Press Releases

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

60-day Notice of Clean Water Act Lawsuit Against ArcelorMittal for More than 100 Violations of Permit since 2015

Contacts:

Environmental Law & Policy Center: Paul Dailing, (312) 795-3701, PDailing@elpc.org

Hoosier Environmental Council: Indra Frank, (317) 981-3207, IFrank@hecweb.org

 ELPC and Hoosier Environmental Council Serve 60-day Notice of Clean Water Act Lawsuit Against ArcelorMittal for More than 100 Violations of Permit since 2015

Steel Manufacturer’s actions impact nearby Indiana Dunes National Park, its visitors, and fish habitats  

Burns Harbor, IN – Today, the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) and Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC) served a 60-day notice of intent to bring a Clean Water Act lawsuit against ArcelorMittal for more than 100 violations of its permit, including water quality violations. ArcelorMittal operates the huge steel mill in Burns Harbor, Ind., near Indiana Dunes National Park, and discharges its water pollution into the East Arm of the Little Calumet River, which flows directly into Lake Michigan.

ArcelorMittal’s violations include exceeding its permit limits for total cyanide, free cyanide, and ammonia. In August 2019, ArcelorMittal’s excessive pollution, including significant amounts of cyanide, killed 3,000 fish and closed beaches on Lake Michigan and Indiana Dunes National Park. Despite explicit requirements in its permits, ArcelorMittal did not even report that incident until two days after citizens reported the fish kill to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

Neither IDEM nor the U.S. EPA has taken any formal enforcement action against ArcelorMittal for the August 2019 incident or any of the other 100 alleged violations.

“Fortunately, the Clean Water Act authorizes citizens to sue when the government lets us down,” said Jeffrey Hammons, Staff Attorney at ELPC. “ArcelorMittal needs to be held accountable, and IDEM and EPA need to do a better job of protecting Lake Michigan, Indiana Dunes National Park, and the people who enjoy them.”

“In the face of this repeated, illegal damage to Lake Michigan, we can no longer just stand by and wait for the state and federal government to act,” said HEC Environmental Health and Water Policy Director Indra Frank. “The damage has to stop for the sake of everyone who gets their drinking water from the Lake; everyone who swims, fishes, or boats in the Lake; and the wildlife that make their home in the Lake.”

Sign our petition and join us in holding ArcelorMittal accountable.

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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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ELPC and Allies File Lawsuit to Protect States’ Rights to Reduce Emissions from Vehicles

Contact: Mary McClelland, MMcClelland@elpc.org, 312-795-3740

CHICAGO – The Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) along with a coalition of NGOs today filed a lawsuit in the District Court for the District of Columbia challenging the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s final rule which attempts to remove California’s authority to set environmental standards for vehicles. NHTSA’s rule states that the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975, which requires NHTSA to set vehicle fuel efficiency standards, preempts California’s authority under the Clean Air Act to set vehicle greenhouse gas emissions and zero-emissions vehicle mandates that are stronger than federal standards. Because NHTSA and U.S. EPA also propose to weaken the federal vehicle emissions and fuel efficiency standards, it’s important to protect California’s ability to set stricter standards, which the Clean Air Act then allows other states to adopt.

Today’s action follows a lawsuit filed last Friday by a coalition of states and cities to oppose the Trump administration’s actions. That coalition includes Illinois and Minnesota.

Statement by Howard A. Learner, Executive Director ELPC

“The Trump administration’s attempt to revoke states’ authority to enact strong clean car standards is unsupported by law and a huge step backward as a matter of policy. That is why the Environmental Law & Policy Center is joining a coalition to challenge the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s final rule,” said Howard Learner, ELPC’s Executive Director. “Climate change harms the Great Lakes and people in our region. ELPC is challenging the federal government’s misguided and wrongful action that prevents states in the Midwest and elsewhere from taking the lead in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.”

