulf of Mexico.

The report, “Decades of Delay,” was prepared by MRC, a partnership of 13 environmental and legal groups, and assesses state progress in reducing the pollution that threatens drinking water supplies for millions of Americans and causes the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone.

The report finds that nitrogen and phosphorus continue to pose serious threats to Illinois waters, interfering with the public’s use and enjoyment, and threatening the health of people and aquatic life. Illinois lakes have been especially devastated by phosphorus pollution.

“EPA’s hands-off approach is simply not working in Illinois. Every summer our lakes and beaches are fouled by noxious, smelly and sometimes toxic algal blooms,” said Kim Knowles, staff attorney at Prairie Rivers Network. “The state lacks a rigorous program for addressing this scourge.”

The report suggests six specific steps EPA can take to protect human health and water quality in state waters. Recommendations include setting numeric limits of allowable nitrogen and phosphorus in state waters, assessing more waterways to determine the full extent and impact of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, and making sure states develop rigorous plans for reducing pollution and for procuring the funding needed to address this significant problem.

“For 20 years, we have been told the EPA and the states would address the nitrogen and phosphorus pollution that fouls our rivers and lakes and perpetuates the Gulf Dead Zone,” said Jessica Dexter, staff attorney, Environmental Law & Policy Center, an MRC member. “This report demonstrates the falsity of that claim. EPA should use the tools outlined in the report to uphold the Clean Water Act and get us on a path to clean rivers and streams.”

Read the article here.

 

Press Release: New Report Reveals Illinois & Other States Failing to Manage Nitrogen & Phosphorus Pollution in our Waterways, Mississippi River

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 17, 2016

Contact: Judith Nemes, Environmental Law & Policy Center
JNemes@elpc.org 312-795-3706

Kim Knowles, Prairie Rivers Network
KKnowles@prairierivers.org 314-341-1641

New Report Reveals Illinois and Other States Failing to Manage Nitrogen & Phosphorus Pollution in our Waterways
Environmental Coalition Calls on EPA to Step Up Efforts to Reduce Nutrient Pollution in Mississippi River

Mississippi River – The Mississippi River Collaborative (MRC) today released a report that implores the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take specific actions to clean up nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in Illinois and nine other states, because those states have failed to make sufficient pollution reductions. The 10 states included in the report all border the Mississippi River and send their pollution to the river and ultimately to the Gulf of Mexico.

The report, “Decades of Delay,” was prepared by MRC, a partnership of 13 environmental and legal groups, and assesses state progress in reducing the pollution that threatens drinking water supplies for millions of Americans and causes the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone.

The report finds that nitrogen and phosphorus continue to pose serious threats to Illinois waters, interfering with the public’s use and enjoyment, and threatening the health of people and aquatic life. Illinois lakes have been especially devastated by phosphorus pollution.

“EPA’s hands-off approach is simply not working in Illinois. Every summer our lakes and beaches are fouled by noxious, smelly and sometimes toxic algal blooms,” said Kim Knowles, Staff Attorney at Prairie Rivers Network. “The state lacks a rigorous program for addressing this scourge.”

“For 20 years, we have been told the EPA and the states would address the nitrogen and phosphorus pollution that fouls our rivers and lakes and perpetuates the Gulf Dead Zone,” said Jessica Dexter, Staff Attorney, Environmental Law & Policy Center, an MRC member. “This report demonstrates the falsity of that claim. EPA should use the tools outlined in the report to uphold the Clean Water Act and get us on a path to clean rivers and streams.”

The report suggests six specific steps EPA can take to protect human health and water quality in state waters. Recommendations include setting numeric limits of allowable nitrogen and phosphorus in state waters, assessing more waterways to determine the full extent and impact of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, and making sure states develop rigorous plans for reducing pollution and for procuring the funding needed to address this significant problem.

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Decades of Delay Executive Summary
Decades of Delay Full Report

Scott Strand Joins Environmental Law & Policy Center as Senior Attorney to Expand Natural Resources Protection Advocacy in Upper Midwest

The Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) is pleased to announce that Scott Strand, an experienced public interest litigation attorney and environmental policy advocate, will join ELPC as a Senior Attorney focused on natural resources protection issues and opportunities in the Upper Midwest and Great Plains states.  Strand is a Minnesota native, bringing 30 years of litigation experience to his new environmental role at ELPC.

