Press Releases

Trump Administration’s Clean Water Rollback Threatens America’s Drinking Water

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Sarah Eddy, 312-795-3710, seddy@elpc.org

Trump Administration’s Clean Water Rollback Threatens America’s Drinking Water

Pausing Clean Water Protections Wrong for the Great Lakes Region and America

CHICAGO – Today’s announcement by the Trump Administration’s EPA to rollback federal clean water rules undermines safe clean drinking water across the nation and threatens progress to protect the Midwest’s vital waterways, including the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basins.

“The Trump Administration’s attacks on safe clean drinking water are a threat to the environment and public health. Too many Midwest cities and towns are already experiencing unsafe drinking water, and this rollback of critical protections of our community waterways will only exacerbate the problem,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

The action today rolls back clean water rules that define which waterways are protected by the Clean Water Act. The 2015 Waters of the United States standard recognized that our water resources are so interconnected that in order to protect our celebrated waterways – like 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 proposal rejects science and it imperils progress for safe clean drinking water in the Midwest,” Learner said. “The interconnectedness of our waterways must have federal oversight to ensure the safety and security of our fresh water. We need more protections for the clean water we all rely upon for drinking, fishing, and recreation, not less. We can’t afford to go backwards when it comes to reducing pollution of rivers, lakes, and streams.”

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New Environmental Study of Proposed Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line Improperly Rejects Alternatives

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Chuck Tenneson, charles@driftlessconservancy.org, 608-930-3252

Sarah Eddy, seddy@elpc.org, 312-795-3710

DODGEVILLE, Wis., Dec. 10, 2018 – The draft environmental impact statement (EIS) released recently by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) for the proposed Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line includes only a cursory review of non-transmission alternatives to the high-voltage line such as greater energy efficiency, local renewables, and energy storage, despite requirements in federal law that alternatives be considered thoroughly. The draft EIS admits that non-transmission alternatives, along with lower-voltage and underground alternatives, were “not carried forward for detailed analysis.”

The proposed Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line in southwest Wisconsin would cut a swath through the state’s scenic and ecologically unique Driftless Area. The cost of the project would be borne by electric ratepayers in Wisconsin and other states and energy experts have concluded that the new transmission line is not needed due to flattened demand for electricity in Wisconsin and recent advances in energy technology.

The costs and environmental damage that would be created by the transmission line has sparked opposition and legal challenges from local grassroots citizens and conservation groups. Wisconsin’s Dane and Iowa Counties voted to oppose the transmission line and have intervened in the Public Service Commission proceedings to fight the project.

“We wouldn’t think of putting a power line across the Grand Canyon, so why would we think of putting one through one of the most beautiful and unique landscapes in the Upper Midwest?” Said Dave Clutter, executive director of the Driftless Area Land Conservancy. “We have a national treasure in the Driftless Area, and we should treat it like one.”

“RUS is required by federal law to ‘rigorously explore and objectively evaluate all reasonable alternatives’ to proposed transmission lines like the Cardinal-Hickory Creek project,” said Howard Learner, one of the Environmental Law and Policy Center attorneys representing DALC. “RUS cannot simply look at different environmentally harmful routes for this huge transmission line and call it a day.”

“Iowa County residents have come together to adamantly oppose this unneeded high-voltage power line, which would irreversibly damage the landscape, ecology, and recreation economy we depend on,” said Betsy D’Angelo, a member of the Driftless Defenders’ leadership team. “There are alternatives that can improve our electric system without damaging the Driftless Area’s most important natural areas.”

“The draft environmental impact statement for the Cardinal-Hickory Creek project ignores the reality of new technology that has improved energy efficiency and decreased the demand for electricity,” said David Meylor, chairman of the Western Dane Preservation Campaign, the Mount Horeb area citizens group formed to oppose the line. “Recent analyses of electric demand demonstrate that the expensive, invasive Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line project simply isn’t needed.”

“The proposed Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission line will have a significant negative impact on fish and wildlife habitat and the management of public lands in Southwestern Wisconsin and in light of other energy alternatives should not be constructed,” stated George Meyer, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.

The proposed Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line would install towers of up to 175-feet along a 100-mile route that would affect sensitive natural areas and disrupt economic activity. The project could cost ratepayers more than $1 billion during the life of the project, including a profit margin for the transmission line’s utility owners that is guaranteed by Wisconsin law.

