NEWSROOM

Illinois Solar for All Program launch

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                            

Contacts:
Little Village Environmental Justice Organization: Juliana Pino, (312) 344-3143, JPino@lvejo.org
Environmental Law & Policy Center: Judith Nemes, (312) 795-3706, JNemes@elpc.org
Blacks in Green: Naomi Davis, (773) 678-9541, NaomiDavis@blacksingreen.org
Illinois People’s Action:  Dawn Dannenbring, (309) 531-4433, ILPeoplesAction12@gmail.com

 Illinois Solar for All Program Launches to Bring Affordable Renewable Energy to Low-income Households and Environmental Justice Communities across the State

Solar projects will tap job training programs to boost opportunities for new trainees

Today, the Illinois Solar for All Program officially opens for business to promote new solar projects serving low-income and environmental justice communities throughout Illinois. An important element of the program focuses on solar developers coordinating with job training programs to expand the workforce in the renewable energy industry to include individuals who are or were foster children or persons with a record who are transitioning.

The program was created as part of the Future Energy Jobs Act, which was passed by the Illinois legislature in December 2016 to increase solar energy jobs and renewable development projects across Illinois, among other objectives. Funding for the first two years of the program is set at $30 million per year, which will be used to purchase Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) from new low-income solar projects.

The Illinois Power Agency was tasked with implementing the program and it has hired Chicago-based Elevate Energy as the program administrator. The Illinois Solar for All Program has a number of sub-programs for low-income and environmental justice communities, including ones for rooftop solar, community solar projects, and solar projects for non-profits and public facilities located in and serving those communities.

“Illinois Solar for All brings unprecedented opportunities for communities on the frontlines of environmental harms and climate change consequences to lead just transition through adoption of renewable energy and its associated economic justice and cleaner air benefits,” said Juliana Pino, policy director at the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization. “Dozens of members of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition and Illinois Solar for All Working Group—from private solar companies to community leaders—worked diligently to create and support the program. Now, importantly, lower electric bills and career opportunities for persons with a record and foster care alumni will be prioritized where they are needed most.”

“The Environmental Law & Policy Center is proud to help establish one of the most comprehensive statewide programs in the country that drives solar development to low-income and environmental justice communities,” said MeLena Hessel, policy advocate at the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

“Jobs with strong wages and future growth are essential to stabilization in my community. Illinois Solar for All job training and hiring requirements create an important win for those too often left out of emerging economies,” said Naomi Davis, founder of Blacks in Green. “The quality of the job training is first class, and some graduates are even experiencing multiple offers from solar vendors. I’m so pleased the hard work of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition has produced a program with such dynamic, built-in connections between employers, trainers, and candidates. This structure ensures that economic opportunities flow more equitably in the clean energy pipeline.”

“Illinois Solar for All programs give hope and dignity to the least among us,” said Rev. Tony Pierce, Board President of Illinois People’s Action, and his church is a member of the Peoria job training program preparing persons with a record for careers in the industry. “Our communities have long been left out of the Green Energy Economy and these programs begin to address those disparities.”

Training sessions will be scheduled for approved solar developers to walk them through the details of the project submission process.

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Check out more of ELPC’s work with Solar development and Clean Energy here.

ELPC Statement Applauding U.S. House of Representatives’ Passage of Legislation to Combat Climate Change, First in a Decade

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Judith Nemes, (773)-892-7494, jnemes@elpc.org

ELPC Statement Applauding U.S. House of Representatives’ Passage of Legislation to Combat Climate Change, First in a Decade

Statement by Howard A. Learner, Executive Director, Environmental Law & Policy Center 

“We are pleased that the U.S. House of Representatives today has taken an important step forward in combating climate change by passing the Climate Action Now Act,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director at the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “We are thankful to members of the Midwest delegation who stepped up and voted yes on The Climate Action Now Act.”

“The Midwest delegation in the U.S. Congress understands the vital need for the federal government to honor its commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement and for the U.S. to be a leader on climate change solutions. For the first time in 10 years, today’s vote in the House moves us in the right direction on climate change and for a better future.”

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Big Ag Needs a Closer Look

Big agriculture is apparently getting bigger in Ohio. And with the fate of Lake Erie hanging in the balance, it is time for Ohio’s elected leaders to start paying more attention.

A recent study by the Washington-based Environmental Working Group and the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center has concluded that the Maumee River watershed now has 775 hog, cattle, dairy, and poultry operations — 42 percent more than in 2005.