Strand most recently served as Executive Director of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA) for six years. He and MCEA have played key roles in securing state regulations that protect Minnesota’s waterways, retiring old highly-polluting coal plants and keeping harmful sulfide mining proposals at bay.

Strand previously served for 17 years in senior positions at the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, including as Deputy Counsel and Manager of the Natural Resources Division. He also worked at a private law firm on diverse business and public sector litigation.

Scott Strand said:  “Joining ELPC presents an exciting opportunity for me to work at a regional organization that uses a diverse strategic advocacy approach to preserve the Midwest’s vital natural resources.  I look forward to working with ELPC’s strong multidisciplinary team of public interest attorneys, environmental business specialists and policy experts to better protect the special places in the Great Plains and Upper Midwest.  This is a great opportunity for me to help make a difference by focusing my work as a full-time public interest lawyer on important litigation and advocacy campaigns to protect our Midwest environment.”

ELPC Executive Director Howard Learner said:  “We welcome Scott Strand to ELPC’s strong public interest advocacy team.  Scott is a talented litigator and knowledgeable environmental policy advocate who has been a valued colleague.  We look forward to Scott now joining ELPC to expand our important work to protect vital natural resources and the wild and special places in the Great Plains and the Upper Midwest including the Driftless Area, Great Lakes, Mississippi River and Northwoods. Scott will provide additional experienced legal firepower for ELPC and our clients and colleagues to succeed.”

Strand will be based in Minneapolis-St. Paul, which is a regional hub in the Great Plains and Upper Midwest, and is a key place for natural resources protection issues and opportunities, and for clean energy development.

Remembering ELPC Photographer James Linehan

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

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

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

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

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

 

LinehanCollageFinal-large

Greenwire: ELPC Files Brief Urging EPA to Require Nutrient Standards Along Mississippi River

A coalition of environmental groups yesterday submitted their latest legal arguments in their fight against U.S. EPA’s refusal to require standards for nutrient pollution in the Mississippi River Basin.

In a brief filed yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, 11 green groups say EPA should require states along the Mississippi River to adopt water quality standards for nitrogen and phosphorus, nutrients that can lead to algae blooms that rob waters of dissolved oxygen and kill aquatic life.

These blooms have led to a nearly 6,500-square-mile “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“That dead zone has been growing and growing over time,” said Brad Klein, senior attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center, one of the environmental groups suing EPA. “We’ve been really missing deadlines to try to get that under control.”

The brief is the latest move in a fight dating back to 2008 to force EPA to implement standards to stem the flow of nutrients to the Gulf of Mexico. That year, groups petitioned the agency to begin adopting standards for states that refused to create their own.

Three years later, EPA declined to make a decision on the petition, saying, among other things, that it was seeking partnerships with states to create voluntary programs to address nutrient runoff, rather than writing federal regulations.

The environmental organizations sued the agency in district court in 2012. The court sided with greens. EPA appealed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, who affirmed the lower court’s decision on the question of courts’ jurisdiction to hear the matter at all, but remanded the case to the Louisiana district court to settle a limited question on whether EPA had based response to the petition on the text of the Clean Water Act.

“We’re looking at that little narrow question that they sent back on the substance,” said Ann Alexander, legal advocacy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Midwest Program. “It’s a critically important question, but it’s a narrow question.”

EPA reasoned that it would “be impractical, inefficient, and counterproductive to devote its limited resources to the mammoth task of determining whether numeric nutrient criteria are required for multiple pollutants in numerous water bodies” in states around the country, the agency’s legal team wrote the court in November 2015.

Klein disagreed with that assessment.

“Voluntary and nonregulatory efforts alone are, we don’t feel are ever going to solve the problem,” he said. “We need actual targets and standards for what we’re going to accomplish.”

Greens are relying in part on the landmark 2007 Supreme Court case Massachusetts v. EPA, in which the high court ruled the agency was required to make a determination as to whether carbon dioxide needed to be regulated based on the requirements of the Clean Air Act, rather than bringing in considerations not pertinent to the act.

But EPA disagreed that the Massachusetts ruling required that the agency make a decision on the current case.

“EPA has broad discretion to consider resource constraints, to balance competing statutory considerations, and to otherwise determine the ‘manner, timing, content, and coordination of its regulations,'” the agency wrote in its November brief.

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