Legal counsel for the Driftless Area Land Conservancy will be reviewing the RUS’s draft EIS in greater detail and will submit comprehensive public comments to the agency. Members of the public are strongly encouraged to submit comments before the deadline of Feb. 5, 2019.

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Issued by:

Driftless Area Land Conservancy

Driftless Defenders

Environmental Law and Policy Center

Western Dane County Preservation Campaign

Wisconsin Wildlife Federation

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.

Joint Statement Regarding North Dakota PSC Dismissal of Case Against Meridian Energy Group

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Sarah Eddy, 312-795-3710

Scott Skokos, 701-224-8587

Joint Statement Regarding PSC Dismissal of Case Against Meridian Energy Group

Bismarck, ND—In a decision today, the North Dakota Public Service Commission (PSC) dismissed the complaint of the Dakota Resource Council and the Environmental Law and Policy Center against Meridian Energy Group, jeopardizing the PSC’s regulatory jurisdiction in the process.

This decision ignores the clear statutory and constitutional mandate for the PSC to act as an independent regulator of North Dakota’s utilities. The PSC’s siting laws are the bedrock of sensible utility siting in North Dakota, including not just for oil refineries, but also for wind, solar, electric transmission, power plants, and pipelines.

Rather than considering the case on its merits, the PSC today chose to dismiss this case without even granting a hearing, concluding that the PSC lacks any authority whatsoever to determine through formal proceedings whether Meridian needs a siting permit to construct a major oil refinery. The PSC chose to rely on an affidavit of Meridian’s CEO to conclude that the company does not need a permit. In other words, the PSC has taken the position that if a company states that it does not need a permit, then the PSC will trust the company at its word. The PSC’s decision ignores its duty as an independent utility regulator and the rights of North Dakotans to seek formal determinations from the PSC. This is a pivotal decision that could broadly affect the PSC’s ability to regulate everything from electric rates, to coal mines, to wind siting, and oil refinery siting, and it should concern all North Dakotans.

The Dakota Resource Council and Environmental Law and Policy Center are conferring with their legal counsel and reviewing next steps, including a review of this decision in district court.

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NEW ELPC REPORT: Indiana Clean Energy Business Supply Chain Report Finds 89 Companies, Good for Hoosier Economy, Good for Environment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ELPC REPORT:  89 Indiana Clean Energy Businesses –

Good for Indiana’s Economy and Environment Together

 

INDIANAPOLIS – A report released today by the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) highlights 89 Indiana companies engaging in accelerating wind power and solar energy as manufacturers, developers, designers, contractors, installers and professional and other services, These companies are employing more than 10,000 Hoosiers across the state.

“Indiana wind power and solar energy development are good for business growth and the environment together,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of ELPC. “Renewable energy development creates manufacturing jobs, including for the tower cables and wires to the protective covers that shield blades from harsh weather, for skilled workers in places like Bremen and Elkhart, and for Indiana construction workers doing the installations.”

The report identified that clean energy supply chain companies are widespread. Wind power and solar energy businesses are located in all 9 congressional districts, in 40 of the 50 state senate districts, and in 56 of the 100 state house districts.

However, Indiana has recently taken major backward steps on its clean energy policies, such as eliminating retail net metering by July 2022 for distributed solar energy generation, and ending its mandatory energy efficiency resource standard that created jobs and saved people money on their utility bills.

“The report demonstrates that Indiana changed course and is moving its clean energy initiatives in the wrong direction,” said Learner. “State leaders must take strong targeted policy actions for Indiana to regain momentum and advance clean energy growth that will lower Hoosiers’ utility bills and reduce carbon pollution.”

Additional groups that participated in ELPC’s report included Citizen Action Coalition of Indiana, Hoosier Environmental Council, Indiana Distributed Energy Alliance and others. The report calls for Indiana to adopt new policies to support accelerated growth of renewables and energy efficiency to remain competitive in the growing clean energy economy. Some of those policies, addressed in the report, should include:

  • setting strong clean energy targets by adopting a mandatory renewable energy standard
  • developing a stronger Integrated Resource Planning Process (IRP);
  • providing stronger tools for clean energy financing by reinstating net metering;
  • enacting a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program;
  • requiring utilities to comply with the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA)

“Energy is an important part of the infrastructure that businesses look to when deciding where to open up shop,” said Janet McCabe, Senior Law Fellow at ELPC, former US EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, and assistant director for policy and implementation at Indiana University’s Environmental Resilience Institute. “We know many businesses have embraced sustainability and placed a priority on renewable energy. Indiana has the companies and workforce to bring more solar powered businesses here and to develop more wind energy across the state using parts manufactured by Hoosiers.”