Those farms have more than twice as many animals as they did in 2005.The growth — in number and size — of these megaoperations coincides with the problem of annual toxic algae blooms on the lake.

 

 

Growth in unregulated farms in Maumee Watershed fuels Lake Erie’s toxic algae blooms

Using aerial photos, satellite images and state permit figures, two environmental groups say more than half of the manure in the Maumee River watershed comes from unpermitted farms with livestock. “To me, this really spotlights how much more Ohio should be doing to track and oversee these big sources that are effectively industrial agriculture operations when you get to this scale,” said Madeline Fleisher, a senior attorney at ELPC.

Manure From Unregulated Factory Farms Fuels Lake Erie’s Toxic Algae Blooms

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Judith Nemes, jnemes@elpc.org, 312-795-3706
Sarah Graddy, sarah@ewg.org, 202-939-9141

Manure From Unregulated Factory Farms Fuels Lake Erie’s Toxic Algae Blooms

Nutrient-Rich Pollution Runs Off Previously Undocumented Operations Into Maumee River Watershed

MINNEAPOLIS – Unregulated animal factory farms are funneling nutrient-rich pollution into Lake Erie, feeding an enormous toxic algae bloom each summer, according to a new investigation by the Environmental Working Group and the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

By analyzing aerial photos, satellite imagery and state permit data, the groups identified 775 hog, cattle, dairy and poultry operations in the Maumee River watershed in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan in 2018 – a 40 percent increase since 2005. The investigation found that more than a fourth of factory farms in the watershed had expanded since they were built, and at least half the manure generated along the Ohio portion of the river comes from operations that lack state permits.

“Until now, no one knew how many industrial animal farms are in the Maumee River watershed,” said Sarah Porter, EWG senior analyst and project manager. “The steady growth of factory farms in the area might help explain why the Lake Erie toxic algae bloom is still such a huge problem, despite the hundreds of millions of dollars the state has spent trying to clean it up.”

Manure from animal factory farms is rich in nutrients like phosphorus, which triggers the growth of toxic algae blooms. About 30 percent of the phosphorus feeding the Lake Erie bloom comes from the Maumee River.

Last year the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency reported that the amount of phosphorus in Lake Erie has remained fairly steady over the past few years, even though the state has been working with soy and corn farmers to implement voluntary best practices for handling agricultural runoff.

The investigation shows one possible reason: Although farmers have made strides in reducing the amount of commercial fertilizer running into Lake Erie and other waterways, animal factory farms – and the millions of tons of manure they generate each year – have been flying under the radar.

Nutrient-laden farm runoff is largely responsible not just for Lake Erie’s notorious toxic algae bloom, which made Toledo’s water unsafe to drink for several days in 2014, but also for hundreds of other such outbreaks across the U.S.

The Maumee River drains about 6,500 square miles in the three states, but three-fourths of the watershed is in Ohio. Farmers in that state don’t need permits for small- and medium-size animal farms, which can house thousands of animals, exempting them from guidelines about how to manage animal manure.

“Ohio must finally set a legal limit for the amount of phosphorus industrial farms can release into waterways and create a concrete plan to achieve the needed reductions,” said Madeline Fleisher, senior attorney in Ohio for the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “Millions of people in the Great Lakes region are tired of watching regulators and lawmakers continue to spend money just to kick the can down the road.”

Requiring permits for all of Ohio’s commercial animal operations, regardless of size, would allow state regulators to track how many facilities exist, how many animals they house and how much manure they produce.

“In the absence of permits, policymakers are basically making blind decisions about how to best manage animal factory farms and the pollution they create,” Porter said. “As long as that gaping loophole exists, lasting cleanup of Lake Erie and other waterways is incredibly unlikely.”

Most of the factory farms built since 2005 in the Maumee River watershed raise swine and poultry, Porter said. Even though a chicken produces less manure than a hog, chicken manure has a much higher concentration of phosphorus and nitrogen.

In 2017, thick, blue-green slime covered more than 700 square miles of Lake Erie – one of the worst years yet for the lake’s annual algae bloom, probably because of heavy rains. The bloom’s size and duration are determined in part by the amount of water that enters the lake from several rivers, including the Maumee. The spring rains currently flooding much of the upper Midwest provide one indication that Lake Erie’s bloom could be particularly intense this year.

