E&E TV: Learner urges lawmakers to move transportation policy to reduce emissions

Friday, October 24, 2014


Bismark Tribune: NDARE to request funds for clean energy programs

Friday, October 24, 2014

Kim Christianson, president of North Dakota Alliance for Renewable Energy, announced Wednesday a plan to request $25 million from the state’s Resources Trust Fund.

The requested funds would be divided by the alliance into two existing grant funds and to create two new programs, according to Christianson, who revealed the plan during a news conference at Bismarck State College.

Allocations from the Resources Trust Fund can be appropriated for the construction of water-related projects and to fund energy conservation programs.

Christianson said his organization will be asking legislators to continue to fund the North Dakota Renewable Energy Fund and the Energy Conservation Grant Fund.

Funding for these grant programs will be around $5 million, according to Christianson.

NDARE also will be requesting $10 million for a flexible renewable energy-efficiency grant program and a state weatherization program, which will provide assistance to improve energy efficiency in low-income households.

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ClimateWire: Iowa’s scientists release statement on health effects of climate change

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Professors and scientists in Iowa last week emphasized the tangible effects climate change will have on local lives.

Over 180 science faculty members and researchers from 38 colleges endorsed this year’s Iowa Climate Statement, which was released at the Iowa Capitol on Friday. The aim of the statement is to increase Iowans’ access to resources and scientific data, according to its authors.
“We’re trying to stay with the science, because that’s where you need to find truth. And we’re trying to show that the science is out there,” said David Osterberg, an associate professor at the University of Iowa’s Department of Occupational and Environmental Health.

This was the fourth year the annual statement has been released. The authors focused on four different impacts of climate change on human health. More frequent and heavy rains and extreme heat will increase the risk of injury, diseases and mental health problems, they said. Elevated pollen levels will increase allergies and asthma, and more pollution will likely increase lung and heart disease in warmer cities. Water will be less available for drinking and recreation.

Anecdotal evidence from extreme weather events has helped shift the climate change discussion away from whether it is happening to what should be done, according to supporters of the statement.

David Courard-Hauri, an associate professor in the Environmental Science and Policy Program at Drake University, said Iowans needed to focus on reducing emissions and shifting to renewable sources of energy.

About half an hour before the statement release, MidAmerican Energy Co. announced a $280 million wind energy project in the state (Timothy Meinch, Des Moines Register, Oct. 10). — NH

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Utilities Asking for Too Much

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Milwaukee Journal recently published an editorial critical of unfair rate proposals from We Energies, Madison Gas & Electric and Wisconsin Public Service. The editorial, titled “Utilities’ rate proposals are asking too much at this time,” notes ELPC’s argument about the cost-shift represented by the proposal:

“The Environmental Law and Policy Center argues that the fixed cost changes sought by We Energies, Madison Gas and Electric and Wisconsin Public Service Corp. would make those utilities’ charges highest among all investor-owned utilities in the Midwest. The average monthly charge by those Midwest utilities is $8.91, according to the center.”

Read the full editorial at http://www.jsonline.com/news/opinion/utilities-rate-proposals-are-asking-too-much-at-this-time-b99368645z1-278858531.html

Chicago Tonight: Howard Learner on Analyzing the Illiana Expressway

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Please view this video of ELPC Executive Director Howard Learner on Chicago Tonight discussing the Illiana Expressway, a proposed 50-mile toll road that would connect Interstate 55 near Wilmington, Ill. with Interstate 65 in Lowell, Ind.

The project is a boondoggle and Learner implored the Illinois Department of Transportation to “stop wasting taxpayers’ money.”

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Duluth News Tribune OpEd – A professor’s view: Minnesota is a leader in facing climate-change challenges

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

By Efi Foufoula-Georgiou

It may seem strange to raise the implications of climate change brought about by global warming given that last winter was the coldest in several decades in much of the Eastern and Midwestern United States. But with so many recent stories focusing on the global ramifications of a hotter world, it is important we remind ourselves of what climate change really means to Minnesotans.

Increased levels of heat-trapping gases have increased the average global temperature, but this does not always equate to consistent warming at the local level. Climate change-induced shifts in the distribution of heat around the planet can lead to unusually wetter, cooler conditions in some areas yet drier, warmer conditions in others. As we already are experiencing, climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, including heat waves, droughts, heavy downpours like the ones Minnesota has received and floods. The results can be catastrophic: severe soil erosion, more frequent algae blooms in our lakes, and added costs to maintain transportation and infrastructure. With a vast majority of Minnesotans residing in urban areas with aging infrastructure, cities and suburbs particularly are vulnerable to climate change-related flooding and heat waves.

According to the National Climate Assessment Report released this summer, climate change is a very serious threat, especially in Minnesota, which is the third-fastest-warming state. Heavy downpours have increased 37 percent in the Midwest, and Minnesota has seen four one-in-a-thousand-years floods in less than 10 years. According to the Insurance Federation of Minnesota, extreme weather events have made Minnesota among the top three states in the nation for catastrophic losses. As a result, homeowners have seen premiums skyrocket.