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BLM’s Misguided Rule Weakens Methane Flaring Reduction Standards that Avoid Waste and Protect Public Health and Our Environment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Judith Nemes

Bureau of Land Management’s Misguided Rule Weakens Methane Flaring Reduction Standards that Avoid Waste and Protect Public Health and Our Environment  

Statement by Howard A. Learner

In response to the Trump Administration’s rollback of the existing Methane Waste Reduction Standards avoid waste from oil and gas drilling on public and tribal lands in North Dakota and across the country, Environmental Law & Policy Center Executive Director Howard Learner said:

“The Administration is turning its back on common sense methane reduction standards that reduce wasteful energy flaring and protect the public from harmful smog-forming pollution. The current standards call for the use of known technologies and good industry practices to reduce wasteful methane leaks. The new rule would allow more flaring of methane gas—a valuable natural resource. Flaring harms human health, wastes energy resources and costs Americans $1 billion in wasted energy and pollution.

“In North Dakota this rollback will mean more wasted natural gas, less money for impacted communities, and more air pollution from oil and gas drilling on public lands.

“The Bureau of Land Management is ignoring the strong support from more than half a million Americans who favored the existing Methane Waste Reduction Standards and oppose its repeal. The Trump Administration apparently doesn’t care enough about wasting energy, protecting public health or collecting fair revenues from the oil and gas industry drilling on our public lands,” Learner said.

Click Here to read the full rule. 

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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Misguided New Oil & Gas Proposal Weakens Strong Methane Reduction Standards that Avoid Waste and Protect Public Health and Our Environment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 10, 2018

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

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Misguided New Oil & Gas Proposal Weakens Strong Methane Reduction Standards that Avoid Waste and Protect Public Health and Our Environment   

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

In response to the Trump Administration’s proposed rollback of existing methane waste reduction standards in connection with oil and gas drilling across the Midwest and the country, Environmental Law & Policy Center Executive Director Howard Learner said:

“The Administration’s ideology is trumping common sense methane reduction standards that avoid energy waste and protect the public and our environment from dangerous smog-forming pollution. The current standards call for the use of known technologies and good industry practices to reduce wasteful methane leaks. The new proposal would allow more methane leaks that harm human health and our climate, and waste energy resources.

“The existing EPA standards for new and modified sources of dangerous pollution in the oil and gas industry resulted from an extensive public process and include reasonable cost-effective measures that some companies are already using and some states are already requiring. One study concluded that compliance with the existing standards would generate nearly 5,400 jobs annually in leak detection to reduce emissions at covered facilities. The Trump Administration is again proposing to weaken a sensible federal standard that avoids energy waste and protects public health from smog and reduces harmful climate change pollution,” Learner said.

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View the EPA’s proposal here.

ELPC Supports Specific Components of Illinois EPA Volkswagen Settlement Fund Plan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Al Grosboll, Environmental Law & Policy Center, AGrosboll@elpc.org (217) 652-3866

 

ELPC Supports Specific Components of Illinois EPA Volkswagen Settlement Fund Plan

STATEMENT BY AL GROSBOLL LEGISLATIVE DIRECTOR & SENIOR POLICY ADVOCATE ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency today released its final plan for spending the state’s $107 million share of the $2.7 billion Volkswagen Mitigation Trust funds. The Environmental Law & Policy Center has been active in discussions about the plan. Al Grosboll, ELPC’s Legislative Director and Senior Policy Advocate, said in response to the final plan:

“The Environmental Law & Policy Center is supportive of specific components in the Illinois EPA plan,” Grosboll said. “While ELPC will continue to raise some questions about the Agency’s plan, we are pleased the IEPA included funding for electric school buses and electric charging stations for light-duty vehicles. The inclusion of these programs reflects the Agency’s responsiveness to citizen requests and environmental concerns.”