In the absence of meaningful regulations protecting Lake Erie, residents of Toledo, Ohio, recently approved a ballot measure granting the water body the same rights as people, which will allow citizens to sue on its behalf. The Ohio Farm Bureau is challenging the results as unconstitutional.

The peak toxic algae bloom season generally runs from May through October. But warming waters and changing weather patterns caused by climate change seem to be extending the season, and making blooms more intense and more widespread throughout the U.S.

EWG tracks news reports of toxic algae blooms since 2010 in an interactive map.

 

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U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Order Denying FirstEnergy Solutions Debtors’ Motion that Would Have Moved Bankruptcy Plans Forward

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

ELPC Statement on U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Order Denying FirstEnergy Solutions Debtors’ Motion that Would Have Moved Bankruptcy Plans Forward
Judge’s order halts bankruptcy plan process for FES

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

“U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Koschik’s ruling today is a huge victory for the environment, consumers and the public interest,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center and one of the attorneys for a coalition of citizens’ organizations. “Judge Koschik correctly determined that Debtor FirstEnergy Solutions’ extraordinarily broad releases of environmental liabilities and responsibilities make the proposed reorganization plan ‘patently unconfirmable.’ Those proposed third-party releases were legally impermissible, unfair and contrary to the public interest by maneuvering to shift coal plant environmental remediation costs and nuclear plant decommissioning costs onto the public.”

 

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Industry Leaders collaborate to launch new regulatory innovation initiative

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For media requests, please contact Jordan Nachbar at jnachbar@sepapower.org or Judith Nemes at jnemes@elpc.org 

Industry leaders collaborate to launch new regulatory innovation initiative

“Renovate” seeks to enable the evolution of state regulatory processes

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A diverse group of national nonprofit organizations and industry thought leaders announced a new initiative to help evolve state regulatory processes for the power sector to keep pace with the dynamic energy needs of customers and develop more effective ways of working together to identify and deliver new solutions to those needs.

Renovate is convened by the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) and launched in partnership with the Environmental Law & Policy Center and other leading electric industry and stakeholder groups (see the full list below).

The initiative’s vision is to enable the evolution of state regulatory processes and practices in order to address the scalable deployment of innovative technologies and business operating models that support the transition to a clean and modern energy grid.

“This groundbreaking initiative will help address the challenges in meeting customer needs and increased expectations for a modern grid enabled by new technologies, while continuing to provide clean, affordable, safe, and reliable electric service,” said Janet Gail Besser, Managing Director of Regulatory Innovation & Utility Business Models at SEPA.

“The electricity system is rapidly changing, and states must advance forward-looking policies to achieve the public benefits,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “States can lead with policies to accelerate renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies that are good for consumers, good for economic development, and good for the environment.”

To begin Renovate, a task force including commissioners, consumer and environmental advocates, legislators, and leaders from utilities, solution providers and state energy offices alongside initiative partners identified problem statements to guide the initiative’s focus. The problem statements include issues on the steep learning curve for all industry participants, managing system risk and uncertainty, managing increased rate of change and the balancing and cross-coordination of multiple priority sets.

Working with a task force of stakeholder representatives and partners, the next phase of the initiative entails identifying a set of solutions to designated problem statements, and identifying, assessing and benchmarking existing regulatory innovations—both domestically and globally—which will include the development and publication of key illustrative case studies.

For more information on the Renovate Initiative and to view the full list of partners and task force members, click here

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Renovate Partner Organizations:
American Public Power Association (APPA)
Edison Electric Institute (EEI)
Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC)
National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissions (NARUC)
National Association of State Energy Offices (NASEO)
National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL)
National Governors Association (NGA)
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA)
Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP)
Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI)
Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA)

About SEPA
The Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) is an educational nonprofit working to facilitate the electric power industry’s smart transition to a clean and modern energy future through education, research, standards and collaboration. SEPA offers a range of research initiatives and resources, as well as conferences, educational events, advisory services, and professional networking opportunities. SEPA is founder and co-sponsor of North American Smart Energy Week (a trade show which includes Solar Power International and Energy Storage International among other smart energy topics) and winner of the Keystone Policy Center’s 2016 Leadership in Energy Award.

About ELPC
ELPC is the Midwest’s leading public interest environmental legal advocacy and eco-business innovation organization, and among the nation’s leaders. The organization develops and leads successful strategic advocacy campaigns to improve environmental quality and protect our natural resources.

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