 

ELPC Commends Governor Walz’s Announcement on Clean Car Standards

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

ELPC COMMENDS GOVERNOR WALZ’S ANNOUNCEMENT ON CLEAN CAR STANDARDS 

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

CHICAGO – Governor Walz announced his intention that Minnesota adopt California’s Clean Car standards as permissible under the Clean Air Act. The Clean Car Standards will reduce greenhouse gas pollution from tailpipes and increase consumer electric vehicle options.

“The Environmental Law & Policy Center commends Governor Walz for stepping up with this climate change solution to accelerate modern, clean cars and advance jobs for the transportation future. Midwestern states should be leaders in moving toward cleaner cars and reducing greenhouse gas pollution from the transportation sector,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

“Climate change harms Minnesota, the Great Lakes and our region. The Trump administration’s misguided action last week undercuts California’s and other states’ long-standing authority under the Clean Air Act to implement effective standards to modernize vehicles. The Attorneys General of Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin have joined California and other states to challenge this Trump administration attack on state leadership to protect clean air and public health.

“States must step up to lead on climate change solutions while the Trump administration rolls back sensible standards. We welcome Governor Walz’s announcement today and urge governors across the Midwest to act now for cleaner cars and climate change solutions.”

 

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Trump Administration Move Invalidating California’s Waiver Undermines States’ Efforts to Reduce Climate Changing Pollutants

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

The Trump Administration Move Invalidating California’s Waiver to Set its Own Tailpipe Pollution Rules Undermines States’ Efforts to Reduce Climate Changing Pollutants

This action puts a roadblock in the way of Midwest states that want to join the effort to lead on slashing carbon emissions from new vehicles

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

CHICAGO — The Trump Administration is poised to issue a final rule revoking California’s waiver under the Clean Air Act to implement standards to reduce greenhouse gas pollution from tailpipes and to preempt states’ leadership in advancing climate change solutions. This is a precursor to fully rolling back Obama-era strong clean car standards set in 2012.

“The Trump Administration’s misguided action today continues its war against sensible actions under the Clean Air Act to protect our climate and public health,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

“Climate change harms the Great Lakes and people in our region. The Trump Administration is undercutting California’s and other states’ long-standing authority under the Clean Air Act to implement effective standards to reduce greenhouse gas pollution from tailpipes in order to protect clean air and our public health.

“ELPC and other parties will challenge in court this legally misguided Trump Administration rollback of environmental protection standards.”

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Great Lakes Experts, Officials from U.S. and Canada Gather to Discuss Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

Great Lakes Experts, Officials from U.S. and Canada Gather to Discuss Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

Symposium aims to foster ongoing cross-border collaboration on improving health of the Great Lakes

TORONTO, Canada — The Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, in partnership with the Midwest-based Environmental Law & Policy Center, invited stakeholders from the Great Lakes to come together in Toronto, Canada, to hear from scientists on the recently released Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Under the direction of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the assessment was authored by 145 leading international experts from 50 countries, with nearly 15,000 references. As the first report of its kind, it provides an impetus for dialogue and collaboration.

“In partnership with the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Chicago, I am pleased to host this timely event featuring a keynote briefing on the Global Assessment from one of its three co-chairs, Prof. Eduardo Brondizio of Indiana University, and expert panels about issues of relevance on both sides of the border,” said the Hon. Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.  “As Lieutenant Governor, the opportunity to convene in an apolitical space in order to further our shared understanding and continue our history of working together in the Great Lakes Region is one that I cherish.”

“The Great Lakes are where we live, work and play. The Great Lakes are a global treasure, supplying 40 million people with fresh drinking water, jobs, and recreation, and sustaining a rich ecological system,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “We are honored to co-host this substantive dialogue among leading U.S. and Canadian experts about the state of biodiversity in the Great Lakes and ways to work together on a binational basis to protect our vital shared resources.”