Fortunately, there are steps we can take to adapt to and mitigate climate change.

We can grow America’s investments in renewable energy, powering more homes with wind and solar energy.

We can advance energy efficiency policies and use better appliances and equipment that avoid wasting energy and save us money on utility bills.

We can manufacture and drive more fuel-

efficient cars that save us money at the gas pump, lessening America’s dependence on foreign oil and reducing greenhouse-gas pollution.

We can invest in a Midwest high-speed passenger rail system that improves mobility, reduces pollution, creates jobs and pulls together the regional economy.

We can improve infrastructure that makes trains and other public transit work better and bicycle riding a safer option for commuters.

And we can and should educate ourselves about the current state of climate science. We can use one of the most pressing issues of our lives as an opportunity to foster open and frank dialogue about the ways for people to work together to ensure the Earth’s productivity now and for generations to come.

Fortunately, Minnesota is a leader in addressing climate-change challenges. We can use the passage of our recent solar-energy standard as a springboard for decreasing fossil-fuel usage and increasing our use of renewable-energy resources.

Now is a time for more responsible action at the national level that supports Minnesota’s work to cut pollution.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently proposed the first limits on carbon dioxide pollution from existing power plants. Cleaning up dirty power plants is the strongest step the nation can take to protect our state’s economy from the harmful effects of climate change. Minnesotans need to ensure they’re not just preparing for expensive climate impacts but are tackling the problem at its source: coal-burning power plants.

Smart bipartisan policies have put Minnesota on a clean energy path that is strengthening the economy and creating healthier communities while cutting carbon pollution. As a result, every electric utility is meeting its share of Minnesota’s Renewable Energy Standard, generating at least 25 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable energy by 2025.

Efi Foufoula-Georgiou is a McKnight University professor of civil engineering at the University of Minnesota.

Daily Herald Editorial: Kill the Illiana, This Time for Good

Monday, October 6, 2014

A year after the proposed Illiana Expressway should have been declared dead on arrival, it somehow will make it back before the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning on Oct. 8 and the Metropolitan Planning Organization on Oct. 9 for another crucial vote. It needs to be rejected again.

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Rockford Register Star Editorial: Illiana Expressway Is Bad for Northern Illinois and Rest of the State

Monday, October 6, 2014

Seldom has a meeting of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning been so important to northern Illinois or the state of Illinois itself.

The CMAP board and its policy committee will meet Wednesday to approve a four-year update of the Chicago region’s master plan. Normally in these parts there would be little interest in what the CMAP board decides, but Wednesday’s vote could put Illinois taxpayers on the hook for $440 million to $1.1 billion over 35 years.

The project that will suck up all those tax dollars is the Illiana Expressway, a project that came out of nowhere, serves no one but political cronies and builds a road from nowhere to nowhere.

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Post-Tribune: Illinois PIRG report bashes planned Illiana Tollway

Friday, October 3, 2014

A new report by the Illinois Public Interest Research Group Education Fund lists the proposed Illiana Tollway as one of 11 “questionable” projects in the country.

The Illinois PIRG report, titled “Highway Boondoggles,” comes shortly before the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning meets Wednesday to vote on its updated Go To 2040 long-range transportation plan, which now includes the planned tollway.

The 11 projects — spread from Detroit to Dallas, from Seattle to North Carolina — could cost at least $13 billion and are based on old traffic projections, Abe Scarr, Illinois PIRG director, said.

“We will not change minds about Illiana based on this study alone, but it gives more reasons to criticize this project,” he said. “The numbers just don’t add up.”

The Illiana Tollway is planned as a public-private partnership that will connect Interstate 55 near Wilmington to I-65 near Lowell, Indiana.

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Chicago Tribune: Say ‘no’ to the Illiana Expressway (again)

Monday, September 29, 2014

A new privatized toll road proposed primarily to speed freight trucks across the Midwest may instead charge tolls too high to attract trucks, and will likely require hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies.

— From “Highway Boondoggles: Wasted Money and America’s Transportation Future,” by the Illinois PIRG Education Fund

Yes, that’s the Illiana Expressway, one of 11 questionable projects nationwide to earn a spot on the U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s just-released “boondoggle” list.

A year ago, against all reason, Gov. Pat Quinn rammed through a plan to build this unnecessary and unaffordable toll road, 10 miles south of metro Chicago’s urban edge.

Eager to score points with Southland voters, Quinn ignored regional planners’ warnings that the Illiana wouldn’t generate enough traffic (read: tolls) to pay for itself.

He shrugged off a report by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning staff that said taxpayers would end up subsidizing the Illiana by up to $1.1 billion over 35 years.

Based on that report, the CMAP board voted last October not to add the Illiana to its shortlist of projects vying for federal transportation dollars. But it was overruled by the Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Committee, chaired by Quinn’s secretary of transportation.

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