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Environmental Groups Sue U.S. Coast Guard for Approving Northern Michigan Plan and Later Admitting Inability to Respond to an Oil Spill in the Great Lakes

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:

Judith Nemes, Environmental Law & Policy Center, JNemes@elpc.org (773) 892-7494

Jordan Lubetkin, National Wildlife Federation, lubetkin@nwf.org  (734) 904-1589

Environmental Groups Sue U.S. Coast Guard for Approving Northern Michigan Plan and Later Admitting Inability to Respond to an Oil Spill in the Great Lakes

Lawsuit Claims that Coast Guard fails to comply with Oil Pollution Act of 1990

DETROIT – Contradicting its certification that the Northern Michigan Area Contingency Plan (NMACP) is adequate to remove a worst case discharge of oil into the Great Lakes, (former) Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft testified under oath before Congress that the Coast Guard is not prepared for a major pipeline oil spill in the Great Lakes. The Coast Guard disregarded the law when it approved the NMACP, while then publicly admitting that the Coast Guard is “not semper paratus for a major pipeline oil spill in the Great Lakes.”

The Environmental Law & Policy Center and the National Wildlife Federation filed a lawsuit today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan asking the Court to declare that the Coast Guard violated the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90) when it approved the NMACP, thereby invalidating the portions which apply to oil pipelines in the Great Lakes. As a result, any individual Facility Response Plan for an oil pipeline operating in the open waters of the Great Lakes, such as the Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac, would likewise be invalid. The U.S. Coast Guard in June 2017 approved the NMACP, purportedly certifying that the plan was in substantial compliance with all of its requirements, including the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

“The U.S. Coast Guard admitted that it’s not fully ready and fully able to protect the Great Lakes from a major oil spill as required for a response plan under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director and attorney for the Environmental Law & Policy Center.  “The Great Lakes are where we live, work and play, and supply safe clean drinking water for 42 million people. If the U.S. Coast Guard is unable to fulfill its emergency response duties, then our Great Lakes waters are even more at risk from a potential Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline spill.”

In 2014, Enbridge discovered dozens of damaged areas on the 4.5-mile segment of Line 5 that runs underneath the Straits of Mackinac. Environmental advocacy groups have been calling for Enbridge to shut down Line 5 before a major break potentially sends oil flowing into Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Earlier this year, an anchor strike dented portions of the pipeline and Enbridge was forced to reduce the pressure in Line 5 by 40% as a critical precautionary step.

“The Coast Guard’s admission that it cannot adequately address an oil spill in the Great Lakes puts our most important natural resource at risk,” said Margrethe Kearney, Senior Attorney of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “The Coast Guard’s failure to ensure that there is a plan in place to respond to a worst-case oil spill threatens our access to a clean drinking water supply, our irreplaceable Great Lakes and unique wildlife habitats, and the strength of our Pure Michigan economy.”

“Until we decommission this aging, risky pipeline, we need the best-possible spill response plan to protect our Great Lakes, our communities, our wildlife, and our economy,” said Oday Salim, Staff Attorney for the National Wildlife Federation Great Lakes Regional Center. “A worst-case oil spill from Line 5, even according to an Enbridge-funded study, could impact over 400 miles of shoreline and 60,000 acres of unique wildlife habitat as well as cause billions in economic losses and the irrevocable loss of wildlife and cultural resources.”

 

 

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EPA’s New Power Plan Will Reverse U.S. Efforts to Cut Carbon Pollution and Allow Old Coal Plants to Keep Polluting Our Air

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Judith Nemes

EPA’s New Power Plan Will Reverse U.S. Efforts to Cut Carbon Pollution and Allow Old Coal Plants to Keep Polluting Our Air
Clean Power Plan had U.S. poised for shift to renewable energy growth, better public health, boosting clean energy jobs

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

In response to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to replace its 2015 Clean Power Plan, which established the first federal standards to reduce carbon pollution from existing coal plants, ELPC Executive Director Howard Learner said:

“The Trump administration’s EPA is actively seeking to undermine smart climate change solutions and a clean energy future. The Clean Power Plan helps drive the U.S. economy toward modern renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies that improve public health and boost clean energy jobs in the Midwest and elsewhere.

“Instead, the Trump administration is putting its political donors and polluters ahead of public health, climate solutions and clean energy jobs. America’s Heartland is well positioned to lead us forward in delivering climate change solutions powered by wind power and solar energy and maximizing energy efficiency that are good for Midwest jobs and economic growth.  The Trump administration’s plan would move our nation backwards and cost American jobs.

“It’s time for America to move forward not backward with clean energy solutions to our climate change problems.”

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