The half-day symposium will center on three panel discussions: impacts of toxic algae blooms on Great Lakes biodiversity and steps toward solutions: impacts of invasive species, especially Asian carp, on Great Lakes biodiversity and steps toward solutions; and  “Diplomacy of Water,” with participants including the current U.S. Consul General in Toronto Greg Stanford, current Canadian Consul General in Chicago John Cruickshank, former Ambassador of the U.S. to Canada David Jacobson and former Ambassador of Canada to the U.S. Gary Doer.

Additional panelists and speakers include City of Toledo (Ohio) Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz, Rob Sisson, U.S. Commissioner of the International Joint Commission, and Professor Brad Cardinale, Director of the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

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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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Environmental advocates applaud investment in Michigan’s first electric school buses

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

LANSING – A coalition of environmental groups today applauded the rollout of 17 electric school buses for seven Michigan school districts through a Michigan Association for Pupil Transportation pilot project. The buses will transport children to and from schools in Ann Arbor, Gaylord, Kalamazoo, Oxford, Roseville, Three Rivers and Zeeland.

“The Environmental Law & Policy Center was one of the earliest advocates for replacing dirty diesel school buses with zero-emission electric school buses,” said Susan Mudd, senior policy advocate at the Midwest-based environmental group. “Adopting electric school buses both benefits children’s health and accelerates the shift to cleaner transportation. We hope this collaborative approach between schools, utilities and state government serves as a model for other states across the country.”

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE)’s Fuel Transformation Program is helping replace old diesel school buses using funds allocated to Michigan via the Volkswagen Diesel Emissions Environmental Mitigation Trust settlement. This is the first grant opportunity supported with Volkswagen settlement funds allocated to Michigan via the State Mitigation Trust. The project will be collaboratively funded by the grant, school districts and other partners, including utility companies.

“This is a win-win for Michigan’s kids and Michigan’s environment. Children spend an average of 40 minutes a day in a school bus and the air pollution caused by diesel buses can interfere with lung development and cause health problems like coughing and inflammation,” said Charles Griffith, director of climate and energy programs for the Ecology Center. “We are proud to have been a supporter of the electric school bus pilot project from the beginning, and look forward to additional opportunities to reduce emissions and improve health with future grants from EGLE’s Fuel Transformation Program.”

According to a study by the University of Michigan and the University of Washington, using cleaner school bus transportation could result in 14 million fewer absences from school a year.

“This is an important first step to bringing clean, electric transportation to schools and our communities,” said Lisa Wozniak, executive director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “In addition to the short-term benefits of improving air quality and keeping kids safe and healthy, we will see long-term benefits as we address the causes of climate change in our daily lives.”

Diesel exhaust emissions and the soot emitted by engines can exacerbate asthma and allergies, cause lung damage and eye, throat and bronchial irritation.

“We are excited to see Michigan put on the map as a leader in transportation electrification for school buses,” said Kate Madigan, director for the Michigan Climate Action Network. “The harmful emissions from diesel buses can impact respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological health of children, who are especially vulnerable. Moving to zero-emission school buses will reduce pollution, improve health and save lives.”

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EPA’s Repeal of Clean Water Rule Takes Away Important Protections for Midwest Community Rivers, Wetlands and Streams

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

EPA’s Repeal of Clean Water Rule Takes Away Important Protections for Midwest Community Rivers, Wetlands and Streams

Trump Administration’s misguided rollback puts safe clean drinking water, and wildlife and fish habitats at risk

Today, the Trump administration made final its first step in the process of weakening protections for clean water provided by the 2015 Clean Water Rule. This action repeals the 2015 rule leaving in place outdated and insufficient guidance. The administration’s weak and unscientific proposed replacement for the 2015 rule is pending.

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

“The Trump Administration’s repeal of the Clean Water Rule creates uncertainty and unnecessarily removes protections for community rivers, wetlands and streams that make our Midwest communities great places to live,” said Learner. “This misguided rollback of clean water protections puts safe drinking water, public health, and wildlife and fish habitats at risk. The Administration is taking us backwards when it comes to achieving the goals of the Clean Water Act